Does milk really do a body good?

As far back as I can remember, milk has been billed as a staple in the American diet. When I was growing up, milk was served at snack time in school and we were all expected to drink it. Very few of us questioned why or if it was even beneficial. I want to be clear about the type of dairy products I am talking about in this article. I am referring to processed (pasteurized, homogenized) non-raw, non-fermented cow milk and cow milk products that you find in your grocery store’s cooler.

Often when I question a client about their dairy intake I am often met with surprise that I should even question the value of this American staple. I often get the response “but how will I get my calcium?” And, clients often tell me that they LOVE milk and cheese almost to the point of addiction (more on that later) and could not imagine giving those foods up.

So, why is dairy hard to give up?

It’s hard to give up because it is actually addictive. Dairy contains a protein called casein which forms casomorphin (sounds like morphine right?) in our stomachs. Casomorphins are a kind of opiate (like heroin or oxycodone) and are therefore addictive. For those of you who can’t “live” without your dairy products you might want to consider that this may be a reason why. Mother’s milk, by the way, also contains these opiates but in much lower quantities. And, like codeine, heroin or oxycodone casomophins slow down digestion which can cause constipation. Yes, the lactose in milk can cause diarrhea but this hardly an effective way to manage your digestive system.

And, here are some other issues to consider:

  • Dairy, even in small amounts, is highly inflammatory. A study published in 2015 in the The Journal of Nutrition found that eating dairy foods increased low-grade inflammation. Chronic low-grade inflammation is associated with numerous diseases and not something that we want to cultivate.
  • Over 60% of individuals are on the spectrum of lactose (the sugar found in milk) sensitivity. You might be one of them and not even realize it.
  • Besides its addictive qualities,  casein has other issues associated with it  – many people are sensitive to casein and, casein intake has been linked to cancer.
  • Dairy is linked to hormonal illnesses like acne, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
  • Most cow’s milk and cow’s milk products like cheese, ice cream and yogurt has measurable quantities of herbicides, pesticides, dioxins (up to 200 times the safe levels), up to 52 powerful antibiotics…even organic.

What about calcium?

Many of us grew up with the idea that we need milk to build strong bones because of the calcium found in milk. This notion is now being highly debunked. In fact, we don’t absorb much of the calcium in our dairy products and, to add insult to injury, dairy products can actually contribute to bone loss. This spells trouble for all of us but especially those prone to osteoporosis (bone loss) or osteopenia (a precursor for osteoporosis).

If you are concerned about calcium intake, there are many foods rich in calcium like almonds, basil, leafy greens (like collards, broccoli, watercress, bok choy and kale), sardines (with bone), lentils and white beans. One cup of cooked kale has 266 mg of calcium (almost as much as milk with 305 mg without all of the issues associated with milk). Spinach is often touted as a great source and it does has calcium but spinach is also very high in oxalates which actually binds calcium and may make it unavailable for use by your body.

Why not try avoiding dairy for a few days and see what happens?

I hear stories from clients on a regular basis who say that removing dairy from their diet made a huge difference in their skin, their energy and their mood. Why not try it for a week and see what happens?

Does this mean you should never enjoy dairy again?

I don’t believe so (unless it causes you major gastric suffering). I’ve been known to indulge in some frozen yogurt or good aged cheddar cheese on occasion. Like anything else, it’s about educating yourself and making intelligent choices.