Dear Margo: A Teacher's Tears

Margo Howard’s advice

Teacher’s Tears

Dear Margo: I’ve taught for 20 years and can retire in 12 years. I don’t know if I can go the distance. I don’t know whether to quit and try to find a less stressful job, or keep hoping.

Instead of doing what is best for students, we are doing what is best for administrators: focusing on the tests. I used to have one classroom, and everyone did the same assignments, but I tweaked them for ability levels. Now I am planning for four different groups of students, and it takes a lot longer because I have to use all of the products purchased that promise glorious state test results.

It is near impossible to read the practice test to my ELL students, have a meaningful assignment for my gifted students who will finish the test 20 minutes early, make sure the students with the modified test are able to follow all of the notes and circle the right bubbles, and keep my ED student calm because frustration is his trigger. Oh, and then there are the other students, and they all deserve a teacher, too.

There are endless training days (for which I have to prepare notes for a substitute) and extra duties, but there isn’t any money for lunch monitors. I go home in tears sometimes because I am overwhelmed. My husband has a decent job, and he says if I can hang in for four years it will really help with our two kids’ college funds and our retirement fund. Sometimes I wonder if I can make it four more days, much less four years. — Beleaguered

Dear Be: You really are between a rock and a hard place. Of course, you are not alone, as many pubic schools are a mess. One does worry about the caliber of education our kids are getting. According to Marian Wilde, 16 other industrialized countries scored above the United States in science, and 23 scored above us in math.

As for your mental state, only you know your limit. You actually sound like you care, so on that basis it would be beneficial for your students if you stayed. And the four years your husband suggests is not 12. Perhaps you should explore whether there’s a job available that’s tied to what you’ve been doing, such as administration or an educational consulting firm — or whether there’s a job available of any kind, because your second income is required. I’m not sure I’ve even come close to solving your problem, but I hope I’ve given you some ideas. — Margo, sympathetically

Whatever Works

Dear Margo: Maybe it’s just where I live, but it seems like everybody and his dog is now glucose intolerant, on a gluten-free diet or allergic to peanuts. When I was younger, I didn’t know anyone who had those restrictions. I don’t want to believe that my friends are faddists, but I really don’t know what to think. Why is this happening? — Glenda

Dear Glen: Lust, avarice, sloth, Happy and Doc? Truly, I have wondered myself why these food situations are so prevalent today; they weren’t 10 or 15 years ago. It could very well be the food supply or some element in the environment. There’s a fight right now about Monsanto, whose genetically modified feed is harmful, according to some scientists — not to mention that we have cows and chickens taking antibiotics and growth hormones.

While I take these people at their word that they feel better and healthier eliminating certain things from their diets, I will say that some months ago, because of feeling bloated, I declared myself to be lactose intolerant (because that was a friend’s symptom) and stayed away from dairy. Then I forgot about my self-diagnosis and tried Greek yogurt, which I now eat every day. Just give your friends the benefit of the doubt. — Margo, individually

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Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


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68 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Constance Plank says:


    I understand and sympathize with the writer.

    I have been working in the teacher 403b market place. There are nice matching funds in place to help with the very low salaries. I will spell how the categories are pronounced. She should check her “Stirs” report and see what is there, and what she can do and how much longer she must do it to reap the full benefit. Teachers work very hard, but they do have some advantages to go along with the downside. Before she switches categories from “Stirs” to “Purrs” (administrative or campus staff side of the union) or just says to the heck with it, she should contact someone who can give her some options with her current benefits.

    Then she can make an educated decision about what to do.


    I have serious allergies. Very few of them are food related. But, I’m mildly allergic to shrimp. I will occasionally, and quite safely, enjoy shrimp. (With an Epi-pen lying in waiting. That’s the problem with food allergies- you can switch from mildly allergic to deadly without noticing.)

    I can’t deal at all with smoke. Despite really great asthma drugs, I’ve spent a horrid summer, because a lot of Northern CA was on fire. 400,000 acres at one time close enough to make my summer sky gray.

    I do my best to keep as healthy as possible, and as best as I can to keep my allergies from impacting my friends’ lives. But, I have certain requirements in order to not be hideously sick: You may enjoy your scented candle- I may have to take a lot of drugs to deal with 5 minutes of your candle.

    So, you can blame a lot of things, Monsanto among them, for dietary allergies, but if your friends are telling you what they need, trust me, they need them. My daughters’ got over the “I’m so interesting because I can’t do X” stuff in 5th grade. I really doubt your friends are telling you they can’t do gluten, etc. for the sheer drama of it.

    How about you cut them some slack, or else cut them off because you can’t be bothered!


    Constance in the Sierra Foothills of CA who gets really irate when people think that other people are doing allergies to be fashionable. Or whatever! 87

    • avatar sfmoonfire says:

      Thank you, Constance! Well put re: allergies. I think one of the reasons so many people are dismissive of other people’s allergies has to do with the abysmal quality of science education in this country. Many of my relatives work in the fields of science and engineering, so there’s no struggle involved in making them understand the concept of an allergy. People with little or no scientific education (and who think that science in general is just a bunch of abstract concepts that have nothing to do with everyday life and can be ignored or dismissed when it’s convenient) are another story altogether. They’re ignorant, and they enjoy being ignorant, since it makes it so much easier to sneer and roll their eyes at someone else’s misery. And of course, it could never happen to *them* (cough).

      • avatar brizmc says:

        Very much agreed, Constance. I get so frustrated when people dismiss my allergies. I had a roommate who told me my peanut allergy was all in my head. I don’t think my near death at age 2 from anaphylaxis was “in my head.” I would much rather NOT have any allergies and be able to eat whatever I want without having to look at the ingredients! I can’t point to what has caused the spike in incidents of allergies, but I know my allergy is very real and has been retested over the course of my life and has never gone away.

  2. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Letter #2– This letter writer made me smile. I agree with both the letter writer and Margo, I too have thought what is up with EVERYONE supposedly allergic to this and that! 🙂

    It reminds me of the spike not to long ago in a mass diagnosis of kids and adults with ADD and ADHD and prescriptions swirling for Retilin. (I’m not sure I spelled that correctly) 🙂

    But then again when I was younger (back in the 60’s and 70’s) I don’t think we didn’t have all of the same issues we have today, I think we simply had not put a name to many of them. There were hyper kids and those that were unable to stay focused. There were people who reacted oddly when they ate certain foods but ignored it. My take on all the allergies people think they have today may have everything to do with our environment.

