Going Dairy Free to Reverse Hashimoto’s

In a recent survey of my readers, I found that 72 % were gluten-free! Yay- this made me so happy, as gluten is a huge trigger for Hashimoto’s, and getting off gluten improved symptoms in 88% of those who implemented a gluten free diet! In some cases, gluten free can single-handedly reverse Hashimoto’s (symptoms, antibodies and need for thyroid medications can go away)… if that’s your root cause.

But there are other root causes besides gluten. For most people, it’s not as simple as getting off gluten.

This article is going to focus on the second most common food trigger – dairy. Only about 40% of you reported being dairy free, yet 57% reported that they suspected being dairy sensitive.

The most common ways people feel their reactions to dairy include: gut reactions (like bloating, diarrhea and acid reflux), as well as lung reactions (coughing, asthma, sinusitis, postnasal drip, mucous) and skin (eczema, rashes, acne).

The thing about dairy reactions, like all delayed food reactions, is that it’s almost impossible to know if dairy is a trigger for you, unless you go off dairy for at least 2-3 weeks, then reattempt eating it.

If you’re thinking about going dairy free read this article for information on the why’s and how’s of dairy free living. If you’re already dairy free, I hope this post will give you some new ideas for delicious dairy alternatives.

Are you a baby cow?

Often, the argument against drinking dairy is overly simplified… “Humans are the only mammals that drink another mammal’s breast milk. Cow’s milk is only good for baby cows!”

When the argument is presented this way, it’s tough to argue, unless of course, you can think of examples of people who are perfectly healthy and drink lots of cow’s milk.

Thus the need for a deeper explanation. Cow’s milk contains proteins that are different than the proteins found in human milk. A person with intestinal permeability (which is always a precursor to autoimmune disease) is likely to recognize these proteins as a foreign invader and make antibodies to the proteins.

These antibodies are mediated by the IgG branch of the immune system (different branch then the one that makes food allergies)- this known as a Type IV Delayed Hypersensitivity reaction. Guess what other kinds of antibodies are IgG mediated? Thyroid antibodies, more specifically, TPO and TG antibodies. Hashimoto’s is also considered a Type IV Delayed Hypersensitivity.

I haven’t found research to back this up, but experience shows that eating foods that stimulate the release of the IgG antibodies and promote a Type IV Delayed Hypersensitivity response, will also increase thyroid antibodies.

Perhaps it’s a “turning on the faucet effect”, or perhaps dairy proteins cross-react with the thyroid gland. More research is needed to quantify the exact reaction, but I can say that people who are dairy sensitive and have Hashimoto’s will have a reduction in thyroid symptoms and antibodies going dairy free.

Limited studies are available on dairy proteins and Hashimoto’s. The only dairy related studies I’m aware of is one when lactose sensitive individuals with Hashimoto’s were shown to absorb medication better after lactose restriction (hey, it’s a start, right?). But just because there aren’t studies yet, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try this intervention that can be life changing.

Raw Milk Myth

Some believe that the pasteurization process can potentially denature dairy proteins, making them seem even more foreign to the body, and increasing the likelihood of an immune response. This is why some raw milk advocates will state that only pasteurized milk is a problem and that everyone should drink raw milk.

This could be true, potentially, if you spent your entire life drinking only raw milk, however most of us have not. Unfortunately, if you have already been sensitized to the pasteurized cow’s milk proteins, you’re likely going to react to the raw milk dairy proteins. They are similar enough.


More bad news… goat’s milk and sheep’s milk proteins are also very similar to cow’s milk proteins have about a 60-75% cross-reactivity, meaning that 60-75% of people sensitive to cow casein will also react to goat/sheep casein.  Once a person becomes sensitized to the casein protein, they will react to all dairy across the board, possibly with the exception of camel milk.

A physician in Israel reported healing cow’s milk sensitivities with camel milk in a subset of children. I personally reduced my reaction to dairy from an 8+ to a 1 over the course of four years… I did drink camel milk for about two weeks, which may have helped, but I also made a lot of other interventions that are known to reduce food sensitivities: strict dairy restriction, eradicating gut infections, gut healing protocols, and systemic enzymes.

For me personally, dairy was a bigger reactive food than gluten. Eating even tiny amounts of dairy resulted in coughing, bloating, acid reflux, joint pains and diarrhea. I’ve been dairy free for over four years, and my food reactions have dramatically lessened, however, a small amount of dairy will still trigger a cough for me (this past weekend I ate something that was marked “dairy-free” even though it had butter, and couldn’t figure out why I kept needing to clear my throat!).

The dairy withdrawal

If you’re someone who is craving dairy, you should know that it’s not just in your head. The dairy protein casein, when broken down, can bind our endorphin (feel good) receptors in the body. Preliminary research in animals shows that casomorphins (from casein) and gliadorphins (from gluten) may have behavioral affects.

Some have said that dairy is as addictive as heroin (which is a strong stimulator of our endorphin receptors). I personally think this may be an exaggeration, and there is no research to back that up (and obviously I can’t speak from personal experience here about the heroin, ha-ha), but I did find that I had slight withdrawal symptoms when I went dairy and gluten free (gluten by-products can also interact with morphine receptors in our bodies). I felt a little spacey and dazed for a few days, but something else happened too, my bloating and acid reflux went away, while my joint pains began to diminish. (If you are already dairy free and still have acid reflux, check out the video I made about the Root Causes of Hashimoto’s and Acid Reflux).

If you’re thinking about going dairy free, it can be quite overwhelming. It’s best to prepare yourself.

Can I ever have Ice Cream and pizza again if I go dairy free?

Giving up dairy can be very scary, as dairy is a common staple in the standard Western diet, and a base for many rich, nourishing foods. However, giving up dairy may just be the one change that makes a big difference in your health.

Please note: all of the suggested brands are dairy, gluten and soy free. Some of them are Paleo friendly as well as autoimmune Paleo friendly, but others may have additives that are not considered Paleo/Autoimmune Paleo friendly.

Milk – milk is a combination of fat, protein and carbohydrates.

Coconut milk is my top choice, though it doesn’t have protein

Almond milk is a secondary, but some may react to nuts.

Rice milk is an option but its often full of sugar and no fat.

Soy milk does have fat, carb and protein, but soy is the third most common reactive food, so don’t throw the baby with the bath water out by replacing one reactive food with another reactive one!

Cheese – for cream cheese, you can soak 1 cup of cashews in water overnight, then blend them with ¼ cup of water and one tablespoon of lemon juice in a blender like the Vitamix .

For shredded cheese, the Daiya brand makes a gluten, dairy and soy free “cheese” that can be used in place of cheddar, mozzarella, and Pepperjack cheese on pizzas, casseroles and the like. The also have a cheesecake (which I haven’t tried yet) made with a gluten free crust.

Ice Cream – So Delicious Dairy Free makes a coconut milk based ice cream in a variety of flavors! If you are autoimmune paleo, you can also try Yonanas, which is an awesome machine that turns frozen bananas into ice-cream.

Butter – coconut oil works very well as a butter substitute for most purposes. Duck Fat is also a tasty alternative!

Yogurt – Daiya and So Delicious Dairy Free make tasty coconut based yogurts, but my favorite is Tula’s Coconut Kefir 🙂

Pizza – Dayia brand makes a tasty gluten, dairy and soy-free pizza.

Protein for shakes – I recommend pea protein or beef protein as a substitute for whey protein in shakes.

Sour cream – You can make a puree of cashews and lemon juice or use a coconut milk with a high fat content, like the coconut cream.

Hope this information helps you on your journey!!



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