Welcome to our new column, NewTrition, written by Lithe Instructor and trained chef, Danielle Ingerman! We're debunking common food and nutrition myths by giving you facts about sugar, fat—even comfort food—and more, so you can feel good about diggin' the foods that you love.  Danielle is studying to be a Registered Dietitian at Drexel University's College of Nursing and Health Professions.  Her favorite class is Micronutrient Metabolism, and she's currently interning at CHOP and a private practice in Trenton, NJ.  I'm thrilled that she's shedding some fresh and passionate "Eating Lithe" insight here on Fit.Hip.Healthy!  

(sigh) Springtime- the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, happy hour has never been happier, unless you’re like me sniffling and congested from seasonal allergies. I have never been diagnosed with an actual allergy, but as many of you may witness yourselves, a lot of the time you don’t need to get a thousand needle pricks (AH!) to tell you what’s making your eyes look like you are perpetually watching the end of ‘The Notebook.” While many of you, like myself, look to the pharmacy shelves to help us out, you’d be surprised to know how much our diet plays into many of our symptoms.

Being a mildly lactose-intolerant human, my mother basically made milk products look like the plague (think the mother from the Waterboy.) She was convinced any ailment I had GI-related or not had to do with dairy consumption. Although I was able to shake off a lot of that mentality, one thing did stick- when I am congested, should I eat any form of dairy (lactose heavy or not) my condition gets exceedingly worse. Many old-world medicinal practices support minimal consumption of dairy, claiming that it acts as an immune-blocker, so I looked a little deeper into the research surrounding this idea. Turns out, studies have found individuals with dairy sensitivities DO experience progression of congestive symptoms upon ingesting milk-products. So although my allergies are not directly related to milk products, with my sensitivities, it only makes things worse. Who woulda thunk it? Of course, my findings have only been validated in people with dairy woes like myself, but hey, you only know what works until you try it! The beauty is that we are our own test subjects- anyone else ever give this a go?

Image of Lithe Instructor Danielle Ingerman wearing Lithe via Dom


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I've never been diagnosed as lactose or gluten intolerant, but my seasonal allergies and allergy related asthma become considerably worse when I eat those two things. Both are thought to increase inflammation, which just gives the immune system one more thing to deal with when it is already battling during allergy season. I'm able to cope with allergies and recover much more quickly if I don't give my immune unnecessary work.

Between a dust allergy, seasonal allergies, and exercise induced asthma I'm already coughing my way though most Lithe classes (apologies to anyone who has to stand next to me). Like Amanda, I noticed that it was considerably worse on the days when I ingested dairy, so to make things easier for my immune system I've cut dairy out of my diet. Maybe gluten should be next?

Give it a try! I discovered this by accident a couple of years ago when traveling at very high altitude/thin air. My asthma was worse if I ate a sandwich/pasta at lunch as opposed to keeping it simple with just protein and fruit. Cutting it out made a big difference with the asthma and congestion, which helps me get more sleep too. Unfortunately not much help with the itchy and watery eyes! :P

Amanda and Anna- You know I have a whole long list of things to talk about as far as gluten goes- very interesting stuff, a lot of smoke and mirrors there. Actually, most of the items that we commonly consume containing gluten also contained refined sugars and starches- which I talked about in my first article. This is why I so LOVE my field- think about it, in a perfect world everyone would get 8 hours of sleep, eat lean meats, whole grains, fruits and veggies, and exercise for an hour every day- THEN we would get a much better idea of the source of many of our symptoms. Unfortunately (shocker) thats not the case, so personal trial and error is our best option. I also definitely support dairy consumption from a nutrient standpoint- calcium absorption is far more effective when you eat your calcium-rich foods as opposed to taking a supplement. Love the feedback! Keep it comin'

I developed sever allergy induced adult-onset asthma two years ago, at age 35, during that horrid Spring when pollen was at record levels. My asthma continued worsening to eventually include chronic chest congestion that took me out of Lithe last Fall (when mold spores were taking me down). I would cough and hack my way through half the effort until finally I let it bench me entirely. Medication did not seem to be helping the congestion and I was depending too heavily on my rescue inhaler. I went back to Lithe this Spring because I simply could not tolerate my out-of-shape self any longer. I similarly struggled, although I decided that half the effort was better than none. Then the Spring Clean menu changed everything. I began to notice during those four weeks that my congestion had completely gone. I was getting through Lithe classes without repeated need of my inhaler and without incessant coughing. I assumed the diet had everything to do with that. I felt my suspicions confirmed yesterday when in Hot Legs my congestion returned and I was uncomfortably coughing through the class, noting that for the past couple days my diet had strayed. It's anecdotal, but I'm convinced that sugar, gluten, and/or dairy contribute to my asthma symptoms because they were almost entirely eliminated during the four week Spring Clean. So now I'm doing something of an elimination test to figure out which of the three are the true culprits (could be all of them).

Unfortunately, alot of people use this excuse as anotehr reason to retrict more food even though they have no adverse reactions to dairy and/or gluten. Im not saying this doesnt hold true for some people but I also think its become trendy to be dairy and gluten free. I think we all need to exercise moderation in all things and not really cut anything out until told by a medical professional. just my two cents.

If you have an allergy or intolerance to any food, it will cause your allergies for flair up when you consume it. Likewise, if your seasonal allergies are activated and you eat a food that you have an intolerance to you are likely to have a more severe reaction. This does not just include dairy and gluten. For me, allergies and intolerances include apples, avocados, celery, and more. If you would like to learn more I highly recommend looking up oral allergy syndrome.

Yes! For as long as I can remember I had chronic sinus infections, suffering from four to five diagnosed infections a “sinus season”, which for me was the time between September through April, give or take a few weeks. I decided in December 2012 that I had enough with sinus goop and I went to see a specialist to look into sinus surgery. With a CT scan prescribed, I suspected this was my best option.

In mid-January 2013, I came to the conclusion for many reasons unrelated to sinusitis that it was time to break up with gluten and dairy for good. Through trial and error, family history and some wonderful guidance, I knew for certain that this was the path I needed to take for my health and my happiness.

So I never got the CT scan. Why? Because I didn’t need it. I stopped getting sick when I stopped eating dairy. It is relevant to clarify that I stopped eating dairy on a full-time basis for about seven months, but have reintroduced it on a few occasions to help with identifying specific dairy triggers as not all dairy items are created equal when it comes to food intolerance (and sometimes, a girl just needs some ice cream).

In the just shy of a year and a half that has passed since I stopped eating dairy regularly, I have had exactly one sinus infection. That was back in November 2013. One Sunday afternoon I was at sniffle status with some very light congestion, so I pulled out all the usual full-strength tricks to stop the cold train from pulling into the station. Unfortunately for me, I had yet to realize the full extent of this connection and I had “test” dairy on Sunday evening. Flash forward to Monday morning and I knew I was at full-blown sinus infection status. I went to see my MD on Monday afternoon; she confirmed my suspicions, and mentioned that she had never seen a sinus infection progress that quickly.

Giving up dairy is undoubtedly a challenge and I naturally distrust anyone who tells me otherwise. But it is also undoubtedly true that for me, dairy is a no-go.

I very much believe that all bodies are different, and maybe a gluten-free and dairy-free lifestyle isn’t right for everyone, but I always get disappointed when I see and hear others making negative assumptions about something that is working for so many people all over to be healthier and happier. It is certainly becoming more common as more and more people are getting the information they need to change their lives for good! The results speak for themselves. And honestly, what’s the worst that could happen from a dairy hiatus? It will still be there aging if you decide you need to go back.

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