So, needless to say, I was a skeptic. However, after putting myself through a personal challenge, I am now a believer. This is my story.
I grew up eating, drinking and loving dairy. I even had an uncle who was a dairy farmer. At the same time I also continually suffered from allergylike symptoms year around... most often a runny nose. Having grown up in the Midwest, I blamed it on pollen and dust in the spring and summer, and the cold in the winter. After having moved to Southern California nearly 15 years ago where we don't have "seasons," I continued to suffer from these symptoms. I thought I was destined to just "deal" with the problem the rest of my life.
After being laid off from my desk job a little over a year ago, I was looking for some part-time work to help make ends meet while I continued to look for a new opportunity. It was at this time that a friend of mine connected me with Pete of Pete's Paleo. At this time, I had only heard of the Paleo diet and knew nothing. I was more interested in having something to do a few days a week vs. learning about the diet. I had always eaten "healthy" in my eyes, i.e., sticking to lean proteins, vegetables, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, granola, and of course Greek yogurt. I didn't need to lose weight, so why would I partake in a "diet"? As I continued to work with Pete and listen to him talk about the benefits of Paleo, and after attending a few Paleo events, I slowly started to incorporate a few of the concepts into my daily diet. This did not include the elimination of dairy. After all, how could I give up my Greek yogurt?
Then came the first Santa Ana-type weather of the year. I was relegated to my apartment to avoid the outdoors, because it only served to enhance my allergy-like symptoms, e.g. sneezing, watery eyes, and the never-ending runny nose. As I returned to work the following week and complained about my allergy issues and runny nose, I think Pete had had enough as he exclaimed, "Stop eating that damn Greek yogurt."
Since I was fed up with my so-called allergies, I asked Pete to explain how my Greek yogurt could be the source of my constant nasal issues. He explained to me that yogurt contains casein and then explained how casein works in your body. Basically, casein enters your gut and your body attacks the protein, seeing it as the enemy. This results in a negative reaction on your central nervous system, causing you to experience a number of symptoms including a runny nose and brain fog. As I continued to read about the effects of casein I discovered that it is also the cause of the skin rash eczema. I have suffered from eczema since I was a child.
It was at this time that I decided to undertake a two-week personal experiment and rule out all dairy products from my diet. I have to admit that this wasn't as difficult as I had imagined. I have always had a high degree of self-control and I'm sure that helped during the initial stages of the experiment. After about 10 days, I really started to notice a significant difference in my sinuses. I no longer needed to carry Kleenex with me on a cold morning while walking my dog. Also, luckily, we experienced more Santa Ana-type weather conditions. This was a true test of this experiment. I am pleased to admit that I was able to enjoy a weekend outdoors without any of my previous allergy issues. I think this was the first time in over 20 years that I haven't suffered with some sort of sinus issue.
The experiment didn't end here, though. I wanted to test how my body would respond if I reintroduced dairy back into my diet. So, off to the store I went to purchase my dairy product of choice. Over the next two days I ate my dairy as I did before the experiment. Not only did minor sinus issues rear their ugly head, but I endured other physical issues too, such as bloating, lightheadedness, and nausea. These symptoms continued as long as I continued indulging in my beloved dairy products.
As you might have guessed, I quit the dairy, have been dairy-free for over a month and am feeling great. I have also not had an eczema outbreak since going dairy-free. I will continue to monitor this to determine if dairy was the cause of this lifelong battle. While I am not strictly Paleo at this time, I have experienced firsthand the benefits of cutting dairy out of my diet.
What's next for me? I will continue to implement the Paleo diet into my lifestyle as I slowly wean myself of those foods that I have always loved, and to a limited extent am still enjoying... whole grains (love my bread and pasta) and dessert (chocolate chip cookies).
So, with that said, there are more confessions to come from this former Greek yogurt enthusiast.