This blog aims to give some basic guidance on how to make the transition to a dairy free lifestyle.

Many people give up dairy thinking they have an allergy when in fact they may be ‘intolerant’ rather than actually allergic. The only way to find out if you have a true allergy is to see your GP for lactose intolerance testing.

Common symptoms of dairy allergy and indeed intolerance include:

  • flatulence (wind)
  • diarrhoea three or more times a day
  • bloated stomach
  • stomach pains
  • stomach rumbling
  • feeling sick
  • stomach cramps


Dairy consumption is often linked with inflammatory conditions such as eczema, dermatitis and acne, rhinitis and ‘catarrah’ conditions.  One of the best ways to find out if dairy is responsible for these symptoms is to give it up for at least 4 weeks and then re-introduce slowly to see if your body reacts.

Some people find that they cannot tolerate cow’s dairy but find other dairy products from goat’s milk or sheep’s milk are acceptable, whilst others cannot tolerate animal milk at all and will therefore need to use rice, soya, oat or nut “milks” as an alternative.

However, if you are sensitive to cow’s milk it is generally wise not to consume large amounts of other animal milk products as you may develop sensitivities to them. Additionally don’t overdo the soya as this can also be a common allergen.

In short variety IS the spice of life so include any dairy or dairy free products in moderation in a diet that is also rich in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains (brown rice, wholewheat, rye, quinoa and other grains etc). The diet should also contain nuts & seeds and cold pressed oils to provide essential fatty acids and be low in refined, processed sugary foods and stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol.

  • The first thing to remember when starting a dairy free regime is don’t panic there are plenty of dairy free alternatives these days, a lot of which are available from supermarkets. See the table on the next page for some suggestions.
  • REMEMBER that dairy includes all milk based products including butter, cream, yoghurt and cheese. Also take care to read ingredients lists as words such as casein, caseinate, whey and lactose are all milk derivatives. For example some sausages includes caseinates as a filler and whey powder is found in many processed foods such as margarine, biscuits, soups, custards, sauces and cereals. Also watch out for ghee and yoghurt in Indian food.
  • Dairy-free does not mean you have to give up eggs – eggs are NOT dairy and may  be consumed several times per week.
  • A lot of people worry about calcium deficiency if they are not consuming dairy products BUT REMEMBER calcium is found in lots of other foods, some examples are shown in the following table.

Calcium Rich Foods

Almonds Sesame Seeds
Figs Tofu
Hazelnuts Spinach
Kale Sunflower Seeds
Molasses Watercress

You may like to invest in a good dairy free cookbook (particularly as they often cover wheat, sugar and yeast free recipes too). Several good books are available from your local bookshop or on

NB: Children particularly babies should NOT be put onto a dairy free regime without prior consultation with a GP or consultant.

Dairy product

Possible Alternatives

Cow’s milk Goat’s milk, sheep’s milk if tolerated.Soya milk (in moderation – soya is a very common allergen)

Rice milk

Oat milk

Almond or Hazelnut milk

Coconut milk

Try drinking herbal & fruit teas as they are drunk without milk and have the added benefit of avoiding caffeine & tannins.

(many alternative milks include added calcium if you are concerned about being short of this mineral)

Butter Use quality cold pressed oils in moderation for cooking (coconut oil, olive oil)Cold pressed oils can also be used on bread e.g. olive oil or walnut oil.

Also consider using nut butters (Meridian or Carley’s make almond, hazelnut and other nut butters as well as seed butters) or use hummous or tahini (sesame seeds)

Cheese Goat’s or sheep’s cheese if tolerated.  Buffalo mozzarella may be acceptable for some people. 
Yoghurt Soya yoghurts – use sparingly because these are a processed food.  Alternatively you can try coconut milk yoghurts such as CoYo.
Ice cream Swedish Glace are widely available non dairy alternatives but they should only be for the occasional treat as they are high in sugars.Fruit sorbet (again check the labels for small print), or consider making your own from non-dairy milks.