Gluten Free and Dairy Free Diet: The Ultimate Guide

Seriously, another blog about a gluten free and dairy free diet? I know! I have heard every whine and wale in the book! Another Gluten Free and Dairy Free Diet: The Ultimate Guide.

“I can’t live without bread”

“It’s too hard”

“I feel like I have to give up my social life”

“There’s nothing to eat”

Honestly, this whole shift is really more about mindset than the food. Having a conversation about what to eat without having a conversation about mindset is almost pointless. Warning: I tend to have a little bit of a “suck it up sista” attitude.  Few reasons:

  • I’ve spent over 20 years in my own head fixing my food issues
  • Most people don’t want to hear the truth
  • Americans are really sick – 70% overweight and obese
  • I am really passionate about people knowing how to heal themselves
  • I am not afraid of speaking the truth

Change is Hard

We all know it is difficult to change anything in our lives.  Habits can be hard to break – try going a different way to work for an entire week – what happens on Wednesday or Thursday?  Do you start to go the old way?  Most likely. Taking on a gluten free and dairy free diet is not that much different.

Here are 3 ways to wrap your head around the gluten free and dairy free diet change:

  1. Learn the facts. If you are a super logical, science geek, learn why gluten and dairy are immune activators
  2. Food Sensitivity Testing and Celiac Disease Testing. You could be sensitive to gluten, or have a genetic auto-immune disorder and not know it.
  3. Figure out WHY you want to make the change. Just wanting to be healthier isn’t enough to get you through the hard moments of change.
  4. Learn ways to make it work and what to eat

I have written a couple of other blogs that explore food sensitivity testing and Hashimoto’s and gluten. So if you are that science geek, like me, there are other resources.  Here’s what you need to know.

The science of a gluten-free diet

Eliminating Gluten

Gluten is a molecule that activates the immune system when there has been a breakdown in the digestive system.

Celiac and Gluten

If you have celiac disease, it actually creates the breakdown in the intestines and you can get really sick if you continue to eat gluten.  It can actually kill you. For those who are sensitive, it may initiate intestinal breakdown because of it’s “sticky” qualities and it perpetuate it because of the presence of Leaky Gut. This will make you really miserable.

Food Sensitivity Testing

Celiac and Food Sensitivity Testing will determine if you have a problem with gluten. When you have trashed your system with the Standard American Diet or the Modern Urban Diet, too much caffeine, alcohol and not enough water. And if you have led a sedentary lifestyle, played the role of a vampire and went without sleep for years, your body will eventually rebel.

Food Sensitivity Testing is a blood test looking at IgG antibodies.  This differs from allergy testing. Your traditionally trained doctor is not trained in this use of this test. It can tell you if you have a sensitivity to gluten and many other foods.

Celiac tests begin with blood tests but intestinal biopsy will be the confirmation test.  Many patients who have a positivity blood test go on to eliminate gluten without the invasive biopsy. You can heal!!Leaky Gut

Either way the rebellion begins in your gut, whether you know it or not. Basically, your intestines start leaking food, toxins and other molecules into your immune and blood systems. This is known as Leaky Gut.  It’s a little more complicated, I’ll take the details up in another blog.

When your immune system “sees” the gluten molecule, it gets aggravated. This leads to a complex set of events that leads to inflammation. That inflammation may be localized to the intestines causing Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and/or it may circulate and cause joint pain, foggy brain and the inability to concentrate, PMS and hormonal disruption, hives and rashes and any number of other symptoms, depending on your immune system, genetics etc.

The science of a diary-free diet

Eliminating DairyThere are two molecules in dairy that also may irritate your immune system and one molecule that you may not be able to break down at all.

  • Whey and casein. These are the protein parts of milk.  When you look at the label of milk, you see it contains protein.  These are the main proteins in milk.
  • Lactose. This is the sugar portion of milk.

You may also be familiar with whey if you use popular “protein powders” with whey as the protein source.  I have seen many people “cure” their Irritable Bowel just by switching from a whey-based protein powder to a pea or rice protein.

