Michelle Cehn and Allison Rivers-Samson are out to change the world and help you feel your best, all through giving up one thing; dairy. We sat down with Allison and Michelle to find out why they started this 12-day dairy detox program and why you may want to get on board.
Allison Rivers Samson
is an award-winning vegan chef, author of Comfortably Yum, founder of the first online vegan bakery, Allison’s Gourmet, mom, and wellness coach. She is known as The Maven of Mmmm...for bringing joyful expertise to living a deliciously compassionate life.
Michelle Cehn is a filmmaker on a mission to make vegan living enticing, easy, and fun through gorgeous photography and visual storytelling. She is the founder of World of Vegan, co-author of The Friendly Vegan Cookbook, and a YouTube personality who has reached millions through her creative, relatable, and engaging vegan videos.
Check out The Dairy Detox:
What got you inspired to begin a program helping people ditch dairy specifically?
Dairy is one of the top food allergens and can contribute to a host of health problems including issues with breathing, digestion, and skin. It’s also one of the things people most resist letting go of. When I went vegan 21 years ago, dairy felt like the hardest ingredient to stop eating. Shortly after I finally made the commitment, the cystic acne on my face cleared up and I dropped the extra 10 pounds that had crept up on me.
As a mother who nursed her baby, I have an especially deep connection and empathy for animal mothers who are exploited for their reproductive systems. Even though I had been vegan for 10 years when Olivia was born, I had an aha moment during one of our early nursing sessions.
I am very passionate about helping people make healthy food choices that align with their values. Dairy is one of the biggest things I’ve seen people struggle with because it feels so ingrained in our society, so integrated into our food system, and so addictive. It seems very difficult to ditch dairy, but in reality, once you learn the ropes, it’s not hard at all! That’s why I teamed up with Allison to create The Dairy Detox. This course is an extension of my eagerness to make healthy and compassionate choices easier for people and to create a kinder and more sustainable world.
Is ALL dairy bad for you? What about organic? Low-fat? Antibiotic-free? Goat cheese?
Terms like “organic,” “humane,” and “free range” sound wonderful, but sadly they often don’t mean what consumers think. Keep in mind these are marketing buzzwords used by industries to sell more products and hold on to consumers who may otherwise abandon their products. Here is a video Michelle filmed with Colleen Patrick Goudreau about this very topic.
To give an example of how these labels can be deceptive, when someone buys “organic milk,” they might expect better quality milk and better treatment of the animals. In reality it’s often the opposite because animals raised on organic “farms” (I say “farms” in quotes because these are often indoor factories) are prohibited by organic standards from receiving antibiotics and other medications. This leads to a lot of additional animal suffering since the animals aren’t able to be treated for illnesses that are inevitable in the production system.
The simplest way to make sense of this is to recognize that at its core, all mammal’s milk is designed as the perfect growth formula for a mother’s young. Additionally, milk is species-specific, so it’s made by nature as the ideal food to grow that species—whether for cows, goats, pigs, rats, cats, or dogs. When we look at it from this perspective, it’s easy to see that humans have no business drinking the milk of any other animal. Humans are the only species who break these laws of nature by regularly consuming the milk of another species past the early growth period.
What exactly does it mean to “detox” a food?
Detoxing is a way of clearing out the system. Eliminating dairy, a common problem “food,” that fuels inflammation—the root cause of many chronic illnesses including congestion, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even cancer. Once we give the body a break from this constant burden, many symptoms lift and people feel better.
So many people can get cravings for cheese in a way unlike any other food, how do you explain this addiction?
Being high in fat and salt, the flavor of cheese has a strong pull on us. Super-charge that with something called casomorphins, and you’ve got a recipe for addiction. Here’s how that works: When casein—the protein in cow’s milk—is digested, it releases opioid peptides called “casomorphins.” These casomorphins attach to the brain’s opiate receptors and cause the pleasurable sensation that helps bond infants with their mothers so that they’ll eat enough food for healthy growth. When humans eat cheese, we experience that same feel-good effect and it keep us coming back for more.
What can people expect to notice or feel once they have detoxed dairy products? What’s the most common feedback you get?
This is a highly individual experience since dairy affects people differently. Like Allison, one of our student’s skin cleared up and she said her skin was glowing and she felt liberated. Another found that shifting to plant-based dairy products allowed her to release weight she’d struggled with for years. And an athlete and entrepreneur sensed a boost in sustained energy.