    As Margo pointed out, our very food is tainted in some ways by the additives given to livestock, which in turn we ingest and digest. The fruit and vegetables we eat are sprayed with chemicals. The water we drink and the fish that swim in those waters (dependent upon your region) can be very unhealthy to consume. So is it any wonder our bodies fight off certain things?

    Letter #1 – While I am usually the one preaching to “Live for today for you don’t know if you will have tomorrow!”    In this instance this letter writer sounds like such a wonderful, intelligent and thoughtful person, I would selfishly suggest she take her husband’s advice and stick it out for 4 more years.  Teachers can be mentors without even knowing it. There is always someone affected by that one particular teacher that inspired them in ways no other person could. I think we all have one in our lives when we sit idle in thought and think back. I know I have mine. He inspired me to write and understand that words have power.

    If I were to give this letter writer advice it would be this (to use an old line – If you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem) the big reason the public schools are in the shape they are in today is because everyone accepts the decline as a given. No one believes their voice or actions will have any affect. The system is too big to make any real change. Wrong!

    I truly believe if she starts taking some of her control back in terms of how SHE wants to run her classes and curriculum she will feel better about her job.   If she is feeling overwhelmed, say so. Find others within the school that share her frustrations and galvanize for change. Deal with the teachers union to verify what your rights are?  Are you being asked to do what is beyond the school’s authority to ask of you?   

    We all need purpose in life, a reason to get up in the morning. I have been there in life when I LOVED going to work, couldn’t wait to get there each day. These days not so much….:-)  So I feel her pain. But the answer is simple, instead of coasting, take control of the reigns. Don’t just sit in the backseat and allow others to drive your life and control where you go.     

    • avatar Brooke Schubert says:

      I think you make a great point about the conditions we suffer today always having been around, we just didn’t have names for them.  My mother is an oncology nurse and comments on the increase in cancer, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case-While doing a history research paper in college, I was discovering that a lot of people died of strange and mysterious illnesses, but the symptoms described look an awful like cancer and other diseases we know of today.  We also now can detect things so early due to advances in medicine that more people are being treated because we catch it sooner.

      That said, I do think a lot of things are either self-diagnosed or misdiagnosed.  However, I think you have to give people the benefit of the doubt-I’m severely allergic to cigarette smoke (my throat swells and closes off), but I’ve had some idiot smokers tell me it’s all in my head and blow their smoke in my face to be ‘funny,’ and wind up giving me an attack.  It’s better to be safe than sorry.

      • avatar sfmoonfire says:

        You have my sympathies, Brooke. I’ve had asthma since I was a child, and cigarette smoke is one of the worst triggers (I can’t imagine why, since it contains traces of lovely chemicals like arsenic and hydrogen cyanide). If some moronic smoker deliberately blew smoke in my face after I told them I was allergic, I’d be acquainting them with the concept of assault, with the assistance of a police officer. It’s hard to reason with any type of junkie.

        • avatar Carrie A says:

          “Junkie”? Wow, I’m guessing you won’t have to worry about anyone blowing smoke in your face because I can’t imagine anyone would ever want to stand next to you. I smoke and I’m very considerate of all my non-smoking friends, not just the ones with allergies. It’s terrible when people have to act like jerks who blow smoke in people’s faces on purpose but not all people that smoke are that rude. You can find asinine, rude people in all groups, including non-smokers, as your comment so perfectly illustrates.

          • avatar Miss Lee says:

            I am glad that your are ‘very considerate’ of your non-smoking friends but I could not be in an elevator with you without out significant discomfort.  The smell from your smoke saturated clothes would cause my lungs to tighten up immediately.  I am asmatic and I have sympathy for you, not anger.  I know several people who simply can not quit smoking.  It is a terrible monkey on their backs.  I have no sympathy for those who wear perfume however.  They are an imminent threat to folks like me and they are simply acting out of vanity.  Think I am harsh?  In reaction to strong perfume, I have had a coughing fit (in a public place) so hard that I lost all control of my bladder and had to ride to the hospital in a fire department vehicle and back to my home in a taxi, soaking wet, stinking of urine.  But at least, thanks to the fire department folks, I didn’t die, that time. 

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            So, where does it stop? I know there are people who have allergies to certain chemicals found in perfumes…should all people stop wearing every kind of scent? I am allergic to the colognes and perfumes that contains specific man-made elements (these are absurdly common in celebrity fragrances, Avon, and the less expensive scents) that are actually dangerously toxic. I can’t breathe, become nauseated, and break out, everywhere. However, if a person chooses a well-crafted fragrance, and wears it correctly, are you going to tell them it’s forbidden?

            Here’s the thing: our school district had a group of parents who wanted to ban all products with peanuts, soy, shellfish, nuts (peanuts are different), eggs and a few other food items completely from the schools, including personal lunches sent from non-allergic children’s homes. This effort failed, just as it should have. Dictating what others do because your child, or you, are allergic, is the same as saying, “No one will skip because my child has CP and can’t”. “No one will make loud noises, such as clapping or exuberant laughter, because my autistic child can’t handle this” (the last one is highly relevant, my older son is autistic). It is up to parents to teach their children not to ask for things from other children (this can be done), nor accept food that isn’t their own…even at a very young age.

            We can ban smoking in the work place, but not smoking in the home, and if a co-worker chain smokes and comes to work reeking of 12-hours and three packs worth, we can’t, at most jobs, do a thing about it. The exception seems to be restaurants, many of which have gone to a policy of no perfume, no scented soap or hair products, and no smoking immediately before, or during, one’s shift.

            Some people want to ban wool clothing from workplaces because it makes them break out in hives. Others, ANY scented product. For some people, just being outside is hazardous. In the spring, I have asthma-like symptoms, because my entire yard is virtually toxic (I am allergic to grass, of all things, most common plants found in trim, and their beautiful, blooming flowers.). To others, a single sting from a bee or wasp will kill them. I fully understand the lethality of allergies, never mind the discomfort.

