What is it?Experts reckon the human body only learnt to digest cow's milk a few thousand years ago. That might explain why so many people still find dairy products hard to digest even today. A dairy free diet is where you avoid anything that contains milk-based products such as yoghurt, cheese and cream.
There are two main reasons why people would follow a dairy free diet. If you're allergic to cow's milk, a dairy free diet will prevent allergic reactions like rashes, vomiting and even anaphylactic shock.
If you're lactose intolerant, it means your body struggles to break down lactose, the natural sugar found in milk. By cutting out dairy products, your digestion and general health will improve.
Who is it good for?There's a big difference between people who are just allergic to cow's milk and people who are actually lactose intolerant.
One in a hundred babies is allergic to cow's milk, by far the most common childhood allergy. While some people will grow out of this, others will remain allergic to milk as adults.
The symptoms of a milk allergy include rashes, vomiting and, in extreme, cases, anaphylactic shock which causes breathing problems.
Lactose intolerance, however, affects around one in seven people in the UK. Lactose intolerant people will feel very uncomfortable between 30 minutes and two hours after eating dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurts. Symptoms include bloating, nausea, cramps, wind and diarrhoea. If you notice any of these problems, visit your GP who can run some simple tests to find out what's wrong.
Everything that doesn't include dairy and the milk-free alternative foods that are now sold in most big supermarkets. Milk and yoghurts made from soya and rice are just as tasty and won't upset your stomach. Try Rice Dream Original on your cornflakes or Alpro Soya yoghurts poured over fruit. You can buy a soya spread to use instead of butter or margarine.
Typical day's dietBreakfast: Shredded wheat with soya/rice milk, 2 slices wholemeal bread with non-dairy spread.
Lunch: Homemade vegtable soup, chicken salad, fruit.
Dinner: Tuna Risotto, veg, fruit based sorbet.
Snacks: Dried apricots, nuts.
Top tipCertain ethnic groups are much more likely to be lactose intolerant than others. According to the NHS, only 10 per cent of Northern Europeans are lactose intolerant compared with 75 per cent of Afro-Caribbean people and 95 per cent of Asian people.
Join our Diet ClubCheck out our calorie controlled, Dairy-free Diet Club plan and use our team of health experts to guide you towards a healthy, well-balanced dairy free diet. Join now and get 4 weeks free
Find out moreVisit your doctor to find out if you're allergic or intolerant to dairy products. Never put your child on a dairy free diet without consulting your GP first.
Go to www.lactose.co.uk or www.alprosoya.co.uk for more information.