Part 2: More reasons to just say NO

In part 1 of this post, we discussed the myths surrounding dairy. For years we have been told that drinking milk will build strong bones and protect us from osteoporosis later in life. However, it seems that this is the opposite of the truth. More and more research is now saying that increased dairy and animal protein consumption leads to inflammation and a shift in the pH balance in the body causing net calcium loss.

But for many, this will not be enough to convince them to give up dairy. As an intern I have noticed that the number one food group I have difficulty getting people to let go of is dairy, specifically cheese. I have heard time and time again phrases such as “I could never be a vegan because I could never give up cheese,” or “oh, I could never have an allergy to cheese. I love cheese!” Cheese is particularly addicting because it contains high amounts of compounds that function in the body much like morphine, or opiates. These are found in other dairy products but seem to be more concentrated in cheese [1]. An example is a by-product of the breakdown of casein, caseomorphin. A similar opiate is found in gluten containing grains called gluteomorphin. This is why when some people go to a gluten and casein free diet they go through withdrawal symptoms- They’re not crazy; they are actually addicted! It is important to know, however, that it is critical to get these people off gluten and casein, even if they feel better “on” the stuff in the beginning.

Okay, now to get on with more reasons to just say NO to dairy!

1. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body no longer makes the enzyme lactase and can no longer break down the sugar in milk (lactose). This differs from casein intolerance, when there is an immune reaction to the protein in milk (casein). Worldwide, it is estimated that 3/4 of the population does not produce lactase after childhood. This percentage varies between ethnic groups, being about 90% in those of Asian decent, 75% in those of African decent, and as low as 7% in some Northern European countries [1]. While these numbers may come as a shock to some, I’m not surprised at all! Mammals live off their mother’s milk in their infancy, but after that they function as adult animals independent of their mother’s nourishment. There is no evolutionary reason why we would need to be able to digest milk after early childhood, so why do we continue to try? Milk nourishes us when we are in our most rapid stage of growth, but after childhood most of us don’t want to keep growing that fast!

2. Casein intolerance, much like gluten intolerance, is becoming all the more common today. These two food intolerance are the most common in western society and perhaps the most devastating to the immune system. Unlike food allergies (anaphylaxis), which are caused by an immediate IgE response, food intolerances (such as those to gluten and casein) are mediated by IgG and IgM. These “delayed hypersensitivities” are much more difficult to catch without blood work because the effects of ingesting the food may not be felt until days later when the immune system has had time to fully respond. If you eat these foods on a regular basis it becomes extremely difficult to asses whether or not your symptoms are coming from a food. That is why I recommend two things to my patients: a food elimination diet and blood work to rule out the presence of a delayed hypersensitivity.

3. Increased risk of cancer is another serious risk associate with ingestion of dairy products. Perhaps this is due to the contamination of dairy with hormones, as they hypothesis for the link between breast cancer and dairy consumption [1]. Perhaps it is due to the inflammation that dairy may contribute to. In either case, the risk is very real. Dairy has been associated with breast cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer, to name a few [1]. In one meta-analysis that reviewed 21 studies, the researchers found that for every 10 grams of lactose the women ingested their risk for ovarian cancer increased by 13% [2].

4. Contamination with a variety of hormones, drugs, pesticides, and other chemicals is a very real concern surrounding meat and dairy products.. But milk seems to be the worst culprit. This is largely due to a process called biomagnification in which the concentration of a compound increases as it moves up the food chain (i.e. grass to cows to humans). This may be due to the long half-life of many of these compounds in the body. The cow’s body simply can’t get rid of the toxins faster than they are given to them, and they end up getting stored. Water soluble compounds hang out in the blood, get filtered by the kidneys, and are eventually passed into the urine for excretion. Fat soluble compounds, however, can not stay in the blood stream for too long and get readily deposited in the animal’s fat stores. Since milk has such a high concentration of fat, it is thought that many of these compounds end up in the milk [1], which may explain why dairy is the chemical-soup that it is!

5. Not only do we have to worry about chemicals and drugs ending up in milk, but there is the oh-so nauseating reality that dairy contains puss. Yes, that stuff that oozes from infected wounds, puss. The legal limit of puss cells (somatic cells) in milk is 750,000 cells per milliliter. Furthermore, it is actually perfectly legal to sell milk from sick cows, so long as that somatic cell count (SCC) does not exceed 750,000 [1]. If the animal who produced the milk is not in good health, what kind of properties do you think that food takes on?

6. Another good point I read recently comes from a form of medicine that has been around for millennia- Ayurveda. In this blog post, the author talks about how dairy is thought to lead to the accumulation of ama, or toxins in aryuvedic medicine. This toxic waste slows the bodies ability to detoxify and heal and is thought to be a contributor to many diseases.

7. Lastly, I would like to take a stand for the cows. Now, I’m not one of those crazy vegetarians that tries to convince you to put down your hamburger by telling you graphic stories when we’re at a restaurant. However, I will say this while I have the opportunity: The cows that produce the milk and meat in most grocery stores are horrendously mistreated for their entire lives. If you want to eat dairy, go ahead. But please consider investing a little more in dairy products that came from real happy cows who were given plenty of grass and sunshine. Not only will you be voting with your fork and supporting the humane treatment of these animals, but the products will be better for you too.

Up next: First steps to getting off dairy

In health,


More reading:

[1] Joseph Keon “Whitewash the disturbing truth about cow’s milk and your health” 2010
[2] Larsson, SC “Milk, milk products, and lactose intake and ovarian cancer risk: a meta-analysis of epidemiological studies” Intern J of Cancer 118 (2006): 431-41

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