Dairy Friend or Foe?

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The purpose of today’s blog post is to try and clear up the confusion on consuming dairy once and for all. Many of you who read my blog will be aware that I don’t eat dairy for many reasons. Unless you have an intolerance, then like anything it is a personal choice whether or not to consume dairy produce. However, in my eyes there are many compelling reasons as to why you should avoid it like the plague!

Firstly I would like to start by saying that a baby calf only drinks its Mothers milk for the first few weeks of its life, to provide it with all the necessary growth factors to turn it in to a big strong cow. After these first few weeks, it goes on to eat grass and the milk is forgotten about and never to be consumed again. However, us humans not only drink the milk of another species which wasn’t designed for us, but we continue drinking it through our entire lives. Clearly something that wasn’t intended by nature as breast milk is only produced until it is no longer required for the infant. It’s important to bear in mind that mother’s milk is excellent nourishment for human babies, but its composition is very different from cow’s milk. This is why the farmers have to pump their livestock with hormones and growth factors in order to artificially make the cows produce milk continuously when they naturally wouldn’t do so, also to make them grow faster and bigger. They also pump them up with antibiotics which are used to protect the animals from unsanitary living conditions and to prevent them from developing udder infections.

And yes you guessed it, all of the nasty stuff that is pumped in to the cow, ends up in the milk which ends up in you…. Mmm lovely!

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It is no wonder that children are starting life with weakened immune systems and going on to develop autoimmune diseases and IBS at a young age with all the antibiotics that are passed on from the diary that they are so religiously fed. As you are probably aware antibiotics kill off not only the bad soldiers but also the good soldiers. The good soldiers being the friendly bacteria within our guts that make up 70% of our immune system. If we strip this down by using antibiotics frequently or consuming them through our food then this very quickly starts to have a detrimental effect on our gut microflora and consequently our immune systems.

You cannot blame any parent for feeding their children excessive amounts of dairy because of the clever milk marketing campaigns that were put in to action in order to stimulate and increase dairy farmers sales and profits. The marketing was cleverly executed with an emphasis on children’s bone health, making parents all over the world buy in to the dairy industry. Based on the fact that dairy was the best source of calcium necessary for the growth and development of children.

But lets look at the whole picture. Firstly calcium needs to work in synergy with other vitamins and minerals in order to actually be absorbed and hence have a positive effect on bone health. The body requires vitamin D3, magnesium, vitamin K2, boron, zinc and manganese AND calcium. Milk does not contain all of these necessary nutrients apart from calcium, so is it even being properly absorbed? I doubt it. There are many other foods that contain a more broad spectrum of these nutrients, kale for example.

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Furthermore, milk is not the healthy bone-builder that governments and the dairy industry have led us to believe. The dairy and bone health link is one of the most pervasive milk myths. One large-scale Harvard study followed 72,000 women for two decades and found no evidence that drinking milk can prevent bone fractures or osteoporosis. Another study of more than 96,000 people found that the more milk men consumed as teenagers, the more bone fractures they experience as adults. Similarly, another study found that adolescent girls who consumed the most calcium, mostly in the form of dairy products, were at greater risk for stress fractures than those consuming less calcium

“Consumption of dairy products, particularly at age 20 years, was associated with an increased risk of hip fracture in old age. (“Case-Control Study of Risk Factors for Hip Fractures in the Elderly”. American Journal of Epidemiology. Vol. 139, No. 5, 1994).

This could be due to the fact that milk is actually highly acidic and inflammatory on the body. The most surprising thing is that not only do we barely absorb the calcium in cow’s milk (especially if pasteurised), but to make matters worse, due to the acidity of milk, it actually increases calcium loss from the bones. What an irony this is!

Here’s how it happens. Like all animal protein, milk acidifies the body’s pH which in turn triggers a biological correction. You see, calcium is an excellent acid neutraliser and the biggest storage of calcium in the body is – you guessed it… in the bones. So the very same calcium that our bones need to stay strong is utilised to counteract the acidifying effect of milk. The calcium acts as a buffer to bring the PH of the blood back within its tightly controlled range. Once calcium is pulled out of the bones, it leaves the body via the urine, so that the surprising net result after this is an actual calcium deficit.

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Knowing this, you’ll understand why statistics show that countries with the lowest consumption of dairy products also have the lowest fracture incidence in their population. Again such irony!

Because it has been drilled in to us that we must consume dairy to prevent osteoporosis, people nowadays are consuming way too much dairy. For the majority of people they start the day by pouring milk over cereal in the mornings, spreading butter in to a cheese sandwich at lunch, grating cheese on to an evening meal, consuming ice-cream or yoghurt for dessert, all washed down with several cups of milky tea and coffee throughout the day. Now, there can be problems when intake of calcium gets too high as well. Excess calcium can deposit in places where it doesn’t belong, including blood vessels, causing heart disease and the kidneys, causing kidney stones. Yet the dairy industry and their marketing campaigns failed to tell us this part didn’t they!

