The Controversial Dairy Deal
Your doctor and mass marketing tell you you need dairy for the calcium, to grow strong, healthy bones. It is close to being considered a criminal offense if you don’t feed it to your children. And then there is another view which adamantly claims that it is healthier for you to ditch the dairy. What to do? This post isn’t going to tell you what to do but will outline (simply) the main reasons against dairy as I’m sure you already have your reasons for drinking/eating it so that you have a little more information to make up your own mind and see what works best for you. I stopped drinking milk years ago and only eat cheese if it is served in a meal when invited to someone’s house. If I can choose not to eat it, I won’t (so if it’s on the cheese platter, I’ll politely pass). I do eat full fat organic butter (when I’m too lazy to make ghee) and splurge on the very occasional pot of kefir or greek yoghurt, so you can see that the comments and information below have not been written from any healthy high horse but are merely intended to give you the other side of the highly profitable dairy coin (which it really is – there are a lot of people sleeping with people in the dairy/governmental food department relationship, but that’s a post in itself).
Dairy = of cow milk origin. Baby cows drink their mother’s milk to grow big and strong. Just like human babies drink their mother’s milk for the first months, year, or so, of life. Why? Because that’s the absolute best nutrition for them in the early stages of life, to provide essential nutrients, pass on essential immune building bacteria and nurture the bond between mother and child. Breast milk is produced at birth and dries up once the baby stops suckling. Baby stops suckling = breast milk production stops = baby does not breast feed again, for the rest of their lives. Same goes for cows. Except a little bit different as cows have four stomachs to fill and they are not human, they are cows, with cow nutrient needs, so the udder milk they suckle is not the same as human milk.
Would you pour your child a big glass of human mother’s milk from a generous mum hooked up to a permanent milking machine? Would you pour a healthy portion of the same human mother’s milk on your morning cereal? Do you offer your guests a splash of the same human mother’s milk in their tea or coffee? No? But you will answer yes to all of the above with cow’s milk – another species? Another species with a different physiological make-up to that of humans? Let’s just take a second to think about that…(btw, apparently the animal with milk that most resembles human milk is that of a rat…carton of rat milk anyone?).
The science: Cow milk contains lactose (dairy sugar) which needs to be broken down by lactase so that we can digest it. We lose this enzyme by the time we are about 4 years old, at the latest. 70% of the world’s population are either intolerant (to lactose) or allergic (to the milk protein casein) to dairy. Dairy contains a high amount of protein (casein) which is hard for us to break down and actually leaches calcium from our bones (too high amounts of animal protein in general does that, dairy being one of the main offenders as it is a large part of our diet). Cow feed = high in protein = increased protein in cow milk = increased acidity in our bodies as we drink it as, again, high amounts of animal protein = acid forming in our body.
High dairy intake adds to the acidic load of a common diet rich in meat, gluten, coffee, alcohol, sugar and so calcium is leached from our bones to alkalise our internal environment to save our blood pH from tipping totally off-balance (our body is an amazing tool that really works for our benefit, every second of every day, despite what we put it through. But it can only buffer our abuses for so long). Calcium leached from bones = weaker bones = osteoporosis, arthritis etc. There goes the reasoning about drinking dairy to build strong bones.
So where do we get our calcium from if not from milk? Did you know that ¾ cup collard greens contains more calcium than 1 cup of milk? Other tasty sources are dark leafy greens – kale, cabbage, spinach, broccoli, sesame seeds (love that tahini!), beans, whole grains. Eat these as part of a well balanced diet and you’ll get a good fill of calcium. Sunshine doses of vitamin D + vitamin K from green leafy vege + vegetable sources of calcium = strong skeleton.
Constant sniffly, runny nose? Dairy is mucous producing and is the cause of many similar and far more serious chronic allergic reactions (skin issues, asthma, eczema, arthritis, indigestion, IBS – various digestive complaints, Crohns, low immunity, diabetes, autism, cancers etc and colic, eczema, breathing issues in babies and children) which the body develops in order to fight what it cannot assimilate. Mucous = produced for protection but = gooey so too much ends up clogging up our intestines = reduce nutrient absorption.
Commercial milk comes from cows that have been pumped with antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones and steroids to make them grow bigger and produce more milk. They have also been fed grains soaked in pesticides which of course also goes through to their milk. When you eat these animals or drink their milk, you are also ingesting all of this, for free (yummy). Not to mention the way that commercial dairy cows are treated…
Pasturising milk destroys the live enzymes which are required for the assimilation of various minerals. By heating it, the benefits from calcium in the milk therefore become less available and the proteins in it are denatured, making it harder for our bodies to break down. Pasturised milk = dead milk. By the way, calcium and Vitamin D are only found in the milk’s fat, so if you’re drinking the skimmed/low fat kind, you’re only getting ‘fortified vitamins and minerals’ and as these are no longer in their natural form, they are less available to us. Pasturisation makes milk acidic.
What are the alternatives? Well, either you simply change a habit and stop drinking cow’s milk and other products derived from it, or you can switch to almond/rice/quinoa/oat milk, or you could look into raw milk or goat’s milk. Raw milk has an alkaline effect on the body and contains its original nutritional value (although if the cows are fed more protein to increase milk production you have the same result as detailed above – acid forming). So it’s got be raw milk from grass fed cows. Proteins in goat’s milk are more similar to those in human milk (it is still goat’s milk, not human milk) so does not lead to the same allergenic reactions as it is easier for the body to digest, for most people.
The truth is, we consume far too much dairy produce, even simply reducing it will make a difference to your health. Or you might want to try going dairy free for 2 weeks and see the difference (that means cutting out milk, cheese, any products with whey or any form of milk powder). Note how your body feels; does it feel lighter? how is your digestion? any change in weight? your mucous production etc. Experiment, give it a go “…in any case, it should remain as a condiment rather than a major part of the dietary intake as it is for so many people today” – Gabriel Cousens I appreciate that this is a big topic and I have by no means covered every angle here, but I hope that I have given you a general outline to create more understanding so that you can make informed choices for your health and that of your family.
I know that there are many strong supporters of raw milk and I urge you to look into this further by yourselves if you are interested (see Sally Fallon). Any raw milk afficionados reading this blog post, please do share your experiences! Sources and reference: www.gerson.org Healing with Whole Foods – Paul Pitchford Conscious Eating – Gabriel Cousens Nourishing Traditions – Sally Fallon The China Study – T Colin Campbell & Thomas M Campbell II Crazy Sexy Diet – Cris Karr Skinny Bitch – Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin