Can Eating Dairy Make Vegans Feel Sick?

In the depths of a pandemic, this question is probably only one that a middle-class vegan like myself could worry about. But here goes…

Evan has a milk allergy so has been dairy-free since birth (except for that one time I tried to force him to drink formula milk after waking up every 45 mins for a feed for five nights in a row). Although he’s dairy free, he’s not vegan as he does have meat if we’re eating out, so he’s about 90% vegan.  I appreciate this sounds similar to the ‘almost vegetarian because I don’t eat meat at home’ argument, but any reduction in eating animal products is better than nothing.

Last week, he had an appointment at the hospital to find out if he can have baked milk. He passed the test with a very close call on vomiting and can now have super small amounts of baked dairy in his diet. Any more than a micro amount and he’s liable to break out into a rash, vomit and/or explode, hopefully we won’t find out.

It made me think about what would happen if a vegan ate dairy, either by accident or on purpose. Are we talking a little bit of tummy ache or hospitalisation?

Since becoming vegan nearly three years ago, I’ve had dairy by accident twice. Both times in the most hipster way possible… by drinking non-alcoholic beer with lactose in it. On both occasions, absolutely nothing happened. I felt a twinge of guilt and then decided to finish the beer I’d paid for.

Looking online, it seems there’s a number of things that can happen when a vegan goes back to dairy (either by accident or by choice)…

  • vomiting
  • spending five hours in the bathroom (doing what was not disclosed)
  • bowel cramps
  • lots of snot and a runny nose
  • “shitting one’s brains out”
  • a fever (!) – probably the worst reaction given that this is a prime coronavirus symptom
  • untold amounts of guilt

Some of this makes sense as being vegan can make you more lactose intolerant. According to an article from The Independent the more lactose you eat, the less likely you are to be lactose intolerant. If you stop eating dairy for a while and then start again, your gut isn’t prepared and you might feel a bit poorly. Unless you have an actual dairy allergy, or intolerance, you’ll probably be OK.

In some cases it could be that the guilts of eating dairy cause some people to freak out so much they feel sick. Once you’ve been awoken to the horrors of dairy (I’m thinking of calves being shot in the head), it’s pretty difficult not to feel bad about eating it, even accidentally.

Evan has a bonafide dairy allergy so he gets hives when his skin comes into contact with milk and vomits if he eats it. I’d be quite happy for him to never have dairy but it’s up to him to decide when he’s older. For now he has to have baked milk three times a week so he builds up a tolerance to it.

This is probably the safest thing for him to, as when faced with things like a children’s party buffet, he’s first in line to grab anything he can get his hands on. If he’s able to tolerate dairy then this will mean at least if he grabs a cheesy puff he wan’t end up vomiting over the rest of the buffet.

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