oh, dairy is tough! I completely sympathize with you! I was raised on milk, I drank it more than water. I was also a fan of cheese, yoghurt, etc.
It definitely sounds like you are lactose intolerant. A lash-back of symptoms after reintroducing it following an avoidance period is a trademark sign of a food intolerance. The fact that your intolerance grew stronger after avoiding it might indicate that your digestive system was previously too weakened to signal the intolerance. It might have just been working hard at eliminating it however means possible (sometimes loose stool, quick bowel movements, gas, cramps, vomiting, etc). After some "rest" your body is reacting more violently to it. It could be a lactose (milk sugar molecule) intolerance, but it could also be that your are intolerant to the casein in milk (this is the protein molecule).
A little background on enzymes and milk: As we get older, our bodies (specifically the pancreas) reduce the amount of enzymes secreted to break down food (there are several types of enzymes: for breaking down fats, carcbs, proteins, sugar, etc). Lactaid (used to break down lactose in milk) is one of the first enzymes we stop producing because our body thinks we will only need the enzymes during our growth period (think of how long you are breast fed - breast milk is designed to make you grow in the early stages of life. Now think of a cow. Cow's milk is designed to put tons of weight on a baby calf - think of how quickly a calf grows up on breast milk alone. Once the calf is at a certain size, they no longer drink milk from the mother - they graze the land like the grownups - no more milk forever after). Humans are the same. In theory, we stop "growing" after our teenage years so we really don't need milk anymore (or so one theory goes). In any case, less enzymes = no break down of the molecule = fermentation of dairy molecules in stomach = bloating, gas, cramps, vomiting as the body tries to expel the dairy. GERD can also be triggered as an allergic reaction (essentially it is inflammation and inflammation in an immune response to a foreign substance in the body or an attempt to heal an injured site). Essentially, your body is still trying to expel the substance because it is unable to properly digest it. This is one interpretation of what can be going on.
A few suggestion:
- Try lactaid pills as Denise suggests below
- Try lactose free milk and products.
- Switch to goat milk products. Goat milk has a smaller protein and sugar molecule - much closer in structure to breast milk (the easiest milk to digest) than cow milk.
- Switch to almond, coconut, or soy milk
- Stop dairy altogether (I went diary free and don't miss it much with all the alternatives out there. When I really need a cheese fix, I go for goat - they make mozzarella, cheddar, soft style goat cheeses that are wonderful!)
- There is also an alternative medicine solution to food allergies: NAET (Nambudripan Allergy Elimination Technique). They have had success with food allergies and intolerances, IBS, and are doing a pilot for Celiacs after many success stories. Still very new to the world of alternative medicine, but for those who are in dire straights....
Best of luck to you!