            I don’t know if it’s environmental toxins (in the case of many scented products, including perfumes, medical research HAS shown that the increase in man-made ingredients…read toxic chemicals…for scent has a dramatic effect of allergens and reactions) that have lessened tolerance for so many people. I know I’ve always had my allergies, and I’m 53, and I know people my age and older who always had severe allergies to peanuts, nuts, shellfish, eggs and dairy (not lactose intolerance). They never expected the world to stop for them.

          • avatar Lila says:

            BB, totally agree. Kids with food allergies absolutely should be taught to refuse all food other than their own from the earliest age.

            For anyone who thinks you can’t expect a 3-, 4-, 5-year-old to understand this – bull! Our German Shepherd was trained to refuse all food that didn’t come from us (his “pack”), for security reasons. Anyone want to claim our dog was smarter than their child? I thought not.

          • avatar Briana Baran says:

            Carrie A: Respectfully, if you are a smoker who is considerate of your non-smoking friends, and who even goes out of your way to be so, then you are NOT a “moronic smoker” who would deliberately set out to cause discomfort or even harm to someone who was allergic, and sfmoonfire was NOT referring to your sort. And “junkie” is not really an adequate term, as nicotine is more addictive, and harder to both detox from, and break the habit of, than heroin.

            I don’t think she was being asinine or rude. I quit smoking 23 years ago. Like you, I was an extremely considerate smoker…and I was also fully aware that I smelled of cigarettes, that my breath and hair stunk, and of what I got when I blew my nose….not any prettier than the gunk on the bottom of an ashtray. I know how terrible quitting is, and how many times I tried because I hated smoking. I quit more because of accident than intent…a bite from a feral cat, subsequent combined rabies/tetanus/antibiotic shots and infection made me deathly allergic to all tobacco products…so much so that I begin to wheeze when exposed, and break out all over my exposed skin.

            Cigarette smoking is a plague, from second hand smoke, third hand smoke, smoking related illness and disability, time lost at the workplace both from illness and break time (statistically true, unfortunately), jacked up insurance rates, and chronically ill children whose mothers insisted on smoking during pregnancy. You just can’t make it pretty.

            For every considerate smoker out there, it seems there are dozens who are not, who will smoke in places clearly marked as smoke-free…even in hospitals (including various kinds of medical professionals), while pregnant or in closed areas with children, or anywhere, all the while denying just how much what they do affects others. If you smoke, everyone knows. There is no hiding it.

          • avatar sfmoonfire says:

            Thank you, Briana! You got what I was saying and translated it for Carrie better than I could. The cold, hard fact is that cigarette smoke is toxic, plain and simple, and I don’t care what Carrie, or any other smoker, does to herself — she has the right to risk her own health, or life, if that’s what she chooses to do. However, no smoker has the right to force those same risks on anyone else, any more than an alcoholic has the right to get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated and risk the lives of innocent people because of his/her addiction. Let me say it in the clearest terms possible: What you do to yourself is your business. What you do to me is MY business. Stay out of my face, and I’ll stay out of yours. Force your toxic chemicals literally down my throat, and “junkie” will be the mildest word I use to describe your behavior.

  3. avatar Jon T says:

    Would it be possible for the teacher to change schools? I say this realizing that most if not all schools are going to be following the same regime. But some schools do make adjustments within the structure to make it a little more workable. Plus if you’re vested in a state pension fund, you won’t jeopardize your retirement. Perhaps a change of scenery would give her a fresh start. For what it’s worth my partner is a teacher and I’m about to start my first year of teaching, so I can appreciate how frustrating it can be. Of course it doesn’t help that the public at large refuses to recognize how difficult teaching really is.

  4. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: My hat’s off to you. You obviously care deeply about your students; meanwhile you’re being forced to prioritize towards admin. Why is it that institutions always screw up? It’s not about scholars, it’s about jocks. It’s not about pupils, it’s about admin bragging rights. There is a limit to frustration and exhaustion; you want to do the right thing (totally commendable)…but can this continue for another 12 years? I doubt I’d have that sustainability; you sound very close to burnout already. If you’re like me, you don’t want to relax your standards. Perhaps your only true option, if you stay in, is to acknowledge admin’s attitudes/expectations while continuing to do the best for your pupils as possible; face that reality head-on and keep on. It is so sad you (and how many other good and caring schoolteachers?) are being put through this; on top of the everyday (unimaginable to me) stresses of simply dealing with pupils of varying temperaments, learning abilities, etc. If you do decide to take a different career course, don’t beat yourself up about it. You’ve done the best you could.
    L #2: I totally agree, and have wondered that too. My husband’s church offers gluten-free communion wafers. What, a *tiny* (dime-sized) regular wafer is going to mess up someone’s system? Seriously?? I remember peanut butter being available in the school cafeteria in HUGE bowls with big spoons (and a stack of bread nearby). Kids at PBJ after PBJ…no one ever swelled up or keeled over. Have to wonder if some of it’s faddish, and also attention seeking.

    • avatar bleeble says:

      Uh…yes, seriously. I have a friend with Celiac. Educate yourself a little by searching for some Celiac forums and read all about their experiences with cross contamination. My friend has severe intestinal distress for days if there’s any gluten in her food. She lived in severe pain and discomfort for most of her life until she finally got a diagnosis. I’m really happy for you that no one “swelled up or keeled over” because learning through example how Epi-Pens work is not a super fun experience for either the victim or the audience. I had a coworker have to go home early and take a Benedryl because she claimed she was allergic to apples and no one believed her because of all of these “fad allergies”, and another coworker jokingly rubbed a sliced apple on her arm. It immediately started swelling into a red, puffy rash.

      My reasoning is that it doesn’t affect you, so why put people who suffer from allergies on the defensive? Why perpetuate this “omg, seriously? Come on, you fakers” type of attitude if it’s not hurting you in any way? It’s not like we don’t have enough to worry about. Hooray, if I eat the wrong chocolate I’ll die. Let’s add people trying to sneak me chocolate to “prove” that I’m faking on top of that. Yeah, people with allergies definitely must be attention seekers – getting carried out of a department store on a stretcher isn’t for the shy.

      FWIW, Celiac isn’t an allergy, and intolerances are different from allergies. Auto-immune diseases of all kinds are on the rise, especially in women over thirty.

