I grew up drinking cow’s milk. As a kid I simply knew it as milk, but with so many different milk options today, I find that it is best to specify. I loved cow’s milk as a kid. I drank it by the glassful while eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies and cake. Saturday morning cartoons wouldn’t have been the same without a ginormous bowl of sugar laden cereal and cow’s milk. My childhood memories of cow’s milk are positive but as I got older things changed. I was in my early teens when I realized that cow’s milk was making me sick. Every time I consumed it I experienced stomach pains, bloating and gas. I didn’t understand why this was happening but I tried, as much as possible to stay away from cow’s milk. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I discovered my problems with milk were textbook symptoms for lactose intolerance. Apparently, I am in good company, as a large number of the population is lactose intolerant. In order to completely digest lactose, milk sugar, your body needs to produce adequate amounts of the lactase enzyme. Most of us produce adequate amounts of lactase as infants but over time our bodies stop or do not produce enough lactase to completely digest the lactose in cow’s milk.
I discovered I was lactose intolerant several years before I suspected candida as the cause of my health issues. I had already given up cow’s milk and ate other dairy products only on occasion. This made eliminating dairy easy when starting the candida diet. Most candida diet plans recommend eliminating dairy, with the exception of butter and plain unsweetened yogurt. While lactose intolerance is an issue, the primary reason for eliminating dairy is that lactose feeds candida. Butter is okay because it contains very little lactose and can be clarified to remove the small amount that remains. Yogurt is okay because it is fermented, which reduces the amount of lactose it contains. Yogurt also contains probiotics which can help aid in digestion and actually help keep the gut flora balanced which is important when overcoming candida overgrowth. Another concern with dairy on the candida diet is allergies. Many people suffering from candida also struggle with a variety of food allergies. Dairy is actually one of the top eight allergens and if a food product contains dairy is should be clearly indicated on the product packaging. Symptoms of a dairy allergy can be as severe as wheezing or vomiting, or as subtle as a runny nose, watery eyes and itchy skin. Not all reactions are immediate which makes it difficult to determine if a dairy allergy is present.
So how does one replace cow’s milk while on the candida diet? Are there any candida diet friendly milk alternatives? Fortunately, there are numerous appropriate alternatives available. When I first started the candida diet my options were pretty much soy or rice milk. Today, with increasing awareness of food allergies and sensitivities, there are so many more options. There is almond milk, coconut milk, and help milk just to name a few. Lactose-free milk, while still cow’s milk, may also be an option for some candida dieters. I tried lactose-free milk a few years ago, after a reader commented on this post. I was thrilled that I was able to tolerate it. While I know that I could enjoy the occasional glass of lactose free milk it is just not practical to use in my house, as my youngest daughter is allergic to dairy.
So with all of the options out there how does one choose a candid diet friendly milk alternative? When choosing a candida diet friendly milk alternative it is important to read labels. You want to avoid unwanted additives and sugar. Carrageenan is an additive that is found in many candida diet friendly milk alternatives. I looked this ingredient up many years ago and I remember discovering that it was seaweed. I thought to myself, why would they put seaweed in milk, but I assumed seaweed was a healthy, so I just moved on. There has however been some recent concerns with carrageenan. Preliminary research has linked it gastrointestinal problems and cancer. I have tried to find milk alternative that do not include carrageenan but it is difficult. Carrageenan is added to produce a thicker consistency and to keep the ingredients from separating. I have noticed that carrageenan is more prevalent in the unsweetened versions of milk alternatives. I am now using products that do not include carrageenan and will update my recommendations throughout the site accordingly. Reading labels to spot added is also important when choosing a candida diet friendly milk alternative. Sugar is not always identified as such but it is a common in these products. Evaporated cane juice and rice syrup are the two types of sugar I commonly encounter when scanning these labels.
While I feel carrageenan and sugar are the two most important ingredients to avoid when choosing a candida diet friendly milk alternative there are other ingredients that may be of concern to some. Milk alternatives often contain vegetable oils such as canola, safflower or sunflower. While I am okay with this, I realize that there is a lot of controversy surrounding these oils. Many of milk alternatives are also fortified with vitamins to provide nutritional benefits similar to those of cow’s milk. Most of these products contain vitamin D2 which studies have found to be less beneficial than the D3 found in cow’s milk.
Candida Diet Friendly Milk Alternatives
Almond milk is a great candida diet friendly milk alternative. It has a smooth and creamy texture similar to that of regular milk. This makes it ideal for drinking and cooking. The slightly nutty taste is not overwhelming, so could be used in a wide variety of dishes. I don’t use almond milk because my children are allergic to tree nuts. If I did not have this limitation I would use almond milk.
I am referring to the non-canned coconut milk here. It is often called coconut drink or beverage. Coconut milk is smooth and creamy like almond milk but surprise, it tastes like coconut. While I have used it in baked goods with success I don’t consider this a multi-purpose milk. I am biased though, as I have never really liked coconut. I do use the canned coconut for recipes in which a coconut taste is desirable.
This is not a milk alternative. This is cow’s milk that includes the lactase enzyme. The Lactase enzyme breaks down lactose into glucose and galactose, as a reader commented below. So yes lactose-free milk still contains sugar but it seems to be tolerated better in these simpler forms. I am able to tolerate lactose free milk. Since it is milk, lactose free milk tastes like milk, but some say it tastes a little bit sweeter. It contains the same amount of sugar as regular milk. If you can use lactose free milk without causing candida symptoms than drink it.
Rice milk is a great choice for those with nut allergies. I use a lot of rice milk in my cooking due to my children’s food allergies. While it does the job for cooking your resulting recipe will not be as creamy. Rice milk is thin.
Rice Milk Blends
Last Updated: 9/25/13