Dairy has been both glorified and demonized a lot in the last decade, earning a number of labels including “inflammatory,” “mucus producing,” and “fattening.” But is it really an issue with dairy, or does the problem really lie in the body you’re putting it into? How can a natural, whole food that has nourished generations be so problematic?
-Most (not all dairy) comes from unhealthy factory farm cattle. This often means the cow was fed an un-natural diet, not allowed free movement, given very little sunlight, and treated with antibiotics and hormones. All these factors can make the milk MORE allergenic and LESS friendly to your body.
-Added vitamins: Reduced fat/fat free milk requires synthetic vitamins to be added back in (since vitamins A and D are found in the fat of the milk). “Milk with reduced fat content is required by US law to have vitamins D and A added. The vehicle used in the vitamin preparation, and the industrial contaminants in the “pure” vitamins themselves, are possible sources of allergens in commercial milk, so whole milk is the most likely to be free of allergens.” Dr. Ray Peat, PhD.
–Other additives: Some brands also contain additives and gums (carrageenan, etc.) that are known to cause GI irritation.
-People whom have hormonal imbalance (progesterone deficiency/excess estrogen, hyper-insulinemia, or hypo-metabolic) will actually LOSE the ability to produce lactose (the enzyme needed to digest the sugar in milk). This can produce symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and more severe distress for some- such as a “shards of glass” feeling in the intestines. Not fun.
“People who have told me that they have had digestive problems with milk have sometimes found that a different brand of milk doesn’t cause any problem.” Dr. Ray Peat, PhD.
Benefits of dairy:
Dairy is a true nutritional powerhouse. What other food gives you protein, carbohydrates, and fat in one single food (that is easy to use and requires NO cooking)?
-Milk contains very high-quality protein that is VERY easily digested
-Contains low levels of unsaturated fats (PUFA) and iron (iron build up in the body causes inflammation)
-Dairy is high in calcium and can have a significant “anti-stress” effect on the body (maybe a hint to why stress can trigger ice cream cravings?). “The parathyroid hormone (PTH) is an important regulator of calcium metabolism. If dietary calcium isn’t sufficient, causing blood calcium to decrease, the PTH increases, and removes calcium from bones to maintain a normal amount in the blood. PTH has many other effects, contributing to inflammation, calcification of soft tissues, and decreased respiratory energy production.” Dr. Ray Peat, PhD.
Tips for incorporating (if you are sensitive):
-If you are very sensitive to dairy, you probably need to eliminate for a period of time while you work on strengthening your digestive environment. Often after working with a nutritionist, you can re-introduce after a period of time without issues (this often can take up to 6-10months).
-Give raw goat milk a try. It is easier to digest than cow, and the lactose is easier on your stomach than the lactose from cows.
-Try aged goat cheeses, and aged cow cheeses (such as Parmesan), which have virtually zero lactose. The longer the cheese is aged, the less lactose.
-Try homemade kefir, lactose-free yogurt, sour cream, or lactose-free cottage cheese to get the nutritional benefits without the digestive distress.
-Try introducing a small amount of milk (1-2 oz/day) for a few weeks and slowly increase. “When a group of lactase deficient people have been given some milk every day for a few weeks, they have adapted, for example with tests showing that much less hydrogen gas was produced from lactose by intestinal bacteria after they had adapted (Pribila, et al., 2000).” Dr. Ray Peat, PhD.