*** UPDATED April 9, 2015 ***
While I have not been officially tested or diagnosed, consuming and ingesting dairy (cow’s milk) products no longer affects me like it used to. It’s truly a miracle, y’all! I give credit to being pregnant and the crazy changes that happens to a woman’s body in the process of giving birth. After 10 years of being milk-free, plus a year of breastfeeding and pumping exclusively, I mistakenly consumed dairy while eating sushi and when I realized the mistake, I panicked. But I never had a reaction. Another serendipitous event occurred when Kamden was born. A red, itchy rash appeared on my left wrist and I initially attributed it to the strong soap in the hospital’s bathrooms. Four months later, I was diagnosed with acute eczema, an auto-immune disorder like food allergies. After several months of extreme discomfort and personal pet projects (i.e. elimination diets, essential oils, and Hazelwood necklace), I discovered the eczema disappeared when I avoided tomatoes. I’m happy to report that I’m consuming dairy products again but, unfortunately, I’m no longer able to enjoy fresh tomatoes, spaghetti or pizza sauce. Life could be much worse, I know, and I’m adapting (again) to a special diet. The information below was written over two years ago when I was extremely allergic to cow’s milk, the information is still valid and pertinent to those who suffer similar food aversions. It is my hope that someone, maybe you or a loved one, can benefit from these suggestions. I am not a medical professional or health expert, simply a stay-at-home-mom who suffered tremendously with a milk allergy until the birth of my son. Because I was so afraid of Kamden developing a similar milk allergy, I was completely dairy-free the entire time I breastfed and donated my excess milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas.
I have a severe allergy to cow’s milk. It is not a lactose intolerance and I will never get rid of this sad diagnosis. The transition from consuming all things dairy (milk, cheese, sour cream, butter, ice cream, and the like) to eliminating it completely from my diet was difficult and frustrating. However, the incredible pain it caused, not to mention the extreme havoc it was wreaking on my body, made it easier to accept. I would be lying if I said there weren’t days when I’d like a salad with Ranch dressing, or a bowl of Neenie’s homemade banana pudding, or a scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in a waffle cone from Graeter’s. Fortunately, modern food science has provided alternatives that sooth my taste buds and quench my thirst, even if they are not the “real” thing. It’s alarming to me how many children (and adults) are diagnosed with food allergies and the numbers seem to increase on an annual basis. I have witnessed friends and family deal with food allergies and sensitivities. Lisa eliminated all gluten from her diet in an effort to improve her health. Now, two months later, she’s noticed a tremendous difference: no severe headaches or migraines; improved sleep patterns; and her skin looks and feels great. A friend’s husband suffers from Crohn’s disease, but he is able to stay healthy with medication and a strict diet without dairy. Someone else is experiencing frustration through her son’s discomfort. Additional testing is required to determine if Little G has an allergy or sensitivity to milk. While I will never profess to have all the answers, I have personal experience and a thorough understanding of the pain and frustrations associated with food allergies. Since others have asked, here are some of the non-dairy alternatives I use on a regular basis. They are available at my local grocery too, which is always a plus.
1. Manchego cheese — made with sheep’s milk; its light, creamy flavor goes well with almost anything: from salads to homemade pizzas or even a saltine cracker!
2. Earth Balance buttery spread — I cook with this, but I do NOT bake with it. When baking, I only use Crisco *butter flavored* baking sticks.
3. Tofutti cream cheese
4. Whole Soy yogurt — strawberry is my favorite
5. Light Silk Soymilk — I buy plain because I don’t like chocolate milk or the taste of vanilla in milk.
6. Tofutti sour cream
When I began this non-dairy journey in 2004, I never imagined the concessions I’d have to make when it came to preparing meals or shopping for groceries. Obviously, fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats are ideal for those who suffer from milk allergies, but there were many surprises when it came to buying “safe” groceries and eating in restaurants.
- Some, but not all, deli meats have dairy products injected into them. Be careful, too, that cheese is not sliced on the same machine as your deli meat.
- McDonald’s french fries include milk powder.
- Whole rotisserie chickens are often brushed with butter or seasoned with milk products.
- Trident chewing gum contains casein, a derivative of milk.
- Hey coffee drinkers … that stuff called non-dairy creamer actually has milk solids. The same is true for the non-dairy whipped topping, aka Cool Whip.
- More than 20 percent of prescription and over-the-counter medications contain lactose, a milk protein. Beware of calcium supplements too, as they often contain milk products.
- Fried foods are hazardous if dipped in milk or buttermilk or the breading is made with milk or milk powder.
- Goat’s milk is very similar to the milk of a cow. Thus, anyone with a cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance should avoid goat’s milk.
- Hebrew National hot dogs are Kosher and do not contain any milk ingredients.
- Sherbet contains milk or cream while sorbet is made using fruit juice. But not always!
- Beware of soy cheeses as they are often made with milk proteins, whey solids, or casein.
- Spice mixes can be dangerous as the majority of them contain milk or whey powder.
- More and more restaurant chains are updating their websites to include menu items with ingredient lists. Some restaurants even post them inside their brick-and-mortar locations. This is valuable information for people who suffer common food allergies. Check websites often as menus are frequently updated and ingredients can change without notice.
What I’m trying to say is this: read every ingredient listed on a food label. If one does not exist, don’t eat it. If you are a guest to someone’s home or special event, bring your own meal in a discrete bag. Personally, I do not like when the host or hostess plans their meal around my needs. I’d rather bring something myself and let guests dine without fear of eating something “weird.” Plus, if they know you suffer from food allergies, it shouldn’t be a surprise to them if you show up with your own food. You don’t have to be obvious or rude, but your safety is important. If someone is offended, kindly inform them of your food allergies … or get up and leave. I’ve been known to do both. If a restaurant manager or chef is not willing to accommodate your allergy, get up and leave. However, if you dine someplace that goes above and beyond to keep you safe, frequent that restaurant often. Case-in-point example #1: I was dining with family in Louisville, Kentucky at a restaurant I had never been to before. The waitress was honest and said she was new and could not answer all of my questions, then sent the manager to our table. After a moment, the manager escorted me to the kitchen just to be safe. In the end, all of the menu items contained milk or milk by-products and the chef prepared for me a salad of fresh greens, diced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and a freshly grilled chicken breast with balsamic vinegar. At no charge. Example #2: There is a restaurant chain in Texas with amazing seafood but chefs soak shrimp and fish in buttermilk before frying. To accommodate my allergy, the head chef or manager comes to the table, confirms my allergy, and explains how he/she will personally prepare my meal using an egg wash (egg and water) instead of milk. Now THAT is customer service and another reason I pay more for a fried shrimp dinner at Pappadeaux’s! Example #3: At a restaurant in Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, I spoke with the head waiter and manager before ordering my meal. A few minutes later, my salad arrived. After one bite, I realized there was shredded cheese instead of shredded CARROTS. I immediately ran to the bathroom, deposited that bite into the toilet (yuck!), and asked to speak with the manager immediately. I was upset at my own poor judgement and not checking the salad more carefully. She was apologetic and comp’d my meal. Unfortunately, I still suffered a small outbreak (last two weeks instead of two months) from the single bite of cheese. I was just as responsible as the person preparing the salad, I have to be careful at every single bite!