Lactose-free is not the answer

Lactose is the “sugar” portion of milk.  It must be broken down in the gut by an enzyme called lactase. If you are inefficient at making “lactase” or genetically, cannot make it at all, you will most likely have gas and bloating from milk and most milk products that contain the lactose sugar. Yogurt and cheese may or may not be a problem for you. If you have whey or casein sensitivities AND lactose issues, all milk products may be a problem.

Side note on eggs. Although the grocery store puts eggs and milk in the dairy section. Eggs are still from chickens not cows. Eggs have their own issues, but are different than milk. Yes, I know its obvious, and maybe eye-roll deserving, but over the years the question has come up enough to warrant clarification.

Eliminating gluten and dairy—you can do it. Gluten and Dairy Free LIfe

So, now you have all the intellectual reasons to avoid gluten and dairy. But, you still probably don’t care. Here’s the thing.

You have to become emotionally involved in your health.

I know that is a weird statement. But, it is the truth. So, lets dig in and go a little deeper as to “WHY” you want to go gluten free and dairy free or make any change insourcing life.

The first answer I usually get is, “well, I want to get healthier, I’m tired of feeling like crap, dealing with [ XYZ symptom ]”. That’s a great start! You are “fed up” and that is invoking some emotion.

Here are 6 questions for you to ponder when you are making any changes for health reasons:

  1. List at least 3 things that are difficult in your life because of your health issues.
    1. Do any of those things make life harder than if you didn’t have them?
    2. Can you recall a time when you felt well?
    3. What was that like?
  2. List 3 things you would like to do if you didn’t have your current health issues.
  3. Would your relationships change if you were in a different state of health?
    1. Is this a little scary to you?
  4. What else in your life would be different?
    1. What opportunities might open up for you?
    2. What possibilities can you imagine?
  5. What would it be like to be a normal weight? Sleep, and wake up refreshed? Be able to exercise or hike or whatever you would like to do?
  6. What would happen if all of your symptoms were gone?

Here’s the thing. I’m not going to sugar coat this…You may not really want to answer all those questions or look at any of that.  Change is scary and hard. What you probably said is that life is hard now because of the health stuff you already have going on in your life. Right!?!

You choose…the “hard” stuff of your current reality; or the hard moments that come up when you attempt change, like dealing with temptations – the Holidays, parties, birthdays – and the  negotiations that run habitually in your head.

Yep, there’s that word HABIT! that’s really what eating patterns are, habits. Nothing more. Habits do not need emotion to continue. Habits were created out of emotion. Now, we have to take the emotion out of habits to shift and create new ones with different emotions.

Food habit mastery 101

Mastering gluten and dairy free life

Getting really solid on what is going on in your emotions is the best way to make permanent change. Here’s three ways to start identifying the negotiations going on in your head.

  1. Once you have given into a temptation, instead of beating yourself up, think about what precipitated the behavior. This will give you insight for next time and start the awareness process
  2. When presented with temptations daily – the cookies in the break room, the candy bowl on your co-workers desk – ask yourself, “does eating this bring me closer or farther away from my goal?”
  3. When you realize the temptation, stop, count to 10, backwards, then think about it. What is the short term result vs the long term result of choosing it. Realize this is the “hard part” of creating a new habit. And it will get easier the more you do it.

Self Awareness and Food

This is really about self awareness. As I said in the beginning that shifting to a gluten free and dairy free diet is really more about mindset. You can easily figure out what contains gluten or dairy.  Just read the label.

Wrapping your head around getting in the habit of reading labels, it becoming annoying thinking about food all the time, and doing it anyway, is the new hard part. It will get easier with time.  In as little as 21 days, although experts say the more realistic time frame is 66 days. You can do this thing.

