“We don’t need a law against McDonald’s or a law against slaughterhouse abuse – we ask for too much salvation by legislation. All we need to do is empower individuals with the right philosophy and the right information to opt out en masse.”
If you pay attention to popular media, you must have come across news that says consuming dairy is bad for you. When doing some research, here’s just a few (of many) headlines that I came across:
When Milk Does a Body Bad
Dangers of Cow Milk
Reasons to Avoid Dairy at All Costs
Negative Effects of Dairy Products
Ways Dairy is Making You Sick
… and so many more!
Are all of these headlines true, or just some more nutrition Fake News? Have you ever cut out dairy thinking it was “bad” for you? More importantly, how do you know if dairy really is bad for you?
Unlike many others in the wellness industry, I don’t take a black-and-white approach to the consumption of dairy. While every client has their own unique profile, here are some general things to consider when it comes to consuming dairy, and how to know if you should cut it out of your diet.
If you follow my newsletters and blogs, you should know by now that I am a “qualitarian.” I believe that most often than not, its the quality of the food (where it comes from, how it is/isn’t processed) that has a bigger impact on your health than simply the food itself. For example, if you’re consuming dairy from conventionally/industrially-raised cows and its causing you to experience symptoms of inflammation, then switch to omega-3 rich grass-fed dairy and see if that helps. I’ve recommended to clients to switch from conventional dairy products to artisanal grass fed cheeses, yogurt and milk and in doing so, many saw unwanted reactions go away.
Remember: You are what you eat, but you are also what you eat – eats.
The issue of “Lactose Intolerance”
When you suffer from lactose intolerance, then grass-fed dairy won’t help you. Those who are truly lactose intolerant know very well that almost all dairy is a problem, although some can handle butter, ghee and even some kind of cheeses. In Animal, Vegetable Miracle: A year of Food Life the writer and author Barbara Kingsolver defines lactose intolerance as an “inherited condition in which a person’s gut loses, after childhood, its ability to digest the milk sugar called lactose.”
So why can some digest it and others can’t? Kingsolver explains:
“Over thousands of years of history, a few isolated populations developed intimate relationships with their domestic animals and a genetic mutation gave them a peculiar new adaptation: They kept their their lactose-digesting enzymes past childhood. Geneticist have confirmed that milk-drinking adults are the exception to the norm, identifying deviant gene on the second chromosome that causes lactase persistence. This relatively recent mutation occurred about ten thousand years ago, soon after humans began to domesticate milk-producing animals. The gene rapidly increased in these herding populations because of the unique advantage it conferred, allowing them to breast-feed for life from another species.”
Please note that culture and ancestry has been shown to impact our ability to digest lactose. Most Northern European cultures have little difficulty digesting lactose because historically they were known to be big herders. In contrast, people from Asian cultures have much more