Mooooove Over Dairy: How to Identify a
Dairy Sensitivity

Ahh dairy (cheese, ice cream, yogurt anyone?)…we love to love you but you just don’t seem to love us back. What’s the deal?

If you look at the “big eight” list of food allergens, dairy tops the charts, meaning it falls in the category of foods that cause 90 percent of all allergic responses.

cow If you’re someone who has a full-blown allergy to dairy, you likely already know it because your response to eating this food is very obvious. You’re also one of the “lucky ones” because a standard allergy test will confirm your immune reaction – things like hives, swelling of your lips or face, nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea or more dangerous respiratory issue which could lead to anaphylactic shock.

Fun stuff, huh? The upside to having a true allergic response is that you know you have an allergy. It’s very clear. You don’t eat dairy or else. Case closed.

Most reactions to food and therefore dairy aren’t these overblown allergic responses, they are “food sensitivities.”

Unlike allergies, food sensitivities don’t have a full on immune reaction blowout, so you may be able to eat these foods in small amounts without noticing it. Also, the standard allergy tests won’t pick up your food sensitivity. Food sensitivities are allergies to foods we’ve consumed on a regular basis to which the body has become intolerant. Sensitivities can be especially problematic because the reactions are often subtle or indirect enough that the effect is rarely, and sometimes never, linked to the cause.

You end up sabotaging your health without knowing it!

If you’re saying to yourself, “not me, I don’t have a dairy allergy,” then consider for one moment that you might fall into the category of someone who has a dairy sensitivity. Be open and willing to question everything, especially if you’re health is not 100% awesome. It’s time to be a sleuth and be your own body detective. Use the tips below to see for yourself if you might have a dairy sensitivity.

If after you read my tips below and you suspect you have a dairy sensitivity, take it out for a few weeks or even just 3-4 days and see how you feel!

And a word to the wise, if you have a sensitivity to dairy you might initially feel worse when you remove it from your diet. Think of it as a dairy hangover. If you were to eat more dairy during this detox period you would feel initially better, which can be deceiving. So allow yourself enough time to fully flush dairy from your system.

Be gentle and curious. We’re here to cheer you on to your most vibrant health. We believe in you!

With love and dairy-free almond milk,


P.S. Just to be clear dairy comes in many forms. Things like milk, yogurt, butter, cheese and even our beloved ice cream. There are wonderful dairy-free alternatives so replace your favorite ice cream with hemp milk ice cream, yum!

  • You have has gas, bloating and other digestive problems. According to the Academy of Family Physicians, about 75% of adults worldwide are not capable of digesting milk. By the age of 3 or 4, we have stopped producing the enzyme lactase that helps us digest milk. Listen to your body. It’s trying to tell you something.
  • You had frequent ear infections or tubes as a child. Many people with dairy allergies also suffered from persistent ear infections as children. In fact, Dr. Barry Sears says, “allergies can clog the nasal passages and Eustachian tubes, and this prevents middle-ear fluid from draining. The fluid becomes like water in a stagnant pond, a culture, medium for bacteria.If this sounds familiar, give dairy a break, your middle ear will thank you!
  • You LOVE cheese, yogurt, milk and anything that comes from a cow. If you fit into this category, you may think that you could NEVER live without your dairy. I’m sorry to break the news but this is all the more reason to consider taking it off your plate. The food we love and crave the most is often times the food that is sabotaging our health. Too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing.
  • You have congestion, runny nose, phlegm and frequently clear your throat. Dairy is a mucus forming food. The root cause of mucus is inflammation in the body and inflammation is the precursor to all disease. While clearing your throat may not seem like such a big deal, imagine what other inflammatory responses it’s causing on a cellular level.
  • You have skin blemishes, bumpy skin or acne. I was completely shocked to find that over 17 million people in the U.S. suffer from acne and our health care system spends $1 billion dollars a year to treat these patients. Dairy boosts levels of androgens, male hormones like testosterone in the body, not to mention spikes insulin, which raises our blood sugar levels. Both insulin and androgens stimulate the skin to produce blemishes and those oh-so-nasty pimples.
  • You have asthma or difficulty breathing. Do you carry an inhaler or have trouble breathing after a meal? There are over 25 million Americans who suffer from asthma. According to top Functional Medicine doctor Mark Hyman, “dairy and gluten are the most common cause of asthma”. Goodbye dairy, sorry gluten, you will be missed. Well not really. :)
  • You get sick often. If you’re sensitive to dairy it can weaken or lower your immune system function. Avoid dairy and keep those nasty bugs at bay. Seems too good to be true, right? Dr. Theron Randolph the father of environmental medicine and clinical ecology says, “In the case of food allergies, the source of the problem is literally right in front of you, in the form of some commonly eaten substance that is bringing on and perpetuating chronic symptoms.” Get ready to feel better, you’re worth it!
  • You can’t seem to lose weight. When you’re eating foods that don’t work in your body, you become inflamed. Inflammation causes you to hold on to weight no matter how few calories you’re consuming or how much exercise you’re doing. Ditch the dairy and allow your body to find its natural, most balanced state.
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Showing 41 comments
  • heather

