5 Reasons to ditch the dairy
Dairy has become somewhat of a controversial topic these days. Since forever we have been bombarded with messages and billboards to drink milk to stay healthy, but now many health practitioners in the holistic space are advising against dairy.
I remember drinking glasses and glasses of milk as a child, and being told this was key for calcium, strong bones, and general health.
My family would go through jugs of 2% a week and I would have a carton at lunch at school every day and then another glass with dinner.
The Dairy industry spends millions of dollars on advertising milk but it may not be as important as you think.
It's not even necessary for humans. In fact, it can cause more harm than good.
Nearly half of the world population is lactose intolerant, and this doesn't include those who are sensitive to dairy or can't digest the proteins in milk. As we grow older, we lose enzymes that are needed to properly digest milk thus resulting in symptoms such as bloating and skin allergies.
What's more, is that we are the only species to continue drinking milk past childhood.
Think about it, all mammals drink milk from their mothers and then they stop... except for us? And we are the only species to drink milk from another species. Could you imagine a baby cow drinking human milk? This goes against nature which of course brings its negative effects.
There are many reasons more and more people are avoiding dairy products and today I will be going through the top health reasons that many of us have ditched the milk and cheese and how to choose better quality products if you choose to continue to ride the dairy train.
Do you consume dairy? Are you confused with all of the controversial information?
Let me break it down for you:
1. Dairy is inflammatory
Dairy promotes inflammation specifically in the intestinal lining and is one of the most common food sensitivities people encounter. Although many people think the only problem with dairy is the lactose, the protein A1 casein is especially problematic. Ever wonder why you get so addicted to cheese and can't give it up? Casein ingestion stimulates the release of casomorphins which bind to the same receptors in the brain as heroin and release dopamine (the pleasure hormone), making you want it more and more.
This protein makes up about 87% of milk, is very difficult to break down and stimulates inflammatory cytokines that are produced by the immune system and which wreak havoc in the body. Though some people can detox and eliminate this protein effectively, most people cannot.
So what is inflammation exactly ?
Inflammation occurs when your immune system reacts to a threat in the body. This reaction can show up as pain, allergies, swelling, depression, altered brain function and mood, and anxiety to name a few. Inflammation is helpful and even needed in cases of acute inflammation such as when you get a cut or a bruise. But it's a different story when you experience chronic low grade inflammation in the body, that often times goes unnoticed and lasts for years and years. This type of inflammation can lead to chronic diseases such as autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
2. We lack the enzymes to properly digest dairy proteins
We tend to hear about lactose as the main milk protein however milk contains 25 different types of proteins! They have been shown to be highly allergenic and inflammatory. Many people have difficulty digesting all milk proteins and develop sensitivities by their immune system which can result in bloating, cramping, and gas.
In addition, dairy is mucus forming thus it creates a thick slimy form in the digestive tract and slows down digestion as a whole. This creates a lot more work for our body to eliminate and creates the opportunity for toxins to be reabsorbed in the body.
3. The quality of milk products has changed
As our population grows, so do our production needs. Our grandparents may have had access to fresh and raw milk products that were rich in enzymes and probiotics but today this is quite rare. Most animals are fed antibiotics, hormones, and GMO grains to stimulate abnormal growth, prevent infections, and reduce costs all whilst living in deplorable health conditions. In addition, milk products are pasteurized and stripped of live enzymes in order to avoid contamination but this also reduces the nutrients as well as the calcium content.
4. Dairy can throw off your body's hormonal balance
Dairy affects many systems in the body. Our gut health, immune system, and inflammation are very much connected to our hormonal health. If you have poor digestion, low immune function, or inflammation your hormones won't be too happy. Not to mention the added hormones and antibiotics that are fed to the animals which are then consumed by us through dairy products. By ingesting these external hormones and antibiotics your own body's internal hormonal production is thrown off. Estrogen excess is a common symptom that causes problems with women (such as PMS, fibroids, infertility, acne, low libido) and is exacerbated by dairy products. If you are experiencing hormonal symptoms try cutting out dairy for a few weeks and see how you feel!
5. Does dairy really give us strong bones?
I think we all grew up with the message to drink milk to grow and build strong bones. But the reality is milk can actually leach calcium from your bones and create calcium deficiency!
Let me explain.
Dairy (as well as all animal products) acidify the blood. When our bodies become too acidic, they work extra hard to maintain their delicate balance between alkalinity and acidity. Your body will do anything to maintain its ideal 7.4 ph level in the blood, which is crucial for survival! When your body becomes too acidic, it buffers minerals (from the bones for example) into the blood in order to maintain homeostasis (balance). This is when you can experience inflammation, depression, mood changes, allergies, skin problems, etc as disease strives in an acidic environment.
Though dairy does contain calcium it is poorly absorbed and it is highly acidic, which means it promotes calcium loss from the bone, which can result in increased risk of osteoporosis!
It's no coincidence that western populations who strive on dairy products have the highest rates of osteoporosis. Asian and African populations, for example, who have very low or no consumption of dairy also have extremely low rates of osteoporosis. Coincidence?
We don't need to consume dairy to get our daily required calcium intake. Calcium is found in many vegetarian sources as well as animal foods like oysters, salmon, and sardines.
High calcium plant foods:
There are so many non dairy products available in all grocery stores these days! From vegan butter to vegan milks to vegan yogurt and cheese, the list is endless! You can also make delicious easy recipes at home, like my vegan cheesecake here
If you do want to consume dairy or have found that you do not react to it there are some things you can do to reduce your exposure to inflammatory compounds, toxins, and synthetic hormones:
1. Choose Organic!
Avoid the nasty hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics from conventional dairy products by choosing organic. This ensures that all animals have been fed non GMO foods that are free of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, and hormones.
2. Choose grass fed & pasture raised
By choosing these labels, you ensure that the animals are able to roam freely and eat grass instead of grains. Cows who have eaten grass have been shown to produce more omega 3 fats which are essential in our diet and help reduce inflammation.
3. Buy local (Get to know your farmer!)
By buying local, you support your local community, small farmers, reduce your carbon footprint, obtain the freshest and most nutritious produce, and you get to know exactly where your food is coming from!
4. Choose goat's or Sheep Milk
Goat's and sheep's milk have been shown to be less inflammatory and easier to digest for most people. It has lower casein and lactose levels, and has been shown to have the most similar protein content to human breast milk.
5. Buy fermented products!
Kefir and fermented yogurt with live cultures can be so beneficial for our digestion and thus easier to digest for most people. This fermentation process can help reduce inflammation, heal digestion, and can even help improve lactose intolerance.
You can find these in most health food stores or make your own at home! Just avoid products with added sugar!