What Happens To Your Body When You Start Eating Dairy Again

It seems that just about everybody today is cutting something out of their diet, or knows someone who is. Whether it's for health, skin, or ethical reasons, restrictive diets are everywhere, and one of the top food offenders? Dairy (via Insider).

There are a lot of reasons why some people choose to cut dairy out of their diets, either temporarily or permanently. Around 65% of the U.S. population is lactose intolerant, and it's often in response to dairy allergies or sensitivities (via Prevention). Sometimes, however, dairy is cut out in the hopes of reducing acne, fatigue, or sinus infections. After spending some time dairy-free, you might decide that the pull of pizza or ice cream sundaes is just too strong to resist, and wonder what will happen if you give in and indulge. Could cutting dairy out of your diet actually make things worse the next time you sip a latte?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. The enzyme lactase, which is used to break down lactose and make dairy products more digestible, is in short supply in a majority of the U.S. population. When you cut out dairy altogether, your gut actually decreases lactase production even more, making it harder than ever to digest when you reintroduce it.

Your gut can learn to produce lactase again

"The bacteria in our colon need to be fed in order to survive," Dr. Dennis Savaiano, Meredith Professor of Nutrition Policy at Purdue University, explained to Well+Good. "[By cutting out dairy], you would change your colon bacteria to reduce the number of lactose-digesting bacteria, and hence if you reintroduced lactose in a large dose, you would have symptoms."

However, there's no need to fear that you can never enjoy your favorite cheese again. The good news is that your gut can actually be retrained to start producing lactase again. The key is to reintroduce dairy gradually, starting with small amounts, and in combination with other foods. According to Dr. Savaiano, your gut will adapt by producing more lactase over time.

Unless you have a true dairy allergy, nutritionists don't recommend eliminating dairy entirely. Dairy products contain too many important nutrients. "[Dairy] has vital nutrients including protein and bone-building calcium, and is a good source of vitamin D, which most people are lacking in their diets," Lisa Moskovitz, a certified dietitian-nutritionist, told Glamour. "Unless you're avoiding dairy for a medical reason, it is not something I would recommend."