My 13-year-old son was in health class this week when the teacher started expounding the virtues of drinking milk. Well, my son felt he should challenge that notion and decided that he would tell his teacher that his mom has taken them off of dairy of any kind. The teacher of course asked him to explain why and surprisingly my son made a convincing case against dairy. They actually do listen to you! He did such a good job the teacher was speechless and decided it was best they move on to another topic. This got me thinking! The more we can educate ourselves and friends and families about the dangers involved with dairy perhaps one day teachers and other influential people will change what they teach. Small steps lead to great change so start with your small circle and who knows! Here are a few reasons why we should eliminate dairy from our diets. If you desire to learn more on this topic the book Whitewash by Joseph Keon was the source of this information and is a fascinating look into the dairy industry.
- Dairy promotes acne. Cow's milk is loaded with naturally occurring hormones like progesterone, Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1) and testosterone. Hormones like progesterone break down into an androgen that activates sebum (a waxy-like substance). The sebum hardens and blocks the pores resulting in acne. To make things worse, the dairy industry in the U.S. artificially inseminates dairy cows soon after giving birth to maintain high milk production which cause a further increase in hormone levels. Hormones like IGF-1 normally peak in our bodies between the ages of 13-15 and then begins to wane as we age hence the prevalence of acne in our teenage years. However, the dairy industry breeds cows with high IGF-1 in order to maintain high milk production. That means that we are exposed to abnormally high levels of IGF-1 when we drink milk and therefore are prone to acne.
- More people are allergic to dairy than we realize. A cow's milk allergy has been implicated as the causal factor in many conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn's disease, chronic nasal congestion, fatigue, depression, chronic migraines and arthritis. There are 30 proteins in milk that can be the cause of an allergic reaction. An allergy can manifest itself immediately or can be seen as much as 72 hours after the exposure so sometimes the link between ingestion of dairy and symptoms is not obvious. Symptoms include rash, hives, wheezing, diarrhea, constipation , vomiting, watery eyes, runny nose, earaches and ear infection, headaches, asthma and inability to focus to name just a few. This is not to be confused with lactose intolerance which is a deficiency in the enzyme lactase. This enzyme breaks down lactose ( a sugar found in milk). The reaction to lactose intolerance is largely gastrointestinal with symptoms ranging from cramping to chronic diarrhea. Both allergy and lactose intolerance can be debilitating and cause us to poorly absorb nutrients.
- Milk was found to have the highest statistical association with heart- disease risk as that of any other food. Two risk factors for heart disease are excessive dietary intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. Milk is high in both! Most of us know to stay away from full fat milk but the reality is that even 2% milk has too much fat. People erroneously believe that 2% milk is 2% fat but that is not the case because 2% milk still gets 34% of its calories from fat. It is 2% fat by weight only. However, not only does milk contain artery clogging fat, the consumption of large amounts of dairy products crowds out the ingestion of other health promoting foods that are rich in anti-oxidants and phytochemicals.
- Research points to an increased risk of cancer with cow's milk consumption. One reason may be that when we eat fatty foods we displace more health promoting foods. Another reason may that we are exposed to a whole host of naturally occurring and synthetic hormones, growth factors and potential carcinogens like pesticides that tend to accumulate in animal fat and therefore show up in more concentrated forms in milk. Lastly, the increased consumption of the protein casein, found in milk, has been associated with an increased likelihood of developing cancer.
- Cow's milk contains a very different nutritional profile than that of breast milk. Cow's milk contains excessive amounts of protein, sodium, calcium and phosphorus and is deficient in the essential fatty acids required for adequate brain development in the early years of life. No other species drinks another species' milk than humans. After all, where do cows get their calcium? They get it from grass not from another species' milk.
- Drinking cow's milk has been implicated in several childhood conditions. These include attention deficit disorder, asthma, and autism. The causes are complex and varied but a reversal or lessening of symptoms is often seen in children that are placed on a dairy free/casein free diet.
The two most commonly asked questions after I mention cutting dairy out of one's diet are
- What about organic dairy?
- How am I possibly going to get all the calcium I need?
The answer to question one is that even organic milk is full of naturally occurring hormones and growth factors. Furthermore, the fact that it is organic doesn't change the fact that it is still high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Organic or not, consuming milk still poses a lot of risk. The answer to question two is that getting the calcium you need is quite simple. Calcium is found abundantly in foods like oranges, bok choy, sesame and chia seeds, kale, almonds, oatmeal and cereals fortified with calcium. If cutting dairy completely scares you then try cutting it out a day or two a week and increase the number of days each week as you feel comfortable. The goal is to go dairy free completely! Your body will thank you for it!