Dairy alternatives for dairy intolerance

Sixty percent of the world’s population are intolerant to dairy products. For these people, foods made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep and buffalo can cause symptoms such as include fatigue, bloating, painful gas, diarrhoea and/or constipation (presenting normally around 30 minutes after eating). This is due to the body’s inability to digest lactose (“milk sugar”) and the inflammatory effects of casein (milk protein). Dairy intolerance is also associated with other health complaints such as sinusitis, excessive mucous problems, infertility, lowered immunity and GI disease such as IBS and Crohn’s Disease.

The different types of dairy

Diary foods can be created from the milk of a cow, sheep, goat or buffalo.

Cow dairy foods are much more likely to give someone intolerance symptoms as they are the highest in both lactose in casein, and are often the most highly processed. If a patient is suffering with a serious intolerance and symptoms, abstinence from all dairy is key in the healing process.

However, for those who are only mildly intolerant, the thought of giving up cheese and yogurt altogether is simply too much to bear. For these people there are good alternatives provided by the world of sheep, cow and buffalo dairy foods, which are much lower in  lactose, casein and saturated fat. They also contain all of the essential amino acids without the catarrh (mucus) producing materials of cow’s milk.  Those who are lactose intolerant tolerate cheese and yogurt products from these animals quite well; those with casein (milk protein) intolerances will need to experiment little by little to see what works.

If you find you are no longer tolerating cow dairy products you may want to experiment with these alternatives before coming off dairy foods altogether:

  • Sheep dairy product  are especially great for yogurts. The best tasting on the market by far is Merediths Sheeps Yogurt.
  • Buffalo parmesan or ricotta cheeses.
  • Goat’s feta cheese.
  • Sheep or Goats Halloumi (this is more of an obsession vs a favourite)

NB: The good news is butter is on the table. Butter is extremely low in casein and lactose those with dairy intolerances tend to not react for the most part. It is also a rich food source of Vitamin D. Always buy organic.

Please keep in mind that a lot of pre-packaged sheep or goats products (especially the cheeses) have hidden cow dairy ingredients in them, so make sure to check the label before buying. Buying your cheese fresh vs out of a packet and having a chat about your cheese with your local deli owner is always the better option anyway. Good milk alternatives are another world of their own:

  • Raw milk is highly nutritious and often better tolerated by than pasteurised cow’s milk. Science is still unclear on why this is the case. However buying raw milk in Australia is currently illegal so if you do decide to try it, make sure its high quality and organically produced.
  • Nut milks such as almond, hazelnut and oat milks are dairy free and nutritious. Store-bought however they may contain harmful additives such as guar gum, carrageenan and fructose based sweeteners such agave syrup. They are also unsuitable for infants and those with nut allergies. Nut milks are made better fresh at home using soaked nuts, a blender and nut bag.
  • Rice and oat milk are also available at health food shops but again read the label for additives.
  • Organic Soy milk (preferably Bonsooy as it is fermented) may be beneficial to menopausal women and should be avoided completely with symptoms of estrogen dominance and Thyroid disease.

Peach & Halloumi salad (Serves 2)


1 handful pinenuts

2 purple carrots, grated

1 cucumber, sliced

3 large handfuls salad leaves of choice, washed and spun dry

½ cup grape tomatoes

250-300g 100% sheep’s halloumi cheese, sliced

1 small yellow peach, sliced (or ½ brown pear, sliced in colder weather)

1 lemon

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper


Toast the pinenuts lightly in a dry frying pan over a medium heat, moving them around the pan so they don’t burn (this should only take a minute or two). Then put them to the side. Then grate the purple carrots into thin ribbons, and slice the peach and cucumber. Put the salad leave sin a large bowl, and add in the grape tomoatoes, cucumber, carrots and peach.

Place your sliced halloumi in a really hot frying pan, and give the slices a minute or so on each side (the cheese should soften a bit and go slightly brown on each side). Dress your salad with a good squeeze of lemon juice, about twice as much olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to coat everything in the dressing. 
To serve, tear the pieces of halloumi over the salad and sprinkle with the toasted pinenuts.

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