    • avatar marie9999 says:

      Cindy –

      Yes – a *tiny* dime-sized regular gluten wafer will make me seriously ill. I have biopsy confirmed Celiac disease. I too was incredulous at my doctor’s recommendation – what is this gluten free diet?!? How can it be?!? She explained that for years doctors didn’t look for Celiac so they didn’t find it… know they look and find. She asked that I give the diet a month and promised that I would actually want to adhere to the diet. The good news is that she was right and I felt much better physically.

      Unfortunately, this condition has changed the very fabric of my social life. Think of Thanksgiving dinner, family reunions, co-worker’s birthday cake, etc…. It has severely curtailed my career as frequently I am unable to eat at the restaurants chosen by my company… eat with others when they call out for sandwiches… and I do suppose that I’m seen as “attention seeking”.

      This condition is absolutely no fun and I have been amazed at the ridicule and social problems it has caused (my own mother was not supportive as first). Believe me if I could just eat without analyzing every single ingredient (standard US soy sauce contains wheat / gluten)… I would. I often feel that I am causing problem for my co-workers, family and friends when asking about ingredients. The condition has ostracized me and while I’d never wish this on another human being, I do so wish people would have a little more compassion… rather than the judgement.

      Sincerely – Marie

  5. avatar Eventergirl says:

    Okay, I’m just going to say my piece about consumer ignorance regarding their food supply and be done…it amazes me the amount of misinformation there is out there….

    You are consuming 105x more hormone by consuming soy than you are consuming beef from a steer with a hormone implant or milk from a dairy cow. Steers receive a small implant subcutaneously (under the skin) in their ear when they are steered (neutered). This implant is usually dissolved by the time they are a year old and all it does is replace the hormone their testicles would naturally be producing. rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) is used a LOT more sparingly than the media wishes you to believe – it’s expensive and not very effective. In our cows, we use it ONLY for cows who have aborted/lost their pregnancy so we can keep them in milk long enough to get them pregnant again and then give birth. Besides, remember your biology – hormones only affect the body if the body has a receptor (“docking station”) for the hormone – humans do not have receptors for bovine hormones (and adult bovines have few – that’s why it’s not very effective and it works better on younger cows than older cows). Your body just passes it right through. It is illegal to give chickens hormones.

    All antibiotics must be completely flushed out of the system before milk can be consumed by humans (antibiotics have a mandatory withdrawal period during which all milk from that cow is dumped down the drain – many dairy farmers actually keep their cows off the line longer than the minimum recommended period to avoid accidentally having their milk test positive – the milk truck is tested for antibiotics after each dump from a farm, a positive test means the milk from whole truck is discarded and the last farm to dump into the truck has to pay for the WHOLE truck; hence why they’re so careful about it) and before a steer can be slaughtered. You are not consuming antibiotics in your beef and milk.

    • avatar bleeble says:

      Science!! 😀

    • avatar Koka Miri says:

      “105x more hormone by consuming soy”? Can you link to a study (a scientific one) documenting that?

      The only results I got when I tried to substantiate your claim was that it affected hormones in mice. There is a hormone-LIKE substance in tofu that mimics estrogen – but it’s not estrogen.  

      I buy organic tofu, by the by.

      Now, if you’re talking about soy PRODUCTS, that’s different than claiming all soy is worse for you than meat.     

  6. avatar hillidaa says:

    I work at a non-profit organization whose job it is to educate the surrounding community regarding health care and health careers. The guy who is the director of our Continuing Medical Education department (who organizes educational activites for physicians) was a teacher. We have another former teacher who travels from school to school teaching kids about the various health careers outside of the well known “doctor” and “nurse.” She also does summer camps for kids of all ages. We have a third former teacher who teaches medical practices how to improve their patient care, and a fourth education major (I’m not sure she ever taught K-12) who runs the Graduate Medical Education program (teaching residents to become independent physicians).

    Sometimes, not all teaching jobs are in schools. Those might make you happier!!

  7. avatar Lesley Morgan says:

    LW1 sounds close to her breaking point. I would take this very seriously. It’s more than just “suck it up and keep going.” If hubby has a “decent job,” why is it THAT necessary for her to remain in a job that has turned into torture? So her kids and husband can maintain some “standard of living” while she can barely stand to get up in the morning? Why isn’t hubby more empathetic? Today’s frustration and burnout could soon be tomorrow’s full-blown depression. I don’t know how school systems work, but is counseling available for teachers in these situations? LW1, do whatever it takes to take care of yourself.

  8. avatar Davina Wolf says:

    Twice I forced myself to stay in well-paying jobs when I was becoming very burned out because I didn’t know what else to go to.  Both times I became so mentally exhausted from forcing myself to stay in the job that I lost the ability to help myself and finally quit with nothing else to go to because I was so miserable that I was having death fantasies.  (These stopped the day that I quit).  I then spend the next two years not working and recuperating from what must have been some sort of post traumatic stress syndrome from forcing myself do something I didn’t like.  The teacher in the first letter would be wise to find a different job now, before she gets too burned out to help herself.  She sounds very bright and conscientious and could probably easily find something better.    

  9. avatar zz says:

    I truly sympathize with the teacher.  I, too, taught 20 years and got out.  I am lucky to have a supportive husband with a great job who helped to make leaving feasible.  I feel sorry for the young teachers just getting started.  They will never know the joy of walking into their classroom and being able to simply teach.  There is so much governmental red tape and so much administrative BS, plus you are expected to teach all the special needs children in with the rest of the class (usually without any training to teach those with special needs), and the testing never ends.  Principals jump on every new bandwagon that comes along, often just for the ‘feather in their cap’ that they get by saying “my school is doing….whatever…”.  Teaching is a tough profession.  So many children are not taught values at home.  So many parents are sure that everything and everyone is at fault except their own angelic child.  And, many administrators have “it’s all about me” syndrome.   I commend those who can make the commitment to it, but I would not…could not recommend education as a major to any college student today.   To LW#1…good luck to you.  Four more years sounds like forever, especially on a bad day.  But think about how quickly the school year passes.  Even though there are some excruciatingly long days……Friday comes around quickly….and all of a sudden it’s the start of a new month…and before you know it, the year is over.   Do your best…..but take care of YOU!   

  10. avatar DanielleDuBois says:

    @Margo, re#2: Greek yogurt is completely fine to eat if you’re lactose intolerant, as the active cultures break down the lactose. Most of the world (e.g. some 85% of the world’s population) is lactose intolerant; including many people of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean origin–hence the development of yogurt.

