A year ago I had just finished the 10 day reintroduction phase of Whole 30. Whole 30 is a nutritional reset, an elimination diet. For 30 days, you cut out sugar, grains, gluten, dairy, legumes, and alcohol. You focus on balanced meals and healthy fats. You make sure to eat breakfast, you check lots of labels for hidden ingredients, and you don't snack. Meals consist of meat, veggies, and a healthy fat.
It is not for the weak. But if you have any sort of medical condition, it can be extremely helpful in determining whether or how your diet plays a role.
That is precisely why I spent the latter half of October and first couple of weeks of November completing it. I've had eczema since I was a baby and intermittent insomnia since junior high. Last fall I'd reached a breaking point with my eczema and figured I had nothing left to lose.
Because my diet was pared down, it was easier to identify culprits during Whole 30. This is how I determined nuts (one of the approved healthy fats) actually caused my eczema. It made unfortunate sense. In the year or two prior, I'd tried to eat healthier snacks, like almonds. It was no wonder my eczema had become worse, instead of better.
After the 30 days, I then reintroduced dairy and then gluten, followed by grains and then legumes and paid attention to what my body said.
My body immediately pointed a condemning finger at dairy. It was my worst fear come true. You cannot understand the enormous depths of my love for all things dairy. Ice cream is an obvious love but really, my heart has always belonged to cheese. My mom used to tell me she thought there was a correlation between dairy and eczema and I'd plug my fingers in my ears because I didn't want to hear it.
I would easily give up anything other than dairy. At least that's what I thought pre-Whole 30.
I felt so good during the last 2 weeks of the challenge. I slept through the night, yes, but best of all: I wasn't scratching the hell out of my legs. It makes sense that I'd sleep better if my eczema was under control. That was my normal for years! Horrifying.
After experiencing the good life, I couldn't go back and I've lived the 99% dairy-free life ever since.
I say 99% because I don't have any dairy products at home but I'm not as strict when I eat out. Dairy is in everything at restaurants, whether it's delicious butter slathered on a hamburger bun or feta studding a salad. Because it doesn't cause me intestinal difficulty and because I love dairy in all its forms, I often eat whatever I want and deal with the consequences.
I also try to counteract the consequences. When eating dairy, I'll take doTERRA DigestZen as soon after the meal as possible. I also take melatonin before going to bed. These two actions make a huge difference. Still, it's best for dairy to only be an occasional indulgence. Goat and sheep milks seem OK but I haven't experimented enough to eat or cook with it regularly. There are no exceptions to the nut rules. (Thankfully peanuts are a legume, not a nut, and are totally fine.) It turns out red wine is also problematic so I stick to cocktails when I drink.
As you can imagine, quite a few of my staple recipes have undergone changes or been eliminated altogether. I never thought I'd be able to live in a dairy-free world but there are so many great alternatives, it's not as great of a loss as I thought. I swear by Trader Joe's Chocolate Coconut Ice Cream, for example.
For the holidays, I'll be indulging in all my favorite foods, dairy and all. It will be a true feast and I'll enjoy every second of it. But I'm also going to use Earth Balance baking sticks (not an endorsement or perk) when I make Christmas cookies. The dairy-free life is an adjustment but it's worth it. I only wish I hadn't waited so long to figure it out.