From allergies and health benefits, to ethical and environmental reasons, we speak to three women from different walks of life who have chosen to remove dairy from their diets.
Diagnosing an allergy can take a frustratingly long time. It is often said we should go with our gut, but when our gut isn't corresponding, it often means there's an allergy lying undetected.
According to the HSE, a food allergy is when the immune system has an adverse reaction to specific proteins found in food. A common allergy for children and adults is dairy, although many children tend to outgrow an allergy to cow's milk.
It is important to consult your public health nurse or doctor before excluding foods from your baby's diet. But a friend of IMAGE, who suffered from allergies since she was young, credits a dairy-free diet with helping her overcome her allergies – hayfever especially.
She has been dairy-free for about six years now. "I gave up dairy to help with allergies initially.
"Cutting out dairy has helped hugely with allergies, especially with hayfever.
"I've never looked back, the only thing I miss is cheese but the alternative options are getting better!"
If you scroll through Instagram, you'll find myriad users extoll the virtues that a dairy-free diet has had on their skin. This is up for debate by dermatologists – if you google the effects of pretty much any ingredient: sugar, alcohol, chocolate, you'll find someone who says they impact on your beauty routine. One study from the American Academy of Dermatology Association however shows evidence of a connection between skim milk and acne. Milk can increase the blood sugar level, which stimulates hormones, which leads to the increase of male hormone production, which directly causes more oil.
But our ladies can attest to having better skin since ditching dairy.
"As well as taking care of my allergies, my skin is definitely better too," says one woman.
"I never considered myself to have bad skin but I always had break outs around my period, probably like most women," said one mum-of-one, who has been dairy-free for just a year. "I slowly cut back on dairy in my diet and my son's diet due to my own health reasons – I was also trying to cut out gluten which was way harder than cutting out dairy – and I've definitely noticed less break outs now. I would say I'm less oily too."
A mum-of-three, aged in her 40s, who has been vegan for three years, says her skin and overall energy has improved. "I get compliments all the time on my skin, which is flattering since I don't bother wearing make-up for my day job [working with animals]. But I can honestly say that I've more energy now than I did in my 20s since overhauling my diet."
Helping to save the planet
One thing all three women could agree on was that they carried less 'green guilt' since cutting out dairy.
One woman who initially cut out dairy to help with allergies says, "Then I educated myself further and saw the ethical issues with dairy too. I was all in at first, then I took a step back to ensure I knew what to replace it with in my diet so it became a gradual thing."
Our mum-of-one says, "I definitely became more aware of my own carbon footprint when I became a mum. The amount of waste that comes with having a newborn was overwhelming. I felt I was constantly looking for green alternatives from everything to food, its packaging, hygiene products and even his clothes. It was a huge learning curve.
"I've been slowly making changes to our lifestyles and definitely feel I've a better handle on it now a few years down the line. Opting for less dairy products contributes to this."
We all know that a plant-based diet is kinder to the environment. One UK study from 2014 showed that dietary greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in self-selected meat-eaters were twice as high as those in vegans. The study, published in the Climatic Change journal, concluded that it is likely that reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions.
Our mum in her 40s says she started cutting out dairy for ethical reasons.
"I work with animals and I just could not fathom going into them every day knowing that I'd had a coffee with cow's milk that morning or was going home to a dinner with dairy ingredients in it. I made the decision one day and I've stuck with it ever since."
All three women agree that it is easier to find dairy-free alternatives in 2020 than in previous years.
"It's very easy to find substitutes to cow's milks and for most foods now. A few years ago the taste wasn't great on a lot of products. But dairy-free treats, for instance, are now easy to come by," says one woman.
As well as oat milk and soy milk, there are now dairy-free yoghurts, such as Yoplait Dairy Free, easily accessible. And the variety of flavours have expanded too. The Yoplait Dairy Free range offers strawberry, raspberry, apricot and mango-passionfruit flavours.
"I don't have an issue really – and I live in a very dairy farm-friendly town! I struggle more with getting gluten-free foods that taste nice. But my son has no complaints on the dairy-free foods I give him," says another.
"You just have to do your research. Not everything is going to taste great – but food with dairy in them doesn't always taste great either! You get used to it and you buy the things you know you like," says a third woman.
For great taste, and variety, Yoplait dairy-free yoghurts, in strawberry, raspberry, mango-passionfruit and apricot flavours, are available now.
For more information on Yoplait products, see yoplait.ie.
Main photo: Getty Images