    • avatar Kriss says:

      I was going to post something similar.   many people who are lactose intolerant are often able to eat fermented dairy products such as cottage cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, & sour cream

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Quick note: if you still become sick after eating anything that Kriss noted, please consult a doctor, and get checked for a dairy allergy. This is not lactose intolerance, and can make you absolutely miserable. Taking Lactaid won’t help at all.

        Dairy allergies are very real, and can even affect infants. YES, they can be allergic to ANY dairy, even breast milk, especially if mom has dairy allergies. Don’t put yourself and your baby through hell, because this is a rare, but very real condition.

  11. avatar mmht says:

    LW#1: My friend is an Elementary School teacher and she was definitely feeling the burnout, although I will admit not as terrible as you seem to be feeling it. She remedied this situation by switching grade levels. Jumping from 5th grade to 3rd grade has really changed her attitude and outlook on teaching and she seems happy once again. Also, you might want to look into a different school district. Different districts have different financial situations and different focuses so it could be a welcome change for you. Being a teacher is hard, anyone who says differently doesn’t fully understand what it takes to teach. Because of that, you have to look after yourself. You are clearly burnt out and that is not a good situation for yourself or your students.

    LW#2: The first documented case of hay fever was in the late 19th century and now it seems that everyone has issues with seasonal allergies. My point is either glucose intolerance and other food allergies have been around forever and are just now being diagnosed, or there is an environmental factor to these emerging health issues. Either way, you don’t know what your friends go through when they eat these items so instead of being suspicious take them at their word.

  12. avatar phoenix says:

    LW#1, bless you for doing your job. I think what you have said outlines some of the problems with trying to mainstream everyone – you end up with a huge variety of learning levels in the classroom and it burns the teacher out trying to keep everyone engaged, up with the lessons. A couple of things to look into. 1. Perhaps changing grade levels or schools can help with the stress level. I know it’s not always an option. 2. Does your school offer a sabbatical program? Yes, you would not be paid for the year, but it would give you a chance to mentally recuperate and perhaps take some courses to help you deal with the varied learning levels of your students. You would just have to explain to your husband that if you don’t have this time to yourself, you are going to lose your mind.

  13. avatar Pinky35 says:

    Margo, having Greek Yogurt is actually great for digestive health. Yogurt is one source of dairy that people who are lactose free can eat. It has the cultures in it which actually help break down the lactose sugar that our own bodies cannot when we are lactose intolerant. I’m surprised you didn’t already know this.

    In my opinion, I think this being allergic to foods just seems more common now because we actually know about it. It doesn’t mean that it didn’t exist 10-20 years ago, it just means that we now know what is causing people to feel ill. About 30 years ago, I found out my cousin was allergic to chocolate. I thought that was totally strange at the time, now I don’t think it’s so strange anymore. I don’t think people are claiming intolerance to foods simply to follow a fad. But, I do think that with all the processed foods that we eat, it’s not surprising why our bodies are starting to fight back. Just like how our muscles can feel fatigue in our older ages, our stomachs are “fatigued” from digesting all the crap we have put in it.

    • avatar martina says:

      Actually, not all those who are lactose intolerant can eat yogurt.  My daughter can’t.  This is why they now make lactose free yogurts.  She seems to tolerate processed dairy products better – processed cheese on pizza, cream cheese, butter, boxed mac and cheese.  But give her a glass of milk, ice cream or yogurt and she has trouble.  Every person is different and their tolerance is different.  A lot of it can do with how much dairy you do consume within a certain timeframe.  If my daughter goes for days without eating dairy, she can tolerate eating icecream while taking lactaid pills a lot better than if she’d had a slice of pizza either that same day or the day before.  So if all the dairy that Margo is consuming is only yogurt, it could be because she can tolerate that much dairy and no more.  But I also have heard that yogurt tends to be one of the dairy products that those who are lactose intolerant can tolerate and one of the first things we had tried when my daughter’s intolerance first flared up.

      • avatar Pinky35 says:

        So, that’s why they make lactose free yogurt. I never did get that because yogurt is about the only thing i can eat without any problem. I can also have goats cheese. Lactaid pills help a little but not nearly enough with me. I can’t eat pizza, ice cream, drink milk, eat cheese (processed or not). I do know there are different tolerance levels. I guess you just have to find out what works for you. When I eat yogurt, I eat Activia which has that probiotic enzyme that’s supposed to help. I tried taking the probiotic pills but they didn’t seem to make a bit of difference, but the Activia is good and helps my system because I also have IBS. There are a few other foods that really make it bad for me that I try to steer clear of as well.

        What bugs me the most is when people who don’t have problems with food don’t understand and think it’s all in our heads. It’s not. And eating the food that bother us just makes us sick. Why should we have to decline invitations to parties and weddings simply because we have health issues? We do the best we can and choose foods that we know we can tolerate.

        • avatar Briana Baran says:

          @ Pinky35 and Martina: please check for milk allergies. It took me years to find out that I, and both of my sons, are actually allergic to milk. My infant sons both suffered horribly while breastfeeding. I tried everything, even taking Lactaid, eating the blandest of foods, took every bit of advice an expert/advocate could give, and both were severely ill. Both were tested, both ALLERGIC, to ALL milk products…just like me (I was also tested). My youngest can now tolerate small amounts of cheese and yogurt, but large amounts of dairy make him unable to sleep, irritable and nervous, give him severe headaches, and affect his entire digestive system, sometimes for days. The same is true for me and my older son, but his is less severe.

  14. avatar Kathy says:

    LW2 – My thoughts exactly!  The fact is, a food allergy or intolerance gets you attention.  You can stop all conversation at the table while you relentlessly quiz the server.  You can bemoan how you go to dinner parties and receptions and EVERYONE can eat but you.  You can accept invitations with stipulations that make the host concentrate on you, you, you.  Everyone has some foods that don’t “sit well”, and in the past we just avoided them.  No big drama.  But now everyone has to be “special.” 

    • avatar bleeble says:

      Allergies aren’t about you – there’s no reason you should be jealous or ask that people stay at home so that they don’t bother you with their health concerns. If you’re the hostess, just make it clear that you don’t accommodate any health issues, diabetic or otherwise. I’m sure your friends will get the message.

