We are a cheesy family.
By that, I mean we love our cheese. Pizza Fridays, crackers and cheese for snacks, macaroni and cheese and even melted cheese on toast for quick lunches.
In fact, dairy in general has always been consumed in our house on a regular basis.
We love our yogurts and big bowls of cereal with more milk than cereal. And I can’t forget about ice cream. Oh, the ice cream. What I wouldn’t do for ice cream right about now.
When my daughter started having tummy troubles we suspected it could be the dairy. She would complain that her tummy hurt and we have dealt with messy poop situations almost since birth.
She threw up so much that from a young age she learned to make it to a bathroom. I would hear her little feet hit the ground running and minutes later she’d cry out for me.
We noticed that things like yogurt, sour cream and even cream cheese tended to lead to the upset stomach.
One evening she asked for a yogurt drink for her pre-bed snack and within minutes of drinking it the entire bottle came right back up. Thank goodness she was naked on the bathroom floor getting ready for a bath. Vomit is much easier to clean off of tile floors than carpet.
We took her to doctors, multiple doctors, who could never quite diagnose her. We took her to an allergist but that didn’t help much. Finally we took her to a naturopath who, after asking a series of questions and doing an exam, explained that she felt that she had a dairy intolerance.
So we made a switch to lactose-free everything. We spent a fortune on lactose-free milk and lactose-free butter. We stayed away from soft cheeses and switched to sorbet instead of ice cream. We were told that hard cheeses had no lactose so we were safe with that. We didn't have to give up on our pizza or melted cheese on toast.
And it worked…a little.
One day blended into the next and eventually we softened. We allowed her to have a treat when we traveled and she wanted ice cream. We agreed to the bagel and cream cheese for breakfast. We stopped being so worried about the sour cream on taco night.
And eventually her tummy troubles were back.
Fast forward a few years and my son started clearing his throat. All the time. When I probed a little he explained that his food was ‘sticking in his throat’.
My son was born with a condition called TEF. In easy-to-understand terms, his trachea and his esophagus were connected. He had a repair surgery done at 3 days old at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. He spent six weeks in the hospital recovering and learning how to eat.
Food getting stuck is common occurrence for TEF kids. Eventually, after some tests, he was diagnosed with EOE, or Eosinophilic Esophagitis. EOE is basically inflammation in the esophagus and is very common in TEF kids. Guess what the biggest aggravator is?
Now we were being told that dairy was a no-go for both of our kids.
Except this time we were at Sick Kids and they explained to us that eliminating lactose was not enough. Most kids who struggle with the lactose, which are the sugars found in dairy products, also struggle with the casein, which are the proteins found in dairy products.
Eliminating lactose wasn’t enough.
We quickly realized this was going to be an entire lifestyle change. My attitude was that if both of our kids had to quit dairy then we would all quit dairy.
I researched and created a “Dairy-Free” board on Pinterest. I bought dairy-free mac and cheese (two thumbs down) and dairy-free chocolate chips (two thumbs up!). We switched to almond milk and coconut milk.
Before I knew it our house was completely rid of all dairy.
Our kids were miserable.
We had to cancel our pizza day orders for the rest of the year! We couldn’t do Sundae night. We even had to skip the butter on our popcorn.
It has been a big change and it is requiring a big commitment.
Yet here we are, slowly starting to crawl out of our dairy-free rut.
Pizza days have been replaced by sub days.
Imagine our surprise when my son and I stopped at Sweet Jesus Ice Cream to find out that they have a dairy-free option?
I have found some really great recipes that everyone likes, even my husband. Coconut whipped cream is my new obsession.
It hasn’t been easy. It has required a lot of research and some trial and error but we are surviving.
Recently, we got the kids in bed early and my husband picked up a pizza. We scoffed our cheesy pizza in secret making sure to hide all the evidence before the kids woke up.
Our family health team has a dietitian on staff and we have made an appointment to ensure that we are meeting all of our dietary needs.
We are only a couple of months in of the full on ban on dairy in our house and truth be told, it hasn’t been easy. But it also hasn’t been as hard as I thought. It’s an adjustment but we have found alternatives to the creamy foods that we loved so much. The key is that we are all on board with the change. And when it gets tough I just remind myself that we are doing it for the health of our kids.