Consuming dairy can contribute to ongoing inflammation in the body and other effects that you may have been living with for so long that you don’t even notice them until they are gone. The positive effects of removing dairy from your diet can be far-reaching—going dairy-free can even lower your risk of certain types of cancers (as is discussed in depth in the book The China Study as well as other life-threatening illnesses.
What’s your favorite recipe from your cookbook?
Allison: Oh, this is a tricky question because all of these recipes are staples in my household! It depends on if I’m looking for a staple recipe like Better Butter Spread (definitely a favorite!), a meal like Magic Mac & Cheese, a dressing like Creamy Avocado Ranch, delicious dessert like Mini Strawberry Cheesecakes, or something fancy like Potato Skin Jalapeño Poppers.
How come we’ve never heard from government nutritional guidelines or other dietitians that dairy is bad for us? We’re told to drink a glass of milk a day.
The history of how we came to believe that humans drinking cow’s milk is normal is a complicated one that at its base is driven by the profit of the very powerful dairy lobby, which now has ties to the U.S. Government. One of the best explanations I’ve seen of this is here.
What does being a “Self-care Coach” mean to you?
So many of us are living stressed out lives of overwhelm and we rarely give ourselves the gift of doing something just for ourselves—especially women. For us to have the energy to do all the wonderful things we’re doing in the world, we need to regularly replenish our supply. I like to say that self-care is what helps us live from the best of us instead of what’s left of us.
Most people have a misconception of what self-care is. It’s not a one-time event, nor does it need to be extravagant. I advocate making small adjustments to our daily activities to effect great change. Working with 8 primary principles of holistic self-care, I coach my clients to live more joyfully and sustainably. I offer a free self-care starter kit to help people begin a self-care practice.
We’re often taught that everyone is different, so different diets might work for some but not others, what makes you confident dairy doesn’t work for anyone?
The simplest answer is that a cow’s milk was created by years of evolution to be the perfect food for a growing calf, not a human.
Do you imagine you would ever expand this idea to help people detox other foods such as meat or refined sugars?
We are constantly working on new and innovative resources to help people live healthy, happy, compassionate lives. Allison continues to share delicious plant-based vegan recipes, self-care tips, and private coaching, and Michelle publishes vegan videos every week on YouTube, offers plant-based on a budget meal plans, and shares lots of inspiring articles, recipes, and resources at World of Vegan.
We don’t have plans for another course at the moment, but it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen!
You mention a lot on your website that eliminating dairy is good for the planet, could you expand on that?
Animal agriculture is devastating our planet. It is responsible for approximately 51% of greenhouse gases—more than all the transportation sectors combined. Believe it or not, it takes up to 2000 gallons of water to create just one gallon of cow’s milk! Dairy is incredibly water intensive. Add to that the liquid waste and feces that leach into freshwater streams and pollute the air, and it’s easy to see that it’s impossible to produce dairy in a way that isn’t harmful to the environment. In addition to nutrition, simple swaps, and more, we share the environmental impacts of dairy in depth in one of the videos in our course. We hope you’ll join us there!
MAGIC MAC & CHEESE
Allison is widely known for her velvety plant-based mac and cheese, which has been the most popular recipe featured by VegNews magazine. Well, this is her latest and greatest. It’s made with only the cleanest ingredients, including some that may surprise you. That’s why it’s called magic!
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Blender (high-powered like Vitamix or Blendtec is ideal)
8 ounces dry pasta, cooked al dente
1/4 cup unflavored (refined, not virgin) coconut oil
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup cooked garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
11/2 cups water
1/4 cup raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon mild Dijon mustard
1. In a large stockpot, cook the pasta according to package, drain, rinse, and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in a saute pan over medium heat, add oil, onion, carrots, garbanzo beans,
garlic, salt, paprika, and pepper. Saute for 5 minutes. Add water, sunflower seeds, vinegar,
and Dijon. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
3. In a blender, process cooked contents of the saute pan until completely smooth—this is
important. Test for smoothness by removing a spoonful, allowing to cool for a minute, and
then rubbing sauce between thumb and forefinger.
4. In a large bowl, toss together the sauce with cooked pasta and serve hot.
• Unflavored coconut oil, also called “refined coconut oil,” is sold in jars in most health food
stores. The most common brand is Spectrum. The “virgin” variety tastes like coconut, and is
best for coconut-flavored dishes. Other options are sunflower or safflower oil, as well as a
homemade non-dairy butter/margarine or store-bought like Miyoko’s Creamery or Earth
Balance. Feel free to use less if you prefer.
• Raw, unsalted cashews can be used instead of sunflower seeds, but will add a touch
sweetness to the flavor.