      Allergies also aren’t about food that don’t “sit well”. All you have to do is run a quick internet search and skim a few forums about Celiac to know that it’s not about having an upset stomach for a few hours. Sometimes, yeah, that’s all it is if you’re lucky. For me, if I eat a cookie my throat closes up. If it’s a mild amount, like a marshmallow, my throat will just constrict and it will take me about 4-5 hours to be able to swallow again. I do avoid those foods, and I don’t ever ask that anyone accommodate me, but everyone is different. I’m really fortunate in that I don’t really have to mention it since I just don’t get to eat dessert ever again but can eat other things. Gluten, however, is in everything and it a lot more difficult to deal with.

    • avatar Carmen Clemons says:

      Wait, so when my husband asks waiters if a dish contains mushrooms, he’s just begging for attention? Huh. I thought he was trying to avoid a repeat of the life-threatening anaphylaxis that nearly killed him when he was in the Air Force (thank goodness he was a medic; if he had been anywhere other than a hospital cafeteria at the time…).

      You sound like the coworkers of a friend of mine; after multiple epi-pen incidents at the office, they STILL lie when he asks them if an office treat contains coconut.

  15. avatar martina says:

    At our church’s last basket social we got a complaint from a woman who said that we should have had allergan free desserts.  We have held this fund raiser for 11 years and it was the first time we got that complaint. Our desserts are donated by our congregants and we have no idea what ingredients were used and were just thrilled that we got enough donations for everyone to have dessert.  This year we are putting out a sign that the foods could contain allergans.  You have an allergy and you don’t know what’s being served, bring your own.  There are so many different allergies and intolerances that we can’t keep track of them all.  I don’t expect special treatment for my daughter’s intolerance and others shouldn’t either.

    As for those who give people with intolerances food with that product in it?  What’s the matter with those people?  Let me throw a little arsenic in their food and see how they tolerate it.

    • avatar Lila says:

      Martina, any time I go to a potluck or contribute a dish to a party, I always print a few 3×5 copies of the actual recipe I used. That way, if someone has allergies or vegan concerns, they can see whether my dish is OK with them or not; and if someone really likes it, they can take a copy of the recipe for their own use. I am very lucky not to have any known allergies but I do wish more folks would do this at potlucks.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Lila: I never thought of cards, but what an excellent idea. I’ll remember that the next time I contribute something.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Martina: “I don’t expect special treatment for my daughter’s intolerance and others shouldn’t either.”

      Thank you. My point, exactly.

  16. avatar Robert Smith says:

    Kind of ironic that the teacher wrote letter #1 complaining that she is being forced to teach to the standardized tests instead of really educating and Margo responds with concern over our children’s education because they are scoring lower than the rest of the world on standardized tests….

  17. avatar luna midden says:

    Please, this teacher is not the only fustrated and I am finally happy to see a teacher ADMIT TO IT!!!!! These tests-and I am from NY=wonder if she teaches there… are ridiculous!!! Our children-Mine are 17 & 19… were ahead when they were in Kindergarten.. learning stuff I LEARNED in 1st grade! But as soon as those ‘TESTS’ to make sure that EVERY STUDENT was RECEIVING THE SAME EDUCATION ‘ started in the 3rd grade.. their education SLLLOOOOOOWWWEEEED down. First, English, then Math, then History and then Science. The tests were to test the school district, the teachers.. NOT THE STUDENTS! But the districts started to have EXTRA HELP(not required, but some parents did not know this)either before or after school.. and 3x a week lessons geared to the test. These tests were on things the students should have already learned. So, no new lessons were being taught!! Some to alot of parents did not realize this, but a few of us did. And we were DISGUSTED.. AND SOME OF US REMEMBERED WHAT WE LEARNED WHEN WE WERE AT THAT AGE! Our children were now behind instead of being ahead!!!!

    I will admit, I did not think at that time the pressure the administrators were putting on the TEACHERS, and then the pressure the administrators were getting from the district SUPERINTENDENT.. I AM SORRY ABOUT THAT.. I had attended some school board meetings-nothing said to the board, superintendent-no complaints, etc. CHANGED A D*MN THING!!!!  They of course get their directions from the Board of education in the Capital-Albandy for us— and you can say-vote out our board-but, most people have no idea who they are voting for!!! the ONE WITH THE MOST LAWN SIGNS WINS….

    George Bush signed into law ‘NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND’ -HE did this for the children who were left behind-the ones that just got passed ahead, though illiterate… the ones who needed special education..  HE DID NOT MEAN FOR THIS MONSTER TO HAPPEN!!!! My son needed special help-he would be one to be ‘left behind’.. this testing did absolutely NOTHING other then make him so nervous he made himself sick, develop stomach problems where he was throwing up every morning before school…. he did fine on the tests and he still needed special help which took YEARS TO GET.. YEARS OF ME FIGHTING THE SCHOOL DISTRICT.. because the district does not like spending the extra money! yes, they get extra money for special ed, but not enough to cover the students. 

    So, to the LW-I do feel sorry for you.. there must be somewhere we can all unite against this, because, I will tell you, parents,, at least those who know what their kids are doing, are ANGRY, and they were be willing to educate those who are naive…. I have written to my state’s capital, but, it has to be a group effort, just like the PTA is supposed to be. We are not educating our children and I will testify to that with my kids….  Parents, think back to what YOU LEARNED IN SCHOOL…. ask your children.. and please… ask your children’s teachers how it is now -teaching…  and what YOU can do, write to to complain!!!!!           

  18. avatar susan hiland says:

    Many teachers have left there jobs because of No child Left Behind. This damned “plan” does nothing but stress teachers out, add addition hours of work to the day which can be up to or more than 8 additional hours of work! And it is not helping the students become better educated. George Bush didn’t have a damned clue what the hell he was doing when he passed this thing, if he did I will eat my shorts. He was a C- student in an A+ job and shouldn’t have been there to begin with-idiot.
    Why the hell our teachers putting up with this testing bullshit? Generations of young people are not getting the education they need to be adults. They need the skills to make educated decisions in this world that will effect millions of people. This is OUR future as America we are talking about not just a few kids for this year or last year but future politicians, presidents, bankers, and yes, teachers who will go out and make decisions based on the education they are getting today.
    Parents, and teachers need to stand up for there children’s future for America’s future and say NO MORE “NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND”! Educate for life not for a test!