8 ways to make gluten free and dairy free diet thing work:The gluten and dairy free diet

  1. There are healthy choices available everywhere now. You can literally stop at any fast food place and choose chicken and lettuce salad or the burger without the bun, fries and soda. Choices! Every airport has healthier choices as well. Worst case is to get a sandwich and take the meat out of the middle and discard the bread – I have done that on many occasions – it’s not a big deal. Who cares what people think? Again, you can use lots of negotiations to do something different, but at the end of the day it’s a choice.
  2. Dinner out with friends, no problem. Look for the protein on the menu. Look for the available sides, or ask the server what vegetables are available. Order a salad immediately, so you aren’t tempted to eat the bread. Remember, going to a restaurant is a place where THEY serve YOU.  You can be nice, but ask for what you need.  ..get over it…it doesn’t matter what they think or what your friends think. If they love you…another blog…
  3. When going to a party and you have no control over what is served. Eat ahead of time then choose the best you can. Food is fuel. Ask the host(ess) if you can bring anything to help. Are you going to the party for the food or the friends?
  4. Family can be the worst. They can be brutal. You will have to make a decision whether the one holiday party or the week at your mom’s is worth the degradation. If you are not ready to emotionally tackle this on occasion, then make a choice not to. But know the consequences for your body. If you live with parents who refuse to help you. Do the best you can. Ask for species on the grocery list.
  5. Make lots of protein ahead of time. Find one or two days a week to batch cook.  Make 10 hamburgers or chicken breasts and freeze the leftovers. Get the picture, make a lot and freeze it, then you have protein for lunches, breakfasts and on the run dinners.  This will take just a little planning and its so easy if you have to cook anyway.
  6. Use convenience items to get started if you don’t like to cook. Pre-cut vegetables for example. Trader Joe’s even has grilled chicken already cooked, heat and serve, or just throw it on a salad.
  7. There are delivery services that provide “paleo” meals – basically that is what this plan is for the most part.
  8. Replacing with gluten-free foods will add extra carbs/calories and mess with your blood sugar. I strongly suggest not to go with that option unless you need that for your children, or if you are having a special occasion. Kids and going gluten free is a blog for another day.

The EASY gluten-free and dairy-free diet planThe ultimate gluten and dairy free diet plan

Here is an easy way to get started on a gluten free and dairy free diet.  I have started patients on this plan for 25 years.

Since, energy, blood sugar and food are intimately connected. This is a dairy free and gluten free plan for gut healing and needs to be followed for at least 90 days. These food choices optimize blood sugar and energy levels. Poor blood sugar control is a common mistake this will keep your tank full of nutritionally dense foods. Ladies eat the smaller portions, Gentlemen eat the larger portions.

Choose ONE of each of the options:

Breakfast: (choose one option)

1-2 eggs/ 1 cup berries

1-2 eggs w/ vegetables

Turkey/Pork/ OR beef sausage/1 egg/ 1/2 apple or 1C berries

Mid Morning Snack

20 almonds OR 20 cashews OR 10 walnuts with raw vegetables

1/4C Hummus with raw vegetables


2-4C salad 2-4 oz protein

Vegetables(2C) and 3-4 oz protein, 1/4 C rice/legumes

Same as breakfast choices

Mid Afternoon Snack

2 T peanut /almond butter and small apple

1/4 C Guacamole( or 1/4 avocado) with raw vegetables

Same as mid morning


4-6 oz Protein, 3 C vegetables (no corn), 1/3 C sweet potato OR rice OR legumes

Vegetables – These provide more fiber for keeping you full and keeping bowel movements normalized; they also provide fuel for the good bacteria. You may choose ANY non-starchy vegetable.

Fruit – Limited to 2 servings per day.  Although fruit is packed with great nutrients, it is also packed with sugar, which at this point serves to feed the bad bacteria and yeast.  This is contrary to our goal of creating a healthier intestinal environment. The sugar also serves to increase insulin release which can create inflammation.

Protein – preferably lean cuts of chicken, turkey, beef, fish and sea food, pork, venison, or buffalo. Vegetarian options include textured vegetable protein and tofu. Protein serves to slow the release of blood sugar into the blood stream, as well as provide the amino acids necessary for enzyme and muscle maintenance.

Yes, I kinda have a suck it up attitude, I warned you in the beginning. I have spent over 20 years in my own head about all this stuff…You CAN make these changes. Habits were made and they can be unraveled and new ones put into place.  You really WON’T die without bread or ice cream. Seriously! You got this!