By Maria Looney BSc, DipNT, mNTOI  Nutritional Therapist

Helpful tips and ideas for managing a dairy-free life.  The first in our series of advice and tips for people with lactose intolerance.

My energy was never great. I looked longingly at other people walking up mountains, skiing down mountains and having what seemed to me like loads of energy. I wished I could have that too. One day my sister passed a comment that I was always clearing my throat and why was that. I had never noticed this before. Soon after I read a magazine article on how dairy intolerance can be a possible cause. I looked at my diet and every single meal that I ate contained anelement of dairy – milk with cereal, milk with tea, yoghurts, cheese, ice cream, a glass of milk with dinner, the list was endless.

I decided to experiment. Unsure of whether I was intolerant to the protein in milk, or lactose intolerant, or both, I cut back on my intake of dairy and guess what – my constant cough (which had continually irritated my sister especially when we spoke on the phone) started to disappear. After 2 months I had lost over a stone in weight without even trying.

I was never overweight but as I read more about food intolerance, I learned that my body was not able to properly digest and absorb the amount of dairy foods that I was consuming for most of my life. Without dairy, my weight was now balancing out to what is my natural body weight.

Hence the journey and search for better knowledge and understanding about food, nutrition and health began with the Irish Institute of Nutrition and Health. I completed a 3 year diploma in Nutritional Therapy and, as they say, I have never looked back. Now, I am walking up and down mountains most weekends, have lots more energy and feel so much better overall. This for me is all due to a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet – virtually dairy free.

The following is a website which I find useful with lots of information on dairy intolerance, lactose intolerance and other types of intolerances  www.allergyuk.org

When adapting a recipe containing milk, I have found that soya milk or soya cream are the best replacements. Barbara Cousins has a good book of recipes called “Cooking Without”.

When eating out, once I mention that I am allergic to dairy, the staff are quite willing to adapt their recipe to suit my needs. I do find however, that awareness of dairy intolerance among restaurant staff is lacking generally and I have to state that I cannot have milk, cream, ice cream or yoghurt in food, but that I can take a little butter. Fish cooked in butter is lovely! Or a piece of warm apple pie made with butter – yum!

In future posts I will write about alternative foods to dairy, and how to achieve a healthy and balanced diet without dairy foods. There will be useful tips, recipes and more information, including other foods that are good sources of calcium.

Maria Looney works at the Irish Institute of Nutrition and Health as a Nutritional Therapist. She also takes private consultations in Bray and Rathcoole. Contact her at 087 6671390 or at [email protected]