    I didn’t know I had a dairy sensitivity until I switched to Almond Milk for taste reasons. it wasn’t long before I felt like a whole new person, and I didn’t really even realize I wasn’t feeling good before.

    • Jo Schaalman
      Jo Schaalman

      Way to go Heather! We often times don’t know how bad we feel until we feel better. Way to be an active investigator of your own health.

  • Jo Schaalman
    Jo Schaalman

    That’s such a great observation Heather! We often times don’t know how good we can feel. Way to be an active investigator of your own health.

  • Sophie

    I have been suspecting some kind of intolerance/allergy/sensitivity for a few months now, so I decided to do an elimination diet, starting with dairy. I haven’t had any dairy in 11 days, and in these past 11 days, I feel better than I have in the past three months, so this is definitely something I’m staying away from from now on.

    • Jo Schaalman
      Jo Schaalman

      That’s so awesome, Sophie! Way to tune in and take care of yourself to figure out what might be causing you problems. :)

  • Khaled elsisi

    I have been suffering from congestion and inflammation in my sinus and sinus infections for about 2 years my body has been producing excessive amount of mucus, I’m constantly clearing my throat, I’very went to 3 different ENT specialist and so far nothing changed, so last week I came across few article that indicates that dairy allergy can cause exactly my symptoms, so I went gluten and dairy free for about 4 days now I see my mucus started to slightly thin and I’m not as congested as i used to be but I’m still congested.. how long does really take until dairy is completely out of my system? And do u think gluten could be blamed for any of my symptoms? ( Cause I really love bread and dessert lol) I don’t think I can live without gluten. .

    • Jo Schaalman
      Jo Schaalman

      So glad to hear that you’re starting to see a difference already! It can take up to 6 months for things to shift, but in a matter of a few weeks you should start noticing a huge difference. Taking a high quality probiotic after cutting out the dairy can be helpful, too! Gluten is a really common allergen so it definitely could be a contributing factor, too. Check out our program because it is a great way to really tune into your body and identify what foods might be causing your problems with lots of support along the way! :)

  • Solenne Vanne

    I would live to learn more about dairy sensitivities and symptoms other than digestive issues. I am also intrigued by the concept of having an allergy against what you crave move. Do you have academic references?

  • penelopelyle

    Hi..i have had a lump in my throat..hard to swallow for a couple of months…can this be related to milk sensitivity?

    • J Murphy

      I hope you have resolved this by now, but just in case you haven’t, I had lump in throat feeling, excess thick mucus for 3 months. Dr. didn’t know what it was, antibiotics didn’t help. The only thing I could find was possible silent reflux, so I started treating it as such and cut out all caffeine, eating alkaline food, drinking neutral/alkaline water. Finally referred to an ENT, but had to wait 3 weeks for my apt. In desperation, I started keeping a food journal. By the end of the night, I found what I think was the culprit. Greek yogurt. I had started eating it 3 months prior, practically every day. When I started my journal, that night, I had about 1/2 a cup of Greek yogurt. Before I even finished, my inner ears were itching, the back of my throat tingling, felt my larnyx swelling. Boom! I cut out all dairy and a week and half later, I feel 50% better. No more lump/choking feeling and a lot less mucus in the back of my throat, although my larynxy is still swollen a bit. I had my ENT apt and I explained everything. He said my throat was still irritated a bit, but if it was due to a sensitivity/allergy, it can take a while to heal. Other than that, he would classify it as undiagnosed irritation, which they generally treat as reflux. I don’t like taking things unless I have to, and have been doing everything I can with herbs, ect. I truly think the “reflux” was caused by the concentrated amount of caseine, since I have always been lactose intolerant. So, long story short, yes, I think your lump could be because of a milk sensitivity

      • Jo and Jules
        Jo and Jules

        Thank you for sharing your story, J! Way to go on being your own detective and taking the steps to heal yourself. XO, Jo & Jules

  • Richard vernon

    I have had tbis rash started on my side moved down in groin area to backside now going down my left leg. Some days no itching but then bam starts. Last cpl days started so i thought what have I had and all meals was milk. Im going to try 30 days dairy free. Docs cant fig it out ben to 2 derm each diff diagnosis. But along with rash, lately I have had bloating, flatulance, and worse was on a 1200 a day calorie and lost only 10lbs. I see where dairy can cause prob with weight loss. Hate give up dairybut I will let u know cause rather give it up than all these symptons. Thx for your article.

