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Why I went dairy-free and what I noticed

Giving up dairy was super hard for me. I grew up drinking full-fat milk and pouring it over my breakfast cereal, and cheese is one of my all-time favorite foods (common for most Midwest folks).  In college, I started noticing stomachaches after drinking milk. Because I was studying nutrition, I figured I had Lactose Intolerance (stomachaches are a common symptom) and stopped drinking milk. Because I wanted to make sure I was still getting my calcium in, I switched to a low-fat yogurt.  I’d even eat three yogurts a day because I wanted to make sure I was getting enough calcium. 

Later, in my career working as a dietitian at Life Time, I was getting exposed to more information and education around how the proteins in dairy (whey, casein) were becoming more common sensitivities amongst our population. Common symptoms included upper respiratory issues (sinus infections, ear infections) as well as skin issues (adult acne), etc.  At this point in my life, I was dealing with one or two sinus infections a year and struggled with adult acne all the time. I figured for these reasons, I might have to test taking dairy out completely (not just avoiding milk) to see how my body would respond.

How I Found Out I Was Sensitive to Dairy

I went through a full elimination of the food group (at least six months) so I could really focus on nourishing my gut.  When your body is taking in a food or food protein that it doesn’t handle or manage well, it can do a number on your immune system (hence my common symptoms of acne and sinus infections) and gut lining. During this time, I put myself through a protocol that included good supplementation (probiotic, glutamine and digestive enzymes) while keeping dairy out and keeping gut-nourishing foods in. 

What I Noticed When I Gave Up Dairy

It was seriously night and day. I’ll never forget getting a facial and having the esthetician tell me she noticed a huge change in my complexion since the last time I’d seen her. When I mentioned giving up dairy, she was so excited and explained she suggests that all the time to people that deal with adult acne. Plus, I haven’t had a sinus infection for five years (and counting) and no longer experience seasonal allergies. (If you currently have skin issues or seasonal allergies, you know what a relief it is not to have to deal with these types of symptoms or issues.) 

What I Miss Most

Cheese. I always joke with clients and friends that my favorite meal is chips and queso. Oddly enough, I’ve never missed drinking milk and that was probably the easiest thing for me to cut out.  Organic and full-fat dairy can be a really great source of protein and other nutrients (if your body can effectively digest and absorb those nutrients). And cottage cheese and Greek yogurt can really be great choices for snacks or meal components for those trying to lose or maintain a healthy weight.

How I Get My Calcium In

I eat a lot of dark green and leafy veggies. Broccoli is also a huge hit in our house (even with my little three-year-old who likes to eat her “trees”).  I also make sure to tell clients that getting enough daily physical activity and optimal levels of Vitamins K and D with their calcium are important to support strong healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis.

My Favorite Non-Dairy Recipe

I appreciate all the non-dairy options out there today (that didn’t exist when I first took out dairy) such as coconut and almond milks, coffee creamers and yogurt. So, I still get to eat yogurt. And I love food hacks like the recipe I’m including below, because it makes me feel like I’m not missing out on anything. It’s empowering to make a fermented food like this that supports my gut health. It’s only two ingredients — coconut milk and a probiotic — and I used the Life Time Fitness Multi Pro 30B for the recipe. It’s also the probiotic I use on a daily basis and the one I recommend to clients. In my opinion, we all could benefit from a probiotic. There are too many elements in our environment fighting against our healthy gut flora to make it on our own. It’s especially important to take a probiotic if you’ve just completed a detox or cleanse, or have food sensitivities or gut health issues. Plus, it supports immune health which is so important for all of us as we  go into a new season.

2-Ingredient Dairy-Free Yogurt

Here’s what you need to get started



  • Pour room temperature coconut milk into a glass jar (I use a Ball jar) and cover with cheesecloth. I just cut a double-ply piece and use a rubber band to secure.
  • Add in three capsules of Life Time Fitness Multi Pro 30B.
  • Place it on a shelf in your kitchen cabinet with a stable temperature.
  • Leave in the cabinet for 24 hours (you can leave it up to 48 hours if you’d like a thicker consistency).
  • Place in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours.
  • Enjoy it plain without a sweetener, but you could add a little stevia or honey. I think it would be amazing with a little shaved fresh vanilla bean, too. Or maybe just some mashed raspberries to make your own fruit-on-the-bottom coconut yogurt.

Notes: Results may vary depending upon temperature, type and brand of coconut milk and fat content. I recommend using a full-fat coconut milk for the best taste and for a thicker yogurt. Letting it sit for 48 hours rather than 24 will thicken it more if that’s your preference. You may have a consistency closer to a kefir if you use a low-fat coconut milk. Also, it’s really important to use a good probiotic, and as I mentioned, I suggest our Life Time Fitness Multi Pro 30B. If you decide to make this recipe, let me know how it goes and how you decide to eat it.

As a side note, I’ve learned I can handle a little dairy (maybe a little heavy cream in my coffee or a piece of cheese) at a time as long as I continue to support my gut health (I still today take a daily probiotic and glutamine). And if I really want to indulge (chips and queso), I take a digestive enzyme with that meal to help my body break it down easier. 

If you have questions about this recipe or about taking a probiotic, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at Many of my clients find out about food sensitivities during our D.TOX℠ program. If you’re interested in joining me, sign up here.


In health, Anika Christ – Director – Digital Programming & Events – Life Time Weight Loss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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