Switching to a dairy-free and gluten-free diet may seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Most whole foods are naturally gluten-free, and there are more dairy and gluten-free food substitutes in grocery stores than ever before.
But how to go dairy and gluten-free? When starting a gluten and dairy-free diet, stick to eating real whole foods. Avoid or consume as few processed foods as possible. When eating processed foods, check the ingredient labels to ensure there is no gluten or dairy. Avoid foods with ingredients such as “flavoring” or “natural flavor.”
Keep reading to learn more about gluten and dairy and the benefits of following a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. We’ll also share the best tips for starting a gluten-free and dairy-free diet.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein naturally found in certain cereal grains. Gluten is present in any species of wheat (such as common wheat, wheatberry, emmer, durum, Spelt, semolina, farro, farina, graham, KAMUT, Khorasan, and einkorn), barley, rye, triticale, a cross between rye and wheat.
Gluten has unique adhesive properties, giving the dough elasticity and helping it rise and maintain its shape. Gluten can be found in many foods, even in those where it wasn’t expected.
What Is Dairy?
Dairy refers to products made from milk. The most common dairy animals are cows, goats, sheep, water buffalos, camels, and ewes.
Dairy products include everyday grocery items such as milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, and cream. For those people who can consume dairy, milk products serve as a source of protein, fat, and sugar.
Benefits of Being Gluten-Free
The protein gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley, may cause digestive problems for some people. Individuals with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity must avoid gluten altogether.
A gluten-free diet has many benefits, especially for people with celiac disease or other gluten-related disorders. The biggest advantages of a gluten-free diet are:
It Helps Relieve Digestive Problems
Many people switch to a gluten-free diet to relieve digestive problems such as bloating, gas, fatigue, constipation, or diarrhea.
Research shows that following a gluten-free diet helps relieve digestive symptoms for people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
People with celiac disease are often tired and sluggish and may experience brain fog, which is marked by forgetfulness, confusion, and difficulty focusing. These symptoms are often a result of nutrient deficiency caused by damage to the gut.
If you have celiac disease, going gluten-free can boost your energy levels and stop you from feeling tired.
It Helps You Lose Weight
A gluten-free diet eliminates many high-calorie, processed foods, replacing them with fruits, vegetables, and lean meat. As a result, most people lose some weight once they start following a gluten-free diet.
Benefits of Being Dairy-Free
Cutting out dairy from your diet might seem challenging at first, but there are many dairy substitutes available to make this process easier. Whether you’re lactose-intolerant or want to ditch dairy for environmental or ethical reasons, here are the biggest benefits of going dairy-free:
Prevents Exposure to Hormones & Antibiotics
Common dairy products may contain trace amounts of antibiotics used to keep cows free from infections and hormones, which encourage milk production.
More often than not, antibiotics are given as a preventative measure, meaning that the cow isn’t actually sick. This practice can create antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can find their way into our food system.
Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is the most commonly used hormone to increase milk production in cows. The use of rBGH results in increased use of antibiotics, which leads to an increased amount of antibiotics in dairy products.
Improves Digestive Symptoms
Digestive issues caused by dairy consumption are most often the result of lactose intolerance. Lactose-intolerant people can’t digest lactose (a sugar found in cow’s milk) because they lack the enzyme lactase in the intestinal tract.
When lactose intolerant people eat lactose, their intestines aren’t able to digest it properly, resulting in gas, bloating, stomach cramps, and pain. Improved digestion is one of the first things people notice when switching to a dairy-free diet.
Hormones found in milk can possibly increase the occurrence of acne, especially in women who experience hormone fluctuations throughout their cycles. Dairy products contain sugar, which also causes acne.
Eliminating dairy from your diet can clear up your skin and prevent acne.
Tips on How to go Dairy and Gluten-Free
Ditching dairy and gluten from your diet can seem challenging. But there have never been more gluten-free and dairy-free foods available in supermarkets. Here are a few tips to ease you through the switch:
1. Educate Yourself About the Effect of Gluten & Dairy
Before ditching gluten and dairy from your diet, educate yourself about their effect and where they are commonly found.
Once you learn where gluten and dairy might be hidden in food, you can make more informed choices when shopping in the supermarket or dining at your favorite restaurant.
2. Choose Whole Foods
Use the transition to a gluten and dairy-free diet as a chance to include healthy whole foods into your diet. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and lean meat are naturally free of gluten and dairy.
If you choose to purchase processed foods, read the ingredient labels and be mindful of cross-contamination. Keep in mind that many gluten-free and dairy-free products are processed or made on the same equipment as gluten and dairy-containing products.
3. Find a Few Restaurants in Your Area
Eating out can be especially difficult for people with food sensitivities. If you enjoy eating out, you must find a few restaurants in your area that can cater to your new dietary lifestyle.
When eating at restaurants, inform your waiter that you can’t eat gluten or dairy. Chefs often use butter and flour to prepare seemingly gluten and dairy-free dishes to make them more presentable.
You can’t always trust a dish to be gluten and dairy-free just because it should be, so make sure to communicate your dietary restrictions to the waiter.
4. Know the Alternatives
Knowing safe substitutes for gluten and dairy will make a switch to a no-dairy and gluten-free diet much easier. Nowadays, it’s fairly easy to find replacements and gluten and dairy-free recipes.
The best substitutes for wheat flour are:
- Almond flour
- Coconut flour
- Rice flour
- Quinoa flour
- Cassava flour
- Sweet potato flour
- Gluten-free all-purpose flour
- Certified gluten-free oat flour
The best substitutes for milk are:
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk
- Soy milk
- Cashew milk
- Rice milk
- Certified-gluten free oat milk
5. Learn all the Common Names of Gluten & Dairy
Gluten and dairy hide under many different names. Knowing what to look for on food labels and restaurant menus can be a lifesaver.
What Happens When You go Dairy and Gluten-Free?
Going dairy and gluten-free has many health benefits. Many people experience a boost of energy, improved mood, and reduced mental health issues by eliminating gluten and dairy from their diets.
How Long Does It Take to get Dairy and Gluten out of Your System?
Gluten exposure causes both short-term discomfort and long-term intestinal damage and inflammation. The time it takes gluten to pass from the mouth through the digestive tract varies from person to person.
An estimated total transit time for the gluten to get out of your body is between 39 and 52 hours, depending on a number of factors. However, it can take up to 4 months to clear out gluten antibodies from your system.
When it comes to milk, it can take 21 days for milk protein to leave your system.
What Can I Eat if I’m Gluten and Dairy-Free?
There’s no need to feel like you’re missing out by going gluten and dairy-free. A gluten and dairy-free diet isn’t actually restricting, and there is still a variety of foods you can eat.
Choose to eat real wholesome foods and avoid eating processed foods as much as possible. If you pick processed products once in a while, check the ingredient label to ensure there is no hidden gluten or dairy.
Here are some natural gluten and dairy-free foods:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean meat
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes and grains (steer clear from barley, rye, wheat, and oats as they are often cross-contaminated during harvest or production)
Whether you’re ditching dairy and gluten because of allergies, food sensitivities, or digestive issues, it can be challenging to make the switch. Although you won’t longer eat gluten and dairy products, there are many other tasty and nutritious foods to suit your new menu.
Most whole foods are naturally gluten and dairy free, and there’s no shortage of fruits and veggies you can try. Wholesome grains like quinoa, rice, millet, and amaranth are naturally gluten-free and safe to eat.
When purchasing foods in stores, check the ingredient labels and look for certified gluten-free products to avoid getting allergies.