Do you struggle to breathe through your nose? Is your nose bunged up with mucous due to allergies? It’s horrible isn’t it, that feeling of not being able to take a good breath. Breathing through the mouth does the job, but it leaves your mouth feeling very dry, and is not the ideal way to breathe.

I have a dust allergy, asthma and, I think, hay fever. I grew up utterly incapable of breathing through my nose, so much so that breathing through my mouth became the normal way for me to breathe. Trying to breathe through my nose would leave me gasping for air and in a state of panic.

When I started Yoga, it was so I could learn to breathe. This was my ‘asthma management plan’ that didn’t involve giving up smoking. Yes, I know, a smoking asthmatic, a masterclass in self-sabotage!

I was in the Yoga class to learn to breathe, but because I couldn’t breathe through my nose, I couldn’t do the Pranayama. I came to hate the practices, as I sat there surrounded by tissues, feeling generally rotten. The inability to breathe meant that I couldn’t relax my body properly, and so while I loved the way Yoga postures made my body feel, I was never able to get the full benefit of the practice.

This all changed when I began Yoga teacher training. I was advised to cut dairy out of my diet to help combat the mucous production. I was a vegetarian who pretty much existed on cheese, yoghurts and eggs at the time. The idea of not eating cheese and yoghurts horrified me. But I wanted to pass my training, and I wasn’t going to do that if I couldn’t master the breathing. So reluctantly, I stopped consuming dairy products.

The impact on my health was dramatic, and quick. Within a few days, I was able to breathe through my nose. Not only that, but the ‘love handles’ I had never been able to shift were shrinking. Who knew they were made of cheese?

Once I was able to breathe through my nose, I was able to enjoy the full benefits of my practice. Pranayama has many benefits for the body, including a lowering of the histamine that produces the allergic reactions. So not only was I not as blocked up because of the lack of mucuous, my body was reacting less to the allergens around me. This all combined to leave me feeling far healthier, better able to breathe, and far happier. Living with a constantly blocked nose, always being the person in the room loudly blowing her nose and sneezing violently, and not able to breathe properly does not make for a happy life.

My dairy-free experiment eventually led me to adopt a full vegan diet. You don’t have to do that, and this post is not about pushing a vegan agenda. I simply want to share with you the benefits of dairy-free living. I honestly believe that humans are not really meant to consume milk produced for baby cows. Our digestive systems are radically different to cows’ and our bodies don’t really process it well.

If you suffer from mucous related conditions such as dust allergy, hay fever and asthma, you might find great benefit from cutting dairy products out of your diet. You don’t need to have a mucous problem to reap the benefits. You may notice other health benefits to giving up dairy. I can’t remember but I have seen others report improved skin, greater energy, less bloating and improved sense of smell. It is worth giving it a try, especially if you are trying to improve your breathing.

It feels odd at first, as our food system is very dairy-centric, but after a while, the benefits far outweigh any feelings of deprivation you might be experiencing from a lack of cheese. I do miss cheese and other dairy products sometimes but wouldn’t dream of giving up my ability to breathe to satisfy a short-lived craving.

Have you given up dairy? What difference did it make to your life?