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to eat dairy foods to get the calcium you need in your diet. Calcium is provided by a wide variety of foods, and in order to get 1,000 milligrams per day (the Dietary Reference Intake, or DRI for women and men 19-50 years of age), you don’t need cow’s milk, yogurt, cheese or butter. Consider some of the following examples:

  • 3.2 ounces of sardines contains more than 340 milligrams of calcium, about 2.5 times that of 4 ounces of cow’s milk.
  • 1 cup of steamed collard greens and 1 cup of cow’s milk are nearly identical in terms of calcium (with collards providing 266 milligrams and cow’s milk providing 276 milligrams)
  • 100 calories worth of spinach provides you with twice as much calcium as 100 calories worth of yogurt
  • 4 ounces of tofu, 2 TBS of sesame seeds, 1.5 cups of steamed collard greens, and 4 ounces of scallops provide you with 1,100 milligrams of calcium, or 110% DV. At the same time, these four foods only use up 394 calories

As you can see from the examples above, many non-dairy foods can provide you with substantial amounts of calcium. Exceptional superstars are green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, and kale. Many fish and shellfish—including scallops and sardines also provide concentrated amounts of calcium. Other non-dairy foods for boosting your calcium intake are almonds, sesame seeds and tofu. Try almond milk on your cereal instead of cows milk or in a latte and I promise you are going to love it!

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If you are not already sold on a dairy free lifestyle then a few other negative impacts of consuming dairy that I should like to point out to you include the high levels of growth factors that are in milk (mainly IGF-1). These are great if you want to get a little calf in to a big fat cow in record time, however for us humans this is not such a great idea. Especially seeing as it is now estimated that one in two of us will develop cancer in our lives, and presuming we have a few rogue cancer cells floating around in our body, do we really want to be bombarding ourselves with growth factor multiple times per day, causing those immature cells to become full blown aggressive tumours in no time at all. I think not! Therefore anyone who is currently suffering with cancer, has had it in the past, who has a family history of cancer or wants to avoid getting cancer in the first place should absolutely without a doubt eliminate dairy from their lives.

Secondly, as mentioned, dairy and milk are highly acid forming and inflammatory. This means that they aggravate any sort of inflammatory condition, including things like Rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune thyroid diseases, Alopecia, Psoriasis etc. Because dairy is so inflammatory it is also linked with many skin complaints such as acne, blemishes and spots and once dairy has been eliminated from the diet the skin often clears up within a couple of weeks. Dairy is also very mucus forming and should therefore be avoided for anyone suffering with any chest complaints, or similarly any IBS symptoms. It is estimated that about 60% of the population in the UK are lactose intolerant to some degree, therefore removing dairy from the diet will alleviate many of the symptoms of this intolerance.

Thirdly, avoidance of dairy is prudent in any hormonal imbalance condition or anyone experiencing fertility issues due to the amount of oestrogen found in dairy products, as you can imagine it is not wise to add to the free circulating oestrogen load. Especially with all of the links to oestrogen dominance and cancer.

There are so many wonderful alternatives out there now for dairy that cutting it out won’t feel like an issue at all. I don’t eat dairy as I myself am intolerant to it and even if I wasn’t I would choose not to consume it anyway.

I now consume a variety of delicious alternative milks including almond, coconut, rice and oat. They all go really nicely in porridge and in most other things that call for milk. I particularly love ‘Rude Healths’milks because they are organic, and they don’t contain any nasty emulsifiers or thickeners that some other brands do. Watch out for ‘Carageenan’ being on any of the ingredient lists as a thickener as this is a suspected carcinogen and an irritant to the lining of the gut.

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We are so lucky now a days that there are lots of delicious dairy free yoghurts out there too, I love the ones that are made from coconut milk such as coconut collaborative/ COYO / KoKo. There are a lot of soy based ones out there that I tend to avoid as the majority of soy nowadays is genetically modified. Soy is also an antagonist of the thyroid gland, causing it to slow down your metabolism which is not ideal! These same brands do a great range of dairy free ice-creams too, and if you’re not a huge fan of coconut then there are ones made out of almonds, cashews, avocados etc!

And if you’re like me and like a bit of melted cheese on top of (gluten free) pizza and pasta occasionally then there are a wide variety of dairy free cheeses out there too. I particularly like the ‘Violife’ brand as they have loads of yummy flavours and taste very similar to normal cheese.

So if you want to be pro-active in preventing osteoporosis, IBS, heart disease, cancer and skin complaints then I seriously recommend saying goodbye to dairy for good. There is a lot of good research out there so I urge you to do some for yourself and think twice about feeding your children and loved ones dairy in the future.

I hope this post has enlightened you to the dangers of consuming dairy and left you feeling inspired to make changes in your life.