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How to Reintroduce Dairy After an Elimination Diet?

Reintroduce Dairy After an Elimination Diet

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If you've recently eliminated dairy from your diet due to an intolerance or sensitivity, you may be wondering how to reintroduce it back into your diet without causing any adverse effects. Dairy products are an important source of calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients. But for people who are lactose intolerant or have a dairy sensitivity, consuming dairy products can lead to bloating, cramps, gas, and other uncomfortable symptoms.

Fortunately, it is possible to reintroduce dairy back into your diet without experiencing any adverse effects. In this article, we'll discuss everything you need to know about how to reintroduce dairy after an elimination diet. From understanding dairy intolerance to preparing for dairy reintroduction, we'll provide tips and guidelines for safely incorporating dairy back into your diet.

Understanding Dairy Intolerance

Before we discuss how to reintroduce dairy, it's essential to understand what dairy intolerance is and its potential causes. Dairy intolerance is a condition where the body is unable to digest lactose, which is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. When lactose is not properly digested, it can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms, including bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

There are different types of dairy intolerance, including lactose intolerance, casein intolerance, and whey intolerance. Lactose intolerance is the most common type, and it occurs when the body doesn't produce enough lactase, which is the enzyme that breaks down lactose in the body.

Why Dairy is Often Eliminated from the Diet

Dairy is often eliminated from the diet during an elimination diet, which is a dietary approach that involves removing certain foods from the diet to identify potential food sensitivities or intolerances. Dairy is one of the most common foods eliminated during an elimination diet because it is a common source of food intolerance.

During the elimination phase of the diet, individuals avoid all dairy products for a specified period, typically a few weeks to a month. This allows the body to heal and reduce inflammation caused by dairy intolerance. After the elimination phase, dairy products can be gradually reintroduced back into the diet to determine the individual's tolerance level.

Importance of Reintroducing Dairy Properly

Reintroducing dairy back into your diet after an elimination diet is crucial to determine your body's tolerance level and avoid adverse effects. Reintroducing dairy too quickly or in large amounts can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea.

It's essential to have a plan and follow a gradual process when reintroducing dairy to your diet. This will allow your body to adjust to the presence of lactose slowly and reduce the risk of adverse effects. Let's take a look at some steps to prepare for dairy reintroduction.

Preparing for Dairy Reintroduction

Before reintroducing dairy back into your diet, it's essential to prepare your body for the transition. Here are some tips to help you get started:

1. Wait for the Appropriate Time

You should wait for at least two to four weeks after completing an elimination diet before reintroducing dairy. This allows your body to heal and reduces inflammation caused by dairy intolerance.

2. Start with Small Amounts

When reintroducing dairy, start with small amounts and gradually increase the amount over time. For example, start with a quarter cup of milk or a half-ounce of cheese and gradually increase the serving size over the course of several days.

3. Choose Low-Lactose Dairy Products

Start with dairy products that are low in lactose, such as hard cheeses and yogurt. These products are easier to digest and less likely to cause adverse effects.

Dairy Reintroduction Plan

Now that you've prepared your body for the transition, it's time to create a dairy reintroduction plan. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you safely reintroduce dairy back into your diet:

Dairy Reintroduction Plan

1. Day 1-2: Start with Lactose-Free Dairy Products

Begin by reintroducing lactose-free dairy products, such as lactose-free milk or lactose-free yogurt. These products contain no lactose, making them easier for your body to digest.

2. Day 3-4: Introduce Low-Lactose Dairy Products

If you tolerate lactose-free dairy products well, gradually introduce low-lactose dairy products such as hard cheeses, which contain less lactose than milk.

3. Day 5-6: Increase the Amount of Dairy Products

If you've tolerated low-lactose dairy products well, gradually increase the amount of dairy you consume. For example, you can try increasing your cheese intake or adding a small amount of milk to your morning coffee.

4. Day 7-8: Try High-Lactose Dairy Products

If you've tolerated all of the previous stages well, try introducing high-lactose dairy products such as regular milk or ice cream. Start with small amounts and gradually increase the serving size over time.

5. Observe Your Body's Reaction

After each stage, pay attention to how your body reacts. If you experience any uncomfortable symptoms such as bloating, gas, or diarrhea, stop and go back to the previous stage. Repeat the previous stage until your body adjusts before moving on to the next stage.

Tips for Reintroducing Dairy Safely

Here are some additional tips to help you reintroduce dairy safely:

1. Keep a Food Diary

Keep track of what you eat and how your body reacts to each food. This will help you identify any patterns and determine which foods you can tolerate and which ones you should avoid.

2. Take Digestive Enzymes

Taking digestive enzymes can help your body digest lactose more efficiently. You can take lactase supplements before eating dairy to help break down lactose.

3. Consider Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help improve gut health. Consuming probiotics can help support a healthy gut microbiome, which can aid in the digestion of dairy.


Reintroducing dairy after an elimination diet can be difficult, but it is doable with the proper planning. Start with a small quantity of low-lactose dairy products and gradually increase the serving size over time to help your body adjust to the change.

It's important to keep note of what you eat and pay attention to how your body responds after each step. If you have unwanted side effects, you should revert to the prior phase until your body adapts.

The many health benefits of dairy can be safely reintroduced into your diet by following these recommendations.

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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