We have all noticed when perusing the dairy aisles that a whole industry has developed behind non-dairy alternatives. If you were to travel back in time to when N’Sync and Britney were dominating the airwaves you would not have witnessed such a panoply of choices. But times are a changin’ (though teen singers will always be popular.) So the question should be raised “Why so many milk alternatives on the market now?” “Are they trying to cash in on the ‘dairy scare’ or are there legitimate reasons why we should give up dairy?”
Problems with Dairy
Milk sales have dropped precipitously the last 10 years while non-dairy alternatives have spiked in the opposite direction. The main reason I ascribed to this is general awareness of the possible detrimental effects of dairy coupled with the advent of the clean eating, paleo, organic movement which pushes for cleaner, simpler ingredients. Should you give up dairy? Well, the main issues with dairy are as follows:
Lactose intolerance is on the rise. As we age some people no longer produce lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the protein, lactose, found in dairy products. For whatever reason, lactose intolerance is on the rise or people believe they are intolerant to dairy even though they have never had it verified by a food allergy test or an elimination diet. (Check out our podcast and/or article on Elimination Diets to see if you are lactose intolerant.)
Casein, Lactose, and Lectin Issues
Casein and Lectin, two other protein found in dairy, are possibly hypoallergenic to people. Lectin, which is an protein also found in grains, legumes, and vegetables has an inflammatory effect on the body, similar to its more popular relative, gluten, and its less popular cousin, phytic acid (seen in nuts and legumes.) (Read our article on why/how you should soak nuts to purge the phytic acid from them.) Either way, the signs of a allergy to casein, lactose, or lectin are:
- Abdominal Pain
- Stinky Flatus
- Joint Pain
- “Brain fog“-decreased cognition and memory
Certain independent studies have linked casein and lactose to cancer growth. Click here to see a medical journal abstract example. Therefore, many Integrative Medicine/Naturopathic practitioners recommend to patients who are in remission from cancer to eliminate dairy completely. Not all dairy has high levels of casein and/or lactose. For example, ghee, very popular in India for centuries, is a type of clarified butter that does not contain them.
The “filth” of the Dairy Industry
Commercially-grown cows are raised in dirty environs and are commonly given antibiotics and growth hormones (in the form of rBST/rBGH) to promote growth and to lower infections. Certain independent studies have linked these growth hormones to cancer growth. See this journal link. Many people either give up dairy out of protestation of how the cows are treated and others due to the antibiotic/growth hormone concern. We ingest these toxins when we consume dairy products.
“Why are we still drinking milk?”
Humans are the species in which adults are still drinking milk, albeit not human milk but rather cow or goats milk. Look at horses, cows, deer, etc…their young only consume milk when young to grow since milk is high in fat and calories. Once they are adults, they no longer consume it. So this begs the question…”why are we?” Because we have been indoctrinated by the dairy industry to think that is absolutely necessary to consume dairy to get our recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium and vitamin D. This begs two more questions:
- Have you looked at the amount of calcium and vitamin D in cow’s milk? At best it is 20% of RDA. It’s not like we are getting 90% of RDA from dairy.
- Are there better sources of calcium and vitamin D? Of course there are, such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, etc. In fact, almond milk has more calcium than regular cow milk.
So this begs the question, “Why are we continuing to drink milk?” Because we were taught at a young age through Brittney Spears or Justin Timberlake milk-mustache commercials that milk is good for you and we never questioned it until now. We are so malleable to the ploys and manipulation of advertising that we never stop to ruminate on these questions.
Should you give up dairy?
In full disclosure I am unofficially lactose intolerant. Around age 38 I noticed that when I consumed dairy, in particular milk and ice cream, I would get the symptoms mentioned above. And I only get those symptoms when I consumed dairy and I have done an elimination diet to confirm it. So these are my recommendations to you. Give up or limit your dairy if you answer “Yes” to the following questions:
- “Do you have the aforementioned symptoms of bloating, abdominal pain, etc and have tried an elimination diet to confirm it?”
- “Are you concerned about the possible increased risk of cancer that lactose and casein may bring?”
- “Are you angered by how the dairy industry treats cows and out of social protest and consciousness you refuse to eat dairy?”
- “Do you eat enough of a balanced diet where you could still get calcium and Vitamin D from other sources?”
These are some fundamental reasons why you might want to give up dairy. Should you give up dairy? I don’t want to demonize dairy altogether. When consumed from pastured and/or organic sources, dairy is a great source of saturated fat, calories, CLA, and other macronutrients. And c’mon who doesn’t love ice cream and cheese?! But the big questions is: “Can we get these great things from other sources so as to avoid all the problematic issues with dairy?” It’s a cost-benefit analysis. If you answer “Yes” then consider giving it up. Britney and Justin will forgive you.
Listen to Naturopathic Earth Radio for great tips on clean eating, food toxins, and other great info!
A. Gregory Luna, certified Primal Health Coach. Click here to jump start your health!
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