What comes to mind when you think of dairy? Maybe those cute milk mustache ads, or the delectable American cheese ads? Most of us think of dairy as wholesome, nourishing and healthful. Milk has become glorified as a nutritional staple and symbol for healthy eating and nutrition in the US – so much so that denouncing dairy is tantamount to condemning baseball and apple pie.
The loyalty to dairy is so steadfast, that I chose not to tackle it in my book just to avoid the resistance associated with denouncing it. In fact, many who have read the book have wondered, “Where does she talk about dairy?” Well, hold on to your hats, let’s wrangle this cow-subject now.
For decades, we have been told that drinking milk “Does a body good”. We have been beguiled into believing milk and dairy is the answer to everything from osteoporosis to sports recovery and replenishment.
The fact is that none of this is true. I know, I know it's like I just told you that you were found in the bushes and raised by coyotes. You may feel bewildered and betrayed. But stay with me for a bit and let’s go through some of the facts and current research on dairy.
Myth – Dairy builds bones. There is NO evidence that dairy products support bone health. In fact, research has shown that dairy does not improve bone integrity in children, does not prevent fractures and over consumption of diary may actually increase risk for osteoporosis.
Myth – Milk helps you lose weight. There is no evidence to support this claim and in fact some dairy products could encourage weight gain!
Myth – Cow’s milk is a perfect food. This is true for baby calves, not for humans – not even baby humans. In fact, human babies begin to lose the ability to digest even their own mother’s milk at about the age of three (much less cow’s milk), and some studies suggest that as much as 75% of the world’s population cannot digest milk properly.
Myth – Children need milk for overall health. We already mentioned that milk is not essential for developing bones, but the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine also states that milk consumption is correlated to colic and even Type I Diabetes.
More Dope on Dairy
Milk and Dairy Products...
- Can cause excess mucus and phlegm production, leading to sinus and bronchial problems
- Have been linked to cancers, specifically prostate, ovarian and breast cancers
- Are associated with Type 1 Diabetes in children
The Case for Calcium
We have been led to believe that we must have dairy to provide adequate amounts of calcium for our bones, teeth, and muscles. We have become so obsessed with calcium as a nation that we not only encourage consumption of dairy, but we also gobble down calcium supplements like candy.
We can actually overdose on calcium. No, it won’t show up like a heroin overdose. Instead, it happens gradually, and overtime, we develop some strange problem and no one would ever trace it back to a life of too much dairy/calcium.
When we have an imbalance of minerals caused by overdosing on calcium it can lead to the following:*
- Heart disease
- Kidney Stones
- Gall Stones
- Type 2 Diabetes
*The Calcium Lie by Dr. Robert Thompson
In my own life, I experienced a notable thyroid enlargement that when biopsied, turned out to be calcification!
What are the options?
According to Dr. Susan Brown, there are at least 20 key nutrients that need to be in balance in order to attain and maintain healthy bones. If bone health is your issue, I encourage you to click on the link above and check these out!
Aside from calcium, some of top nutrients in that list of 20 include:
Vitamin D: The best source is sunlight. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food, although it can be found in egg yolks, fish with bones, such as sardines and mackerel and beef liver. Vitamin D is receiving so much attention for overall health, that many physicians recommend supplementing with at least 2000 I.U. daily. Note: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin which can be toxic in large amounts over time. Ask your doctor to monitor your vitamin D levels at every visit.
Vitamin(s) K1 & K2: These two different types of vitamin K work synergistically with vitamin D to control calcium balance, strengthen bone, reduce fracture and reduce bone loss associated with menopause. Note that they are both considered vitamin K, but they are actually different substances and are not both found in the same food sources. Vitamin K1 is found is dark leafy greens like kale, collard greens, mustard greens etc. K2 is found in fermented products such as yogurt, sauerkraut and my favorite – natto! Natto is fermented soy beans. I was introduced to natto in Japan. It’s great for your bones, heart and circulation, but I have to tell you – it’s an acquired taste.. If you don’t eat many fermented foods, you may choose to supplement K2.
Magnesium: Magnesium makes our bones and teeth harder. It is necessary for a whole host of metabolic processes. With regard to bone health, magnesium is needed to make a hormone called calcitonin, which helps prevent bone loss. Magnesium is also necessary to convert vitamin D to its active, useful form. You can get magnesium in leafy greens, nuts, seeds and quinoa.
Zinc: You may not believe this, but bone begins as collagen. As calcium is laid down upon the collagen matrix, it becomes the solid thing we think of as bone. Zinc is needed to produce that collagen matrix. Zinc is also important for calcium absorption to the bone matrix as well as removing the old brittle bits of bone to make way for new bone to be laid down. Eat your zinc in oysters, meat, poultry, mushrooms and green vegetables.
Potassium: Potassium is famous for its role in relieving muscle cramps. The way it works for your muscle cramps is also why it is important for your bones. Potassium helps maintain the alkaline/acid balance in your body. Regarding your bones, when your body is more acidic, it will pull calcium from your bones to buffer that acid. Potassium helps maintain your body’s alkalinity and protect it from leaching calcium from your bones. Potassium is part of a delicious diet including avocado, sweet potato, greens and wild caught salmon.
These are just a handful of the nutrients found in Dr. Brown’s list of 20. But these may be some of the most important. The main thing I hope you will notice is that ALL OF THE NUTRIENTS in this list are available in a wide variety of healthful food – NONE of which is dairy.
The take away is that you can have beautiful, strong, healthy bones and muscles without a single drop of milk.
BUT WHAT IF…
What if I LOVE dairy and don’t want to give it up? My suggestion is to moderate how much milk you drink and to monitor the quality of your milk.
Some of the negative side effects from dairy are due to pasteurization as well as contaminants such as hormones and pesticides. Unfortunately, unless you own a cow, you can’t get unpasteurized milk in the US - BUT you can get unpasteurized cheeses!
If you are still buying milk, choose grass-fed, organic milk whenever possible.
Also, dairy products from goats and sheep are less egregious to your digestive system than cow dairy. If you really need that dairy-fix you can find goat and sheep yogurt, milk and raw cheeses.
If you can be happy with non-milk milk, try almond or cashew milk.
Ice cream? My favorite milk alternative is coconut milk ice cream. It’s creamy and delicious!
Just for fun (and your health of course!), try going dairy free for two weeks and see what happens. Pay attention to your sense of bloating, gas, skin clarity and energy levels. I don’t think you’ll regret it and you might just find a new, lighter you!
Until next time – be well,