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Hi Richard, That could be an effect of the dairy. We hope your time off dairy helps your symptoms!

  • kate melmore

    I love your attitude in your writing… and very insightful… i found so much to relate to!

    mucus cough, hives, swelling face, nausea, cramps, wind, diarrhoea, the list goes on I have EVERY symptom, but don’t vomit that often but it happens… shortness of breath, i think i’ve been slowly dying = that is how it has felt. I am not even on day 1, the doc in Feb thought it was sunlight allergy…. been covering up and still getting all these symptoms, it’s been an absolute nightmare getting to this point. Today i’ve had biscuits, milk in tea, a whey protein shake, cheese on it’s own – if i had planned to eat those things for the last time i would have had a day like that oh and butter on toast and eggs.

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Oh no, Kate. That does not sound good at all. Have you tried an elimination diet like our Conscious Cleanse? It might help you find what is causing those horrible symptoms. Our next cleanse starts June 8 and registration is open. You can find out more here: We hope you are able to find what is causing those symptoms soon!

  • Amy Dill

    I have been gluten free for six days now. I noticed that anytime I had a product with milk in it (I no longer drink milk, almond milk for me) my stomach would start making noises and I’d get bloated. For years and years, I’ve dealt with inner ear/vertigo issues and I’ve noticed this week any time I ate a piece of cheese my ear would instantly block and my sinuses would clog up (I have major sinus problems too). It became evident that I have a dairy allergy and I as I was doing research I came across this post. I’m at work and almost started crying because I know I’ve found the answer to why I’ve been feeling like crap for as long as I can remember.

    I do love cheese, but it’s not worth feeling like this and am immediately going dairy free. I still think gluten might be playing a role too and will continue keeping it out of my meals for 30 days, then will reintroduce it and see what happens.

    Until reading your article I had no idea dairy boosted androgen levels. I have PCOS and have been dealing with facial hair since I’ve been in my late teens (I’m now 40). This has been an amazing breakthrough! Thank you so much for your post.

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Amy, We are so happy (I will admit we got a little teary eyed, too) we could make such an impact to you. We completely understand how hard it is to let dairy go but to know how amazing you will feel once you are off of it will be so worth it. Keep us informed on how your journey is going. Have you done the cleanse with us before?

  • Elize

    If I am Very dairy sensitive would I be able to eat rusks with buttermilk, or condensmilk?

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Hi there, Yes, I would assume if you are very sensitive to dairy you would react to buttermilk and condensed milk.

  • Pamela Araki

    Thank you for writing this article. I think dairy is probably my issue. My body has been in total pain lately so I started to look into possible diet causes to eliminate foods that are more to cause inflammation. I started by eliminating dairy and wheat gluten and on top of that took an antihistamine. My pain subsided!!! Last night I drank a glass of milk and the pain came back. This morning I was ok and has some cream cheese on a bagel. Pain. I am pretty sure I found my culprit. I thought I had fibromyalgia. I am thankful it is just a dairy sensitivity.

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Great detective work, Pamela! Dairy intolerance is very common and is always a great thing to check first if you are noticing symptoms of digestion unrest and aches and pains.

  • Chas Flancher

    I have been complainong to my doc for years about bloating ,congestion, and digficulty breathing. I would ask to see about dairy allergies or gluten. His response, it is your weight. I have been on a low cal diet for the last 45 days no dairy or gluten. The last couple of days i ate some cheese and cottage cheese, and within 15 minutes, I was congested and difficulty breathing when walking. Today i had some cream cheese and whipping cream. I ate 1/2 cup, and now having difficulty breathing. I hate to do it but good by dairy. I have not added back gluten yet. I admit a bit nervous. I yhought it was interesting anout dairy being linked to ear infections. As a child i had them all the timr, and a few times a year would go to ENT doc to have suction and meds.

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Great job, Chas for being your own detective! It’s a bummer to have a sensitivity to any food but it has got to feel great to know what was causing your congestion and difficulty breathing. And yes, ear infections are definitely a sign of dairy intolerance. Now days there are many ways to get that cheesy like flavor and consistency. Have you tried our spin on Mac and Cheese?

