Should You Avoid Dairy If You Have an Autoimmune Disease?

49117942_M (2)If you have an autoimmune disease, you might be wondering if you should be avoiding dairy. It can be a tough question to answer because there are many benefits to consuming dairy, but also, it can pose some potential risks. When we talk about dairy, we are referring to a huge range of foods…everything from milk, cheese, and yogurt to kefir and ice cream (and so much more).

The various dairy items you find in the market have different properties. Skim milk is different from 2% milk, which is different from whole milk or grass-fed milk, for example. When you take into account these complexities and the fact that each person (and each autoimmune disease) is different, it makes things even more complicated. However, it can is important to take the time to determine which foods are helpful and which are harmful to you and what you can avoid in order to ease the symptoms of your particular autoimmune disease.

What kind of milk is the best?

Pasture-raised, grass-fed full fat dairy is said to have the most health benefits. However, enjoy it in moderation, because of the high fat content. When you look at the nutrition label, you might be tempted to try a lower fat option, but, the problem with those is that they often contain added sugar. Sugar, like saturated fat, can increase your likelihood of gaining weight, which can increase inflammation… and inflammation is no friend to autoimmune disease.

Sugar is also known as one of the foods that can cause inflammation. To top this off, it’s believed that many of the nutrients in milk are in the fat. When you remove the fat, you also be removing the nutrients. Does this mean you should ditch low fat milk for smaller amounts of grass-fed dairy? You’ll have to decide for yourself, but it helps to prioritize what you need to avoid more, fats or sugars? You have to consider your particular needs with regards to your autoimmune disease or other health issues. You can also consider dairy-free alternatives to replace milk if you prefer.

Should you eliminate dairy all together?

Dairy can pack a lot of health benefits, including calcium and vitamin D. However, it’s also been said that dairy may cause inflammation in certain people. Some people are lactose intolerant and others may find they have problems digesting the protein in milk. It’s the casein that has been said to potentially cause inflammation, especially in people who have sensitivities to it. There are some studies being done that suggests one type of casein may be safer than another. The type of casein you’ll find in most dairy items is A1 beta-casein protein, however, some research suggests that the A2 version may not cause the same issues. This type is only found in some cattle’s milk.

So, while dairy may not be an issue for some, it could potentially cause inflammation in others. If you suspect that dairy increases your chance of an autoimmune flare up, try an elimination diet. This is a great way to figure out which foods may be impacting your health. Try eliminating foods that could be bothersome for you for about a month, then slowly re-introduce these foods one at a time. When you bring back dairy, you should be able to easily detect if it’s an issue since you’ll notice a negative reaction. You may also find you feel better when the triggering food is out of your system, But this process can take some time, so give it about a month to get a true result. Keep in mind, you may find you can tolerate certain dairy products and not others.

If you have to remove dairy, it’s a good idea to consider your options for calcium and vitamin D. You can eat kale, collard greens, chickpeas, almonds, and fortified juices for calcium. Vitamin D can be found in fortified juices as well as in eggs and some cereals. You can also supplement with a dairy-free milk alternative that offers both of these.

Is dairy bad for you if you have an autoimmune disease?

Not necessarily. Dairy can offer lots of health benefits. However, you may find that certain foods can cause your symptoms to flare up. Dairy is safe as long as it’s not on your “no” list. Depending on your particular needs and your autoimmune disease diagnosis, you may or may not be able to consume dairy products. Talk with a nutritionist and try an elimination diet to find out if dairy is safe for you. If not, try some of the great dairy-free options available.


About the Author
Katie Cleary is founder of  She lives with her autoimmune conditions and her family in Austin, Texas.

This post contains opinions of the author. is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances.  Camino Real Ventures, Inc., the company that makes available to you, does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website.  Your use of the website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy


Speak Your Mind