Dairy has long been considered a nutritious food in the American diet. It has been promoted to reduce bone fractures, strengthen teeth, and help speed up your metabolism. Upon closer examination though, dairy turns out to be bad for your health.
What is Dairy?
Dairy is a natural food produced by cows to feed and fatten up their calves. Humans did not start drinking milk and eating dairy until the agricultural revolution about 10,000 years ago. In fact, humans are the only species that drink the milk from other animals into adulthood.
Are Dairy Products Bad for You?
Dairy is heavily marketed for bone health due to its high calcium content. Calcium is the main mineral used by the body to grow and strengthen the bones; however, bones also need other nutrients such as Vitamin D and Vitamin K to do repair work and growth.
While calcium can help prevent bone fractures, research is now showing that too much dairy can actually contribute to weakened bones! A study conducted in Sweden revealed that high milk consumption was associated with high rates of death and fractures.
More recently, full-fat milk is being promoted to help your metabolism, thereby helping you to lose weight. Sounds good, right? Yet some studies have linked dairy to acne and Type 2 diabetes because it stimulates the body’s release of insulin and the protein IGF-1. These increased levels have also been linked to breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer, among others.
Dairy contains lactose, a carbohydrate made up of two simple sugars. Roughly 75% of the world’s adults have lactose intolerance, which means they cannot break this carbohydrate down. This condition creates a lot of unpleasant symptoms – from abdominal gas and bloating to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Dairy Allergy and Your Digestion
Some people can have a problem with other components in the milk like whey or protein. A food intolerance or allergy can cause the lining of the intestines to become inflamed and loosen up, causing leaky gut syndrome. This is especially important as the undigested food, feces, and other materials seep through the gut into the bloodstream. When this happens, antibodies are created which lead to later attacks on the body’s tissues.
Dairy and Autoimmune Disease
Yes. Dairy can worsen the symptoms of people who have autoimmune diseases. When patients with rheumatoid arthritis remove dairy from their diets, they can have less pain; this is because casein, a milk protein, causes inflammation in the joints.
Dairy products are the top source of saturated fat and cholesterol in the American diet. These substances can lead to high cholesterol and serious health problems such as heart disease and strokes.
What is Actually in Milk and Dairy Products?
Conventional dairy products are full of added hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. Synthetic hormones such as recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) are given to cows to boost milk production. Antibiotics are frequently used to treat udder infections, and some of these pass through to the milk. What also passes through to the milk? Pus from those infections.
Common toxins found in milk include pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, aflatoxins, and melamine. These toxins can build up in the body and harm the kidneys and the urinary tract, as well as the immune, nervous, and reproductive systems.
How Eastern Medicine Views Dairy
In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), dairy products are seen as phlegm producers. This makes sense when you think of how eating or drinking dairy makes phlegm worse when you have a head cold.
Phlegm is considered a pathological build up of fluids that can produce visible and invisible phlegm. Visible, or external, phlegm is the excess fluids such as sputum. Invisible phlegm results from a disruption in the body’s fluid metabolism. These imbalances can lead to internal disorders and diseases in the body. In TCM to dissolve phlegm one needs to check on the lung and spleen organs to see what needs to be balanced. When the lung and spleen systems are properly functioning we can properly dissolve phlegm.
What to Do Now?
There are better ways to meet your nutritional requirements and they start by looking at what you are putting on your plate. Aim for a diet rich in whole foods such as lean meats, fish, whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits.
Strengthen your bones by eating green vegetables such as kale and broccoli; they are good sources of calcium and Vitamin K. Spend about 10-20 minutes out in the sun each day to get Vitamin D. You can also get Vitamin D through fortified bread, orange juice, and cereals, and high-quality supplements.
Are you a milk lover? The demand for non-dairy milks has exploded in recent years. More people have food allergies and intolerances, and there has also been an increase in vegans and vegetarians who demand milk alternatives. Thankfully there are many non-dairy options these days to choose from, including almond, oat, soy, coconut, hemp, flax, macadamia, and cashew milks.
If you absolutely cannot give up or avoid dairy, then try to be smart regarding your dairy options. Choose hormone-free (rBGH free) milk and opt for grass-fed butter whenever possible. The dairy from cows that are grass-fed have more of the healthy omega 3 fatty acids and more conjugated lineolic acid (CLA) than grain-fed cows.
Be aware that how the milk is processed can also change the nutritional composition of milk as well. While low fat and skim milk contain less fat and vitamins, they contain more sugar to make up for the lack of taste.
Want help with your choices? At Wellnest Acupuncture + Holistic Medicine we know that changing your diet or giving up some beloved foods can be a little sad or scary. Fortunately, we can make your transition to a reduced or dairy-free life easier! We can also use acupuncture and Chinese herbs to help the body function better and reduce or resolve any phlegm issues. Improve your health and nutrition by giving us a call or scheduling your appointment today.