  19. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Dare I say too many teachers take themselves far too seriously? The tenure system is a croc, but as long as it remains in place, sensible teachers should grab the opportunity to do what’s reasonable and and dismiss the rest. Your job is secure if you’ve made it through the first five years. Do what seems to make sense and deep six the rest. And quit whining. Your students and their parents will appreciate an improved attitude over the pity party you seem to be throwing for yourself.

    One thing is for certain: Smart kids will learn no matter what; dumb kids won’t. Mediocre learners will still pick up from the quick-on-the-uptake kids whether there’s a decent teacher around or not. Present-day youngsters are way ahead of yesteryear’s students who were held hostage to endless rote and silly repetitions. Diagramming sentences, a mostly useless endeavor, doesn’t get better when doing it 50 times.   

    Who wants to go back to the good old days when shorthand was mandatory for girls who also actually took typing classes … something boys and girls now pick up on their own?   

    • avatar R Scott says:

      JCF4612 – You forgot to tell us how long you’ve been a teacher. I missed that part. I mean with such an acidic (and hyperbolic) reply to LW1 it’s pretty safe to assume you’ve walked/taught in her shoes. Right?

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Better question: do you have kids in the public school system? Which is a crock, not “croc”, as in “a crock of s**t”, not the ubiquitous, hideous foot-wear or large, scaly reptile.

      Most parents would be appreciative beyond belief if the schools abandoned No Child Left Behind, Standardized Testing and all of the tremendous loss of actual education that stems from that backward, soley financially-based idea.

      Present day students are NOT ahead of yesterdays. Writing and spelling skills have deteriorated, as has reading for comprehension. Our math and science hasn’t fallen behind just based on standardized tests, but based on actual GPA scores, college performance, and hire-ability post college.

      I’m in Texas. I know, we have lousy public schools, right? Our teachers hate standardized testing, and do their level best to actually teach around it. Our students are divided by ability: there are pre-AP advanced classes, on-Level, and even a level and program for kids who are truly struggling, plus classes for those with “special needs”. Our high schools, in my son’s district, all have either exemplary or recognized ratings, the two highest ratings available, and the one he’s going to will be going to exemplary by next year, started out six years ago with only ninth grade, and had its first graduating class in 2010.

      Teachers take themselves too seriously? I frequently agree with you, JCF4612, but in this case, no, you’re flat out wrong. It’s critical for teachers to take their jobs very seriously. I feel for them. I really do, because the testing has in many ways compromised their ability, and made hash out of their jobs.

  20. avatar casino la fantastique says:

    Hurrr hurrr pubic schools hurrr


    My mom taught for over 30 years, through salary freezes and testing and NCLB and people trying to bust the teacher’s unions so they didn’t have to pay her fairly. She retired from teaching and cared up until the end. I think teaching is really hard and you don’t get much credit for the good you do. So, kudos on making it this far.

    But honestly, if you’re at your wit’s end, I’d look into moving into another district or a private school. I’m sure your district will feel the loss of a good teacher, but you burning out isn’t going to help anyone. Seriously consider changing jobs in your field. Tutoring is also an option. Find something that doesn’t make you want to burst into tears every day. A pay cut may be worth your sanity, if it comes to that.

  21. avatar blueelm says:

    Speaking from my family it was: Pukes a lot, had to have colon surgery, weak stomach. I think a lot of things are invisible when no one knows about them.

    My grandmother used to give my mom milk to settle her stomach after she just vomited from having eaten dairy. Such were the times.

  22. avatar I Teach Peace says:

    Beleaguered, I was you! I taught in what was labelled a “failing” school in Los Angeles. I taught high school lab science without a working lab, sufficient materials to students whose family situations are some of the most difficult you might imagine. I made myself miserable trying to do a great job in challenging circumstances. I found a way to turn myself around and grew to enjoy teaching again and build great relationships with my student, colleagues, administrators, my own loved ones and myself. Please feel free to contact me at saraburns2000 AT yahoo DOT com and I would be happy to share what I do. I am currently developing a curriculum to deliver to teachers all across America that can show them how to go from pain to peace. Just know in the meantime that you do have the support of many and you do make a positive difference in the lives of your students.

  23. avatar francophile1962 says:

    GAH!! Re: reply to LW#1 – PUBIC schools? Freudian slip?

  24. avatar Pinky35 says:

    I am not a teacher but I coming from a parent who’s stepkid was “left behind” despite the “no kid left behind” plan, I’m very disappointed in the whole US school system. We have since enrolled him in this 12K school which lets the kids decide what they will learn and to go at their own place. It’s an online learning system but they get plenty of help with subjects they are struggling in from real teachers. I think it’s a great program and so far he’s aced 2 quizzes and really likes the learning style. He feels so much more confidence in himself and is making good progress. The school is very small so each child is regularly monitored to see that progress is made and if they are excelling, they are challenged further so they don’t get bored. Too many times when you have a class of 30 kids, it’s very hard for the teacher to make sure each student is learning the material. Like the writer said, she has to cater to all different kinds of learning problems. It can’t be easy at all. So, my recommendation is to look for a school in her area which does this 12K learning system. There aren’t many of them throughout the US but there should be.

  25. avatar christineb says:

    Beleaguered hang in there. I, too, was a frustrated teacher. I taught special ed for 5 years before I gave up. I admire you for hanging in there for so long. Please listen to Margo when she says there may be other options. I loved my students and loved teaching but for all the reasons you listed and then some I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I managed to find a position at a local university working with students with LD in a special program. I then moved into a position presenting study skills seminars to students and professional development for staff. From my research there appear to be a number of community colleges, colleges, and universities that are hiring full-time staff for this because it’s cheaper to have it in-house than to send employees off-campus for professional development training. And I’ve known people who worked in the disability support office of 2 universities who don’t have degrees in special ed. There are also lots of openings in First Year Centers, residence life, and student services. Many of the academic advisors I work with were teachers first before transitioning to higher education.

    Another option would be to look into virtual schools such as the Ohio Virtual Academy. These are schools looking for teachers to develop curriculum and provide support to parents who are homeschooling their children. Or you could try getting a job at an educational magazine. I know Mailbox hires teachers for full time staff positions. And one last option, hospitals hire teachers to work with childrent who are there long-term. I’m told that the stress of tests and other junk teachers deal with on a daily basis isn’t present and in many cases the home school provides the lessons, you just have to teach.

