Two years ago, after experiencing stomach pains and digestive problems for months and undergoing numerous tests, I was told by my doctor that I was severely lactose intolerant. I was surprised because I didn’t understand that you could all of a sudden become intolerant. The more research I did the more I understood that it is possible to become lactose intolerant at any stage of life and also that I perhaps had shown minor signs of lactose intolerance when I was younger. For example, I wasn’t crazy about ice cream as a child and the thought of drinking a glass full of milk was my idea of torture. Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency in the enzyme lactase in the inner lining of the GI wall. The GI track cannot absorb lactose whole so if your body does not have the lactase enzyme it stays in the gut, causing water to move and resulting in diarrhea and abdominal pain. When I first learned of my allergy I remember thinking, how on Earth am I going to survive?! I absolutely loved cheese and my favourite breakfast was fruit with a big dollop of Greek yoghurt. I am happy to say that two years on I am still alive and have found many delicious dairy alternatives to incorporate into my diet. I feel healthier and no longer have digestive issues. Dairy Milk Alternative: Almond Milk This is my milk of choice! It is high in calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and potassium as well as vitamin C, B6 and E – all essential for a healthy functioning body. I love almond milk with oats (2 mins in the microwave and then topped with blueberries!) or as a dairy substitute in smoothies. Try this breakfast smoothie for a filling, nutritious and tummy-friendly start to your day: - ½ cup oats - 1 frozen banana - 1 cup almond milk - 1 tsp honey or pure maple syrup (or 2 dates) for sweetness - 2 tsp chia seeds (for added protein and omega 3!) - ¼ tsp cinnamon (to regulate blood sugar levels) It is worth noting that some almond milks have quite a lot of added sugar, so make sure to buy the unsweetened version. My favourite is Alpro Unsweetened Fresh Almond Milk. Greek Yoghurt Alternative: COYO This is an absolute treat! Available in natural, vanilla, chocolate and salted caramel flavour, this coconut yoghurt is a delicious snack or breakfast. I love Coyo, fresh strawberries, chopped pecans and a drizzle of honey. And with no added sugar, this ticks all the boxes! Butter Alternative: Coconut and Almond Spread Flora Freedom Coconut Almond Dairy Free Spread is suitable for vegans and has no preservatives, artificial colours or flavours. This is a great substitute for dairy based butter in recipes (think cinnamon banana muffins with melted coconut and almond spread…) or the perfect bread spread for breakfast. Even if you aren’t dairy intolerant, there are many benefits to ditching dairy including less bloating, clearer skin and weight loss. Not only this, but you reduce your exposure to added antibiotics and hormones that cows may be given to cure sickness or increase growth. Studies show that the galactose (a type of sugar) in milk increases oxidative stress and inflammation. If you would like some help getting started, visit sodeliciousdairyfree.com/dairyfreechallenge for shopping lists, snack guides, dairy free swaps and tips and a 21 day dairy free challenge guide and support community. For those who think they may be lactose intolerant, I recommend keeping a food journal for a couple of weeks and recording how you feel after eating certain foods and if symptoms subside when you remove lactose from your diet. What are your favourite dairy alternatives and what tips do you have for living on a dairy free diet? Subscribe to A Girl’s Gotta Spa! beauty blog. Watch our reviews on YouTube, see our pins on Pinterest and check us out on Instagram. Got a Kindle? We’re on Kindle too!