It’s almost Christmas and you know what that means – cheese platters for days! Cheese. Crackers. Pepperoni….The go to appetizer and the perfect little piece of heaven that is so hard to just say no. The reason for this post is because I love cheese, but it is not Paleo and this is a Paleo blog. So, people probably have been wondering why the recipes I have been posting have cheese in them. That is not Paleo, they say, which is true. It is not. However, I have experience with the diverse dairy spectrum.
Cheese, and diary as a whole, is a tricky thing. According to Paleo experts and various research, cheese or any sort of dairy product is not Paleo – at all. Cavemen obviously did not enjoy a Christmas cheese platter with fig and prosciutto – sad.
I believe there is some truth to the “no dairy” idea. There is lactose intolerance, the negative effect of casein in the human body and leaky gut. When I first started Paleo I abstained from cheese or any sort of dairy for the first 1-3 months. I missed dairy, however I did not need it. After I felt comfortable with my diet as a whole, I did add a small amount of dairy, including full fat yogurts, organic and grass-fed cheeses and cream for thickening and sauce purposes.
This was not an everyday affair, but I’ll be honest, I do enjoy a great cheese, like a great wine it’s unforgettable. However, my feelings on dairy and cheese have not always been so black and white. Even before I fathomed the idea of Paleo, dairy was always a go to for me – as a snack and a great addition to a sauce or burger. Through my dairy journey, I never thought of dairy as culprit to various issues and problems I had. I always drank milk as a kid and though the idea of skim milk was super healthy.
I became less optimistic about dairy during my experience with acne, I did a lot of research regarding dairy and realized that it could be the root of my problem. I have read various research regarding dairy consumption and acne. Being a slight hypochondriac, I though well this could be a breakthrough in my self-diagnosis! So I decided to go to an allergist and see, once and for all If I was allergic to dairy. Figuring I was right, with all my medical experience, it comes to find out I am allergic to aspergillum (mold) and cats - not really what I was hoping for. No dairy, not even evidence of an intolerance! Now back to the drawing board. At this point I had not started Paleo and was coming down of a wheat binge. I was at my heaviest weight and my skin was at its worst. After my experience with the allergist I decided to check out the whole gluten free thing. Maybe there is a connection to wheat and acne? In the meantime, I made an appointment with a dermatologist – my 4th I might add. I was sick and tired of them trying to prescribe me Accutane. I refused. Not surprised at all, this new dermatologist also suggested Accutane. I said no, I will try anything else. I was sticking to my plan. I had made a personal decision pre-appointment to go gluten free and stick to it. Since I refused the Accutane I was prescribed, 100 mg of Doxycycline, 150 mg Spironolactone, Clindamycin cream and Tazorac. Keep in mind these are some INTENSE medications. In small doses they are used for cystic acne purposes -ugh. Sweet, I’m a walking pharmacy. I hate taking medication. Despite my hatred I decided to be vigilant about the medication. It was my last chance before I caved to Accutane or had no choice in the matter. This was November 2012 and my next appointment was January 2013. I had three months to do something radical.
Through the end of the year and into January I was gluten free AND excluded dairy from my diet. So it was a weird paleo/primal/gluten free combination. Then it happened. My skin started to get better. I could see the cystic acne slowly starting to disappear! This was literally the most exciting thing happening in my life. Sounds trivial, but it is hard to understand unless you lived through an acne experience. At this point I did not know if it was removing the wheat, removing the dairy, the medication – or a combination of all three. The medication was not fun. It would often make me nauseous and I had developed and odd aversion to any sort of shellfish.
I went back to the dermatologist in January and the first thing she says as she walks in the door, “Oh my god, I can’t believe the difference. If I saw you today, for the first time, I would never had suggested prescribing Accutane.” At this point I was almost afraid to add dairy back into my diet - what if I ate a cube of cheese and boom, reverted back 5 months. Dairy could be the culprit or it could be a combination of my new clean diet and the medication. This separation becomes clearer as my journey continues. After doing some more research I decided to go strict Paleo. After reading the adverse effects of wheat I thought this would be he icing on the cake. I removed all grains including quinoa and risotto from diet. By my grandmother surprise 80th birthday party in March my skin was smooth and I had very little blemishes – to be honest it was the clearest it has ever been. I had no cysts and even little clogging and would rarely breakout. I decided that I also had some sort of underlying hormonal imbalance. I believe the clean diet has helped regulated what was going on in my body. I felt good. With my new diet and new found confidence I was happy with where things were going. Fast forward almost 10 months to the following November The dermatologist officially took me off the Doxycycline, Clindamycin, and the Tazorac cream! Amen! It was a great day. Keeping up with my diet and now off the medication except the Spironolactone, I really believe the food I was eating had a huge impact on my diet.
As the months went on, I decided to dive into a book, called the Primal Blueprint, by Mark Sisson. It was really fascinating to read about the development of these intolerance and how genetically modified food has essentially changed us. My favorite part of the book is his theory on dairy. Dairy is relatively “new” chronologically and certainly full of viable nutrients in its raw form – saturated fats, proteins and carbs. Our bodies recognize dairy, but the question is, is it healthy. After reading up on this book, I decided to add small amounts of quality dairy back into my diet. I monitored my gut and my skin. After my cheese experiment I decided it was OK, based on how I was feeling, to add some dairy back into my diet. I highly suggest reading the article here for more scientific information about dairy: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dairy-intolerance/#axzz2oLLOy8qJ
I believe the main take away is that organic, hormone free and full fat dairy is your best bet - especially since you find these quality products at your local grocery store. I usually buy my cheese and other dairy products from the cheese counter at Whole Foods. I always look at the ingredient and the less the better. Whole Foods has a great selection of quality cheeses. However, based on my experience, It is hard to say yes or no to dairy. It is really up to you. It is up to you to understand what dairy does to YOUR body. If you can handle dairy that does not mean the next person can handle it. The article above goes into more detail about the “problems” with dairy. Sometimes I feel better with dairy and cheese and not so hot another day. I really do believe quality matters. I rather spend a little more on something great and versatile than something so-so.
So Christmas is Wednesday and I say don’t be afraid to grab a slice of cheese off the cheese platter or antipasto - add some fruit or a some protein for a filling snack!. Know your body and understand the affect dairy has on you. It is a very individual journey and this is mine. Only you can decide for yourself if dairy is right for you.
Stay tuned for my Christmas antipasto!
Peace n’ Paleo