    If you can’t tell, I have done a lot of research looking for options for a burned out teacher. I’ve even started my own consulting business providing team-building and educational opportunities and made some money at it. Please know that there are lots of wonderful opportunities out there for someone with your skills and talents. They may take a little searching, but they are out there. Good luck!! And my thoughts are with you.

  26. avatar BeanCounter says:

    Must be nice to have a husband or wife to rely on with bills.  I have no one but myself.  

  27. avatar Hellster says:

    LW# 1, just quit. You say your children’s college funds will suffer, not that you won’t be able to feed or clothe them. Isn’t it obvious that your college education has been a tremendous waste of energy, or at least a misdirected use of it? Why assume your kids need to go to college, anyway? You might be happier in a pink- or blue-collar job than in the “profession” that is stressing you out so badly now, and for which, presumably, you prepared yourself with a college education. Chill.

    Re. LW#2, it is interesting that a nicotine addict balks at being referred to as a “junkie.” Darling, that’s what you are. Just like the man who hurt his back a year ago and is still on (ever-increasing dosages of ) opioids, and the college student who only gets drunk every weekend. Face it, and then do something about it. Until you do, the tobacco companies will keep raking in their ill-gotten gains as you wheeze yourself into the grave.

  28. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #2,  I’ve wondered the same thing.  I was a very sickly baby (asthma, pneoumonia, respiratory type stuff).  As a child, I had slight allergic reactions to certain fruits and vegetables (itchy throat or tingly/numbness on my lips) and mild to severe allergic reactions to cats (asthma, itchy, watery eyes) up to my early 20’s.  But I continued to eat these same foods and continued to own cats.  By my mid-20’s I’d outgrown all these allergies.  This leads me to wonder if some (not all, I know) of these allergies are nurtured rather than dealt with by expsoure and allowing our immunities to build up and kick in.   

  29. avatar Katie says:

    LW#2    fI was just diagnosed with Celiac (gluyrn intolerance) after feeling awful for 5 months and not knowing why.  There is now a blood test for Celiac, otherwise I’d still be having tests to find out what was wrong with me.  I have been very lucky to be surrounded by wonderful people who know that I don’t make a fuss about nothing.  An attitude like yours would have been very hurtful and made a bad situation much worse.  I am now in the process of finding what I can and can’t eat.  I’m 53 years old and never had a food allergy before now.  My family and friends have always been supportive of each other no matter what.  Too bad yours can’t say the same about you.

  30. avatar susan says:

    #1, After raising 2 sons and seeing them through their schooling, I want to say thank you.  We parents know what a tough job it is, would you feel better knowing how much we appreciate what you do?  Things have gotten more difficult for teachers, this whole teaching for the test business needs to be put to rest.  Also, we all understand how grossly underpaid teachers are, is criminal really.

    I’m coming to the end of my working years as well and am trying to decide if I should work until I’m 65 or 67, so I do understand what your going through.  You need to do what’s best for you.  One thing I know for sure, when you retire the teaching world is going to lose someone special.

  31. avatar Priscilla L says:

    I suspect that the reason the LW sees more reports of food intolerances and allergies among her friends is that there is much greater awareness of these things than there was when the LW was younger. Many years ago, a person who was sickened by a particular food would often suffer in silence, or be declared to have dyspepsia, or to be “nervous” or “picky”.

    Food intolerances and allergies are real. Why not just respect your friends’ needs without second-guessing them?

  32. avatar zz says:

    You are so right!

  33. avatar Eventergirl says:

    Okay after almost 2 days, my comment is still under moderation (I’m assuming it was the links I put) so you’ll have to google them yourself – and both have good resources.

    No, you misread – I never said beef was better for you than soy. I was stating the fact that you are consuming more hormone (and you are correct, it is estrogen – in the case of soy it’s phytoestrogens which are processed and “viewed” by your body identically to estrogen – the quantification of this is “Estrogenic activity”) by consuming soy than you are beef or dairy. Eating organic tofu doesn’t matter – the phytoestrogens are not being introduced, they’re naturally produced by the plant. In fact, there is no scientific evidence that shows detrimental effects from consuming estrogens (plant or animal sources). Also, researchers are actually looking at soy as a possible therapy option for women in menopause because of it’s high levels of estrogen activity!

    My point was, people like to point at beef and scream the word “Hormone!” like it’s a naughty word, however they then turn around and consume MORE estrogen* when they eat their soy burger. And actually, if you compare it to the amount of estrogen the female (non-pregnant, pre-menopause) woman produces a day (5M ng/day), both levels are miniscule (0.0002%-18% per lb respectively for beef/soy).

    *Note: To avoid redundancy in typing and for understanding, when I refer to estrogen consumption in regards to plants, I’m referring to phytoestrogens and their estrogenic activity.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      I am very careful about the meat we consume. It is all free range, grass fed, hormone and anti-biotic free, raised humanely and slaughtered and processed by halal or kosher trained professionals (we are very cautious). The hormones introduced to cattle, pigs and other livestock are suspected in a lot of the neurological disorders, particularly in males, that are either holding steady (despite the cessation of mercury, gosh darn it, I guess it doe NOT cause autism, in vaccinations) or increasing. This has a lot to do with the constant production of male gametes, and how unprotected they are from mutation.

      However, soy in quantity is not safe for everyone. My doctors have warned me away from it because I take thyroid medication, and it severely inhibits the med’s ability to do its job. A lot of doctors recommend soy supplements for women in peri-menopause because it does help with the symptoms. People with gluten intolerance or celiac disease often cannot tolerate soy. I get very sick from tofu and soy based products.

      We do a LOT of research on scientific and medical informational sites…not the media and pro/con propaganda scare sites. We also ask our doctors a lot of questions…and we listen and take notes. It pays off in the end.

  34. avatar Fortuna says:

    You might want to rewrite that:
    “Dear Be: You really are between a rock and a hard place. Of course, you are not alone, as many pubic schools are a mess. “

  35. avatar Lym BO says:

    The Greek yogurt might have helped the bacteria in your digestive system perform better. Eliminating dairy form your diet may have also allowed your system to flush out any issues that were causing bloating.