  • Jenny Pentelow

    Hi jo. I have a 4 month baby who has been suffering from reflux and wind but recently had very unhealthy nappies containing mucus, also present in her vomit. It was suggested she could be allergic to the cows milk in my diet so I cut it out. I know it can take a month to clear from your system but I didn’t see much change after nearly a month so decided to have a week eating normally before trying gluten. Well after a couple of days back on dairy she cleared right up but by the end of the week she’s bad again. I’m thinking that dairy is in fact the culprit and she was possibly just coming right when i reintroduced it. What do you think? I’ve come back off it and plan to give it longer this time but do you think it will still take as long to see a change being as I was only back on the dairy for a week? It’s heartbreaking to see her suffer and to think it could be my fault. I should probably mention that I suffer with IBS but have never found out why……

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Hi Jenny, You’re are doing a fantastic job! Figuring out digestive issues with ourselves is tough, trying to work them through for a little one is even rougher. How have you felt since you’ve been off dairy? Have you tried removing dairy and gluten at the same time and see how both of you feel? Children often inherit our gut biome. It wouldn’t be surprising if you find what helps your little one will also help you. I would give both of you a good amount of time without dairy and gluten and see if that helps. Also note if there are any skin issues. If there are, do they ease after eliminating dairy and gluten? Best wishes to you and your little one!!

  • Jenny Pentelow

    Thank you. Honestly I can’t remember how I felt off the dairy, I’ve been too focused on the wee one. I thought I should try dairy alone again to see if it’s just that first. I do have a couple of spots (nice!) this week. Maybe that could be from reintroducing it? I have noticed the wee one has an ever so slightly dry, red area between the eyebrows which is a real problem area for my husband too who has terrible eczema but has never found the cause. Thank you for all your advice. It’s a real minefield!

  • Rachel N

    Can eating or drinking dairy contribute to muscle pain? I’m eating healthy, no sugars, no gluten, just mainly veggies and hormone free natural chicken. I’m testing to see if my muscle pain is the result of drinking half and halfor and eating cheese occasionally. This ishould not widespread muscle pain. Only on my upper right shoulder back area.

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Hi Rachel, Food sensitivities can show up in very unpredictable ways. Muscle and joint pains is a common for inflammation from food sensitivities to show. Have you tried eliminating dairy for a few weeks and then testing it back in? That is a great way to food test. Best wishes, Jo and Jules

  • Veronica Porfer

    Thanks for this informative article. I eliminated dairy from my diet after nearly four years of severe constipation. the result was astounding. Then we went to England for two weeks and I got off track because I couldn’t control everything I was eating, and it came back. After three weeks back home, it is getting straightened out. I have had ear infections (tubes three times), sinus infections, skin issues all my life.

    Question: Is it even worth it to get tested? Also, would an allergist do a SENSITIVITY test as opposed to an allergy test? Or does that seem to touchy-feely?

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Hi Veronica, That’s a great question. It sounds like you have very telling signs that you may have a dairy sensitivity. You’ve noticed direct correlation between eating dairy and having reactions such as constipation, sinus issues, skin issues, etc. It’s something you would want to ask yourself if it’s worth it if you already know it’s a problem. Not all allergists run testing for food sensitivities, so if that is something you would like you’ll want to research who in your area does. We will also, not all tests are 100% accurate. You could get some false positives or negative responses. You will want to talk to your doctor about what test is best.

  • Tanya

    I think my 6 year old has a dairy sensitivity! He constantly clears his throat. I got him tested for allergies, dairy, and asthma, all cane back negative! I ended up taking him to the ear, nose, and throat doctor and they think he has a touch of acid reflux. Before i got the dairy test done I had a feeling his cough could be from dairy. So when they put him on acid reflux meds I also stopped dairy. He got better :) but after about 6 weeks being on the acid reflux I started introducing the dairy back as I thought clearing the throat was actually from acid reflux, the clearing the throat has returned really bad!!!! So I’m convinced it’s dairy not acid reflux, or maybe it’s both. We are now starting dairy free again to see if it improves.

