I was asked by my daughter one day, “If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?” “Cheesecake!” I yelled. “No. Chocolate mousse. Chocolate mousse cheesecake!”. I loooove desserts, the creamier the better.
Last summer, I was feeling particularly crappy. I felt bloated, and my stomach was hurting. This was a common occurrence in my life. I had lost all my baby weight a few years before, and I knew I had great abs under my saggy stretch-marked stomach (I’ll just probably never see them, thanks kids), but sometimes I still looked pregnant. And on those days, I suffered from (sorry for the TMI), evil constipation.
The doctors initially thought this was an MS flare. I had an MRI of my spine and there is a small lesion that could’ve been responsible for it. But I wasn’t so sure. They told me to eat more fiber, drink water and exercise *eye roll*, duh, I already knew that and already did that. I also felt totally fine otherwise and was having no other MS symptoms. I knew it had to be something else.
I had read about the effects of dairy and the symptoms you get from dairy intolerance. I knew I checked all those boxes. Bloating, gas, constipation, bad skin, and chronic sinus infections. That last symptom was a killer. I’m a runner, I like to breathe out of my nose when I run, but I couldn’t because I was always congested. I constantly had sinus infections and headaches. I even went to an ENT specialist. He told me I just needed some steroid spray. (Why do doctors always want to throw steroids at me?)
What about cheese? Cream in my coffee? Definitely can’t stop that. And ice cream? Omg. What is a life without ice cream?
Now, I’m not a nutritionist or a doctor. But I do read a lot of things, especially about MS. I have read that some doctors recommend MS patients go off gluten and dairy because both can cause inflammation. Inflammation = bad for people with autoimmune diseases.
I’ve followed Jillian Harris on Instagram for a long time. I’ve been a huge fan since her Bachelor/Bachelorette days. A fellow Canadian living in Kelowna, a place we love to spend our summer vacations, and super hilarious. I feel like we could be BFF’s (I’m not a crazy stalker). I knew she was experimenting with going plant-based and I really started paying attention to the food she was eating. You can make cheese from nuts? Wtf? Make your own nut-milk? Sounds like too much work. Coconut Ice cream? That sounds tasty…. hmmm. I figured I could just try it for a month.
The first thing I had to do was find a good substitute for half and half. I need my coffee creamy. I tried going black, but I hated it. I started with Silk Coconut Creamer. It tasted ok, but I felt like I needed to pour half the container in to get the consistency I liked. That was going to be expensive. I searched online but only came up with obscure things you had to buy in the U.S. I didn’t try anything soy, because I heard soy isn’t good for you (I need to do more research on that one). Then I decided to try coconut milk. After trying a few different products, I finally found one that worked for me. It was almost exactly like half and half. I remember thinking, sweet, maybe I CAN do this!
The rest of the dairy, I would just have to give up. I stopped putting cheese on my sandwiches. That wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I just stopped eating ice cream and cheesecake. Not necessarily a bad thing. I switched to Silk Almond Coconut milk and Cashew Milk. I stopped eating yogurt and bought coconut yogurt instead. It wasn’t that bad for the first month. I didn’t see much of a difference in my health though. A friend told me she heard that it can take up to 4 months to notice anything, so I figured I would try a little longer.
After a few more months, and some major experimenting with coconuts, cashews and nutritional yeast, I noticed that I wasn’t getting constipated anymore. The bloating didn’t happen nearly as often, my skin cleared up and I could breathe through my nose again. I got sick once last year, but it didn’t include my sinuses for once! I actually felt so much better! And really, it wasn’t that bad going without dairy.
Now that doesn’t mean I haven’t cheated. And let me tell you, when I do cheat, I regret it. Here’s a nice little pic of me when I absent mindedly licked a big dollop if cream cheese off my finger.
Not pregnant here. That was a rough night.
The last thing I finally gave up was whey protein. That was tough. The longer I went without dairy, the worse whey protein made me feel. I had to search for a plant-based alternative that didn’t taste like ass. I tried Vega, but it was too sweet and I’m not a huge fan of stevia. So, I settled on a blend of Pea and brown rice protein with some collagen powder. It doesn’t taste as good as whey, but oh well, it works.
I’ve experimented with a lot of dairy free options over the last year. I prefer to make my food from scratch to avoid extra additives. I’ve made hazelnut milk, cashew milk, cashew cheesecake, tofu feta cheese, coconut yogurt and coconut whip.
The next thing I’m going to try is cashew ice cream (cashews and coconut really seem to be the secret ingredients for dairy-free people!). The best store-bought dairy free ice cream I’ve found is So-Delicious Cashew Ice cream. It’s been great to see more and more companies out there that are creating products for dairy-free people
When I look back on a year ago, it’s hard to believe I have stuck to it this long. I didn’t think I would be able to do it, and that it would be difficult on the rest of my family, but it’s actually been pretty easy. I still miss cheese and cheesecake, and chocolate mousse, but on the odd occasion where I’ve cheated and consumed those things? It really wasn’t worth the feeling of digesting razor blades.