@jeoangel32 It sounds as if you do have an answer, that's such a huge part of the battle. I would hate to eliminate salads, they are my lunch virtually every day, and often my side dish with dinner.
I was not only having half and half but also yogurt for breakfast and often some cheeses — particularly goat cheese crumbles in my lunch salad. I miss the goat cheese a lot but I have found lactose free real dairy yogurt in Whole Foods, and also lactose free half and half.
The NP I saw at the gastro office insisted on testing me for celiac, which I knew for sure I did not have, and of course, that test came back negative. I think she lost a lot of my confidence with that move. As @hopeful33250 commented, if you do not feel you are getting sufficient help from the doctor you have been to then it's time to try another.
@messygirl I eliminated dairy myself. I was beginning to wonder and then one night we went out to dinner to an Italian restaurant and I had a Caprese salad (fresh mozzarella) and an appetizer of eggplant rolled around ricotta (I often just have salad and an appetizer when we dine out). Boy, did I pay for that. On our way home I said to my husband that my dinner was so good I would definitely order it again if we went there. A few hours later I knew I would not be eating that again. They generally say that lactose intolerance occurs between 30 minutes and two hours after having lactose. My reaction generally takes much longer. My PCP said that is not unusual.
I really do not have stomach distress, just the loose stools. Loose stools are considered to be diarrhea if they are really loose and unformed. Diarrhea does not have to be watery.
I too thought maybe it was IBS or IBD (they are not the same) which is why I went to a gastro. It seemed as if I was having a problem even when I did not have dairy. I have come to realize that often there is dairy in things that we don't think of, so that can cause it too. I have to admit, I was getting desperate also. It made leaving the house difficult some days, and I generally go to water aerobics three times a week but there were many days I had to skip. Do you also have very smelly gas? I definitely did. As @Zaroga
I agree with @fourof5zs too, water can definitely have an effect. One of my friends has a son who could only drink certain waters, she always bought him bottled water long before people were drinking bottled water frequently. She had to when they traveled.
Also, a food diary is very helpful, basically essential to determine what the problem is.