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Hi Tanya, That’s incredible. Way to be a detective and trusting your own instincts! Sensitivities typically do not show on the standard allergy test. Elimination is your best bet there. Your son is so fortunate to have an advocate like you! XO, Jo and Jules

  • Addison Crockett

    It was finally suggested to me that I get blood work done to check for food allergies. It came back very quickly as “highly reactive” to dairy and eggs. Does that include eating foods that have eggs in the ingredients? I am a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of not eating dairy… I love dairy! I had severe ear and throat infections as a child. Then felt a constant need to clear my throat starting in high school. My sinus symptoms began in early adulthood and have never let up. I have been in a state of chronic and intense fatigue as long as I can recall. I have one day that stands out …. I woke up and thought, “Oh, this is what it’s like to feel rested.” ONE DAY is all I can recall feeling that way. There was always a running joke that I had been somewhere because I would leave a tissue behind… always blowing my nose. In the last 4-5 years I began to have long lasting sinus infections. I realize now that they never did completely resolve. The antibiotics would give me symptom relief for a short while. Finally I allowed myself to take the time and spend the money to get the blood work done ($300) and see a Natropath. With these results I believe I am finally on the road to recovery… real recovery and relief. I am 51 years old and at this point can only imagine what it feels like to wake rested, not carry tissues with me constantly, stop sneezing uncontrollably, breath deeply and feel that I have the energy and desire to do the things I really want to do with the rest of my life. Just imagine …….

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Hi Addison, It sounds like giving up dairy, no matter how much you love it, is worth not feeling that way ever again! That’s wonderful that you discovered the root cause of your reoccurring issues. As far as do you have to avoid foods made with eggs or dairy, we cannot say. That’s really something you’ll want to discuss with your doctor or explore for yourself. Being highly reactive to something does need to be heeded to. Probably having that answered by your doctor is your best bet. Congrats on being on the road to recovery! XO, Jo & Jules

  • Gina

    Hi Jo & Jules!

    I’ve recently discovered that I have a dairy sensitivity (I get a foggy head, strong post nasal drip, sinus pressure, ear pain etc.) As an alternative I’ve tried almond milk (homemade) and coconut milk (from a can but no additives) and I also react the same way to these products that I do to any dairy products, do you have any thoughts on why that might be? Do you have any suggestions on a type of ‘milk’ I could have? I miss my cereal! ;) I also live with a constant post-nasal drip and am wondering what other sensitivity I might have without realizing it!

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Hi Gina, That’s got to be a bummer! But good for you for trying to find a solution to get this resolved. It sounds like there might be more than one sensitivity going on if you’re still experiencing these issues with other milk alternatives. (It’s not uncommon for people to have sensitivities to almonds and coconut.) Have you tried a cleanse before? It’s a way to reboot your system and help discover what is causing the inflammation in your body and clean it out. Inflammation in the body can cause reactions to happen to foods you may not be sensitive to if it’s gone unchecked. We do have registration for our January 4 Cleanse open. You can find more about it here: Please let us know if you have any other questions. XO, Jo & Jules

  • Megan J

    Whenevwe I eat dairy, I experience nausea and vomiting about 15 minutes afterwards. However, there’s never any swelling, bloating, or gas. Am I allergic to dairy?

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Oh Megan, That doesn’t sound pleasant! We couldn’t say whether that is an allergy, that’s definitely something you would want to verify with your health practitioner. Symptoms of a dairy sensitivity manifests in many different ways. Nausea and vomiting can be two of them with out swelling, bloating, or gas. The latter just is the most commonly seen signs. Great job being aware of what might be causing it! XO, Jo & Jules

  • Rene

    I have questioned whether or not I have a dairy sensitive for a while now. Sometimes there are no real issues and then others were I almost immediately get extreme stomach cramping, gas/bloating and having to hurry to find a restroom. Does any one take lactaid for when you do consume dairy for an sensitive? Have only heard of it being used for those that are truly lactose intolerant.

  • Janet Cline

    I have a constant cough that no doctor can seem to diagnose. I’ve been to a gastroenterologist, a pulmonary specialist, an allergist, just about every doctor I can think of. I’ve had both a lower and upper G.I., an endoscopy, an asthma test, and several other test….nothing is conclusive. I’ve been told I don’t have GERD, Asthma, etc.. Have you ever heard of a dairy or gluten allergy causing a cough? I’ve completely cut out gluten and dairy from my diet for over 2 weeks, but I still have the cough. Any suggestions?

    • Jo and Jules
      Jo and Jules

      Hi Janet, That’s a great question! We’ve seen food sensitivities cause the oddest symptoms. You might find it helpful to stay off gluten and dairy longer, along with upping the amount of veggies you take in. Have you tried food sensitivity testing? It might shed some light on an unknown sensitivity. Also, registration for July 12 Cleanse is open. Part of the cleanse is eliminating the most common allergens and then reintroducing them at the end, after the cleanse, to see if there are sensitivities. You can find out more here: XO, Jo & Jules

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