There has been a lot of research published that suggests dairy products can cause serious health issues. From a clinical perspective, I see this in my practice all of the time.
People may have lactose intolerance issues causing them significant digestive problems, along with other allergies and intolerances. Lactose intolerance results from your body’s inability to digest the sugar lactose in dairy. This is due to a lack of the enzyme lactase. People – and even young children – may stop producing sufficient quantities of this enzyme.
As the amount of this lactase enzyme decreases, it becomes more difficult for people to digest dairy. This results in bloating, diarrhea, gas, and other issues. If the body is not able to break down this sugar, it triggers an immune response which can also create immune weakness, other sensitivities, along with the production of inflammation and mucus.
I also see a lot of clients having inflammation due to dairy allergies. Dairy is highly allergenic to many people because it contains a protein called A1 casein. Dairy foods are also quite acidic, which contributes to inflammation. It does this by reducing the amount of waste removed from the lymphatic system, which also causes irritation to the mucous membranes.
Mucus engulfs everything we ingest, even water. When you see it thick and cloudy, that means it has trapped toxins in it. This mucus creates an environment for bacteria, viruses, and fungi, especially between the mucus mass and the mucous membranes of the colon wall. These toxins can create inflammation as they try to bore through the tissues. The membranes then produce more mucus as a defense against this irritation to help protect the lining of the respiratory tract, as well as the digestive tract. The body also creates mucus as a natural defense against acids, as a way to bind them up and get them out of the body.
Most people find that dairy foods do, in fact, contribute to mucus production, along with a worsening of congestion when there are respiratory infections present.
When you talk about consuming the typical pasteurized dairy, the picture is even worse. Pasteurization turns the otherwise health-promoting alkaline drink into an acidic one. Having an acidic environment impacts any bone support you thought you were enjoying from all of that calcium! The process also destroys important digestive enzymes and probiotics.
Most dairy is also homogenized, another process which can lead to health issues. It can cause a weakened immune system, along with GI inflammation leading to leaky gut. When dairy is homogenized, the process creates free radicals, which are unstable oxygen molecules known to cause these health problems.
Cows are also often exposed to antibiotics and hormones. Since the milk that leaves the cows is a natural substance from a normal exit, it will also be releasing these same toxins.
Eliminating dairy completely can reduce all of these problems
Eliminating dairy can also decrease your risk of autoimmune disease, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
While some people may have a fondness for certain dairy products, such as ice cream, it's important to convey to your clients how dairy can have some side effects.
I’m here to tell you that there are tons of dairy substitutes available, so you can have a non-dairy milk mustache.
There are many nut, seed, and plant-based substitutes as well. There is almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk, flax milk, and others. In fact, Consumer Reports states that 21% of Americans report picking up dairy alternatives, and 15% also says they are buying less milk or none at all.
But what’s the best one for you? Here’s a short run-down on some of the top-selling substitutes.
But first, let me answer two questions that I get on the topic of dairy.
So explain to me again why dairy is problematic? Isn’t raw and organic OK?
Clients tell me that they are eating raw and organic dairy, so that is OK,right?
Well, I don’t feel that it is OK! Even raw and organic dairy contains the A1 casein. Casein is highly allergenic to many people. It contains peptides called caseomorphin that appear to act as a histamine releaser. Caseomorphin has also been implicated as a cancer promoter.
Non-dairy alternatives are widely available
There are many healthy and tasty alternatives to dairy. While these are available for purchase, the beauty of it is that you can make your own. Along with being less expensive, making your own ensures you know what is in it, and can avoid any scary additives:
- Fake, synthetic vitamins – which our bodies don’t recognize nor know how to process
- Carrageenan – a known toxin that causes inflammation in the body
- Unnecessary additives – oils, sweeteners
One of my own personal favorite non-dairy beverage is almond milk. I frequently make this at home because it is relatively easy to do. You can use cashews as well. It has that creamy texture that so many people who miss dairy milk will enjoy.
Almond milk contains a lot of Vitamin E. It has about 50% of the daily requirement in one cup. But note that it isn't a significant source of protein, nor does it have much in the way of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.
People having nut allergies might want to avoid almond milk.
Coconut milk is not the liquid found inside a cracked open coconut – that is coconut water. Instead, when you take the meat out of the coconut and blend it with the water, you produce coconut milk.
You can also make coconut milk using dry coconut shreds and water. I like to make coconut yogurt with my coconut milk. Yum!
Coconut milk is high in fat – about 5 grams of saturated fat per cup, along with 80 calories, so keep that in mind. The good news is since its fatty acids are mainly saturated fats, that will help you lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart problems. People with multiple allergies can often tolerate coconut milk. It also has 630 mg potassium per cup, so that's a plus.
You may have not heard of hemp milk, but it is a great alternative to dairy. Organic hemp milk is soy-free, nut-free, and gluten-free, and contains no sugars or cholesterol. It is produced from the seeds of the hemp plant. And, before you panic, it does not contain the chemical THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is found in marijuana. Much like fabrics and other products made with hemp, it is completely safe and legal. The plants and seeds, however, cannot currently be grown throughout the U.S., so the seeds are imported.
Hemp milk is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for heart and brain health, along with about 13% of your daily need for iron. It is slightly nutty, similar to almond milk. It also is a bit thicker than some of the non-dairy alternatives.
A little thin and sweet, you can rest assured of the sustainability of flax seeds. No genetically modified flax is currently grown anywhere in the world. High in fiber, flax milk is rich in alpha linoleic acids, which has been used to prevent and treat diseases of the heart and blood vessels. It is used to prevent heart attacks, lower high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reverse hardening of the blood vessels.
However, flax milk is low in protein, so it's not the best milk to help build your body.
Some people love rice milk. I am not one of them. Rice milk is quite thin for cooking, and I don’t like feeling like I have to add a thickening agent to use it. The extra carbs from the rice are also not really appreciated. Rice milk is low in protein, as well as not being a source of calcium or Vitamin D, unless it has been fortified.
The fact that rice milk has been tied to arsenic is very worrisome. There are studies showing trace amounts of arsenic in rice likely due to contaminants finding their way into the groundwater.
Since there are other great options I recommend staying clear of rice milk.
The last substitute I will talk about is soy milk. I am not a big proponent of soy milk due to two things.
First, most soy is GMO- like some 90% or so. You can read about the suspected health effects of GMOs in this Environmental Working Group (EWG) Guide. That basically kills off the beneficial bacteria in your gut, as well as introducing a myriad of toxins into your body.
Second, soy contains phytoestrogens, which can cause hormonal changes in both men and woman. Studies on this have shown that phytoestrogens mimic real estrogen, so in men you can get feminine characteristics popping up. For women, this means an increase in breast cancer risk as well as an increase in other diseases such as PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). In addition, a review published in 2014 in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine revealed that soy might negatively impact fertility in men.
Soy milk, along with other soy isolates, often contain denatured proteins and/or isolated proteins without the necessary nutrient cofactors of digestion and metabolism; thus they generally do not promote enduring health.
It is high in protein, probably the closest to cow dairy in that regard. But I just don’t like what I’ve seen in the research journals about its potential links with a variety of cancers and impacts to people’s hormones.
Final thoughts on living the dairy-free life!
In an earlier blog, I wrote a few paragraphs that I felt were worth repeating again here:
My personal opinion based on over 25 years of research and clinical application is that dairy products are not a good idea for humans.
I strongly believe that species specific milk is an ideal food for infants of that species. Species specific milk is ideally suited for the physical and brain development of that species. Drinking milk of any species after weaning is a bad idea.
In nature we rarely see cross species milk consumption. Usually this happens only in the rare case of when a nursing mother animal takes on the care of an animal whose mother has been killed.
Animals in nature do not drink milk after weaning.
Research has shown that casein, the primary protein in cow’s milk, effects human growth. Feeding cow’s milk to human babies causes their bodies to grow rapidly and their brains to grow more slowly.
Humans do not digest dairy well after weaning. It is inflammatory and highly allergic.
There are healthy alternatives.
For this reason, I typically recommend that my clients stop all dairy as part of any initial protocol that I work with them on. Try it yourself, and you will likely notice an improvement in how you feel!
(The Milk Mustache Book cover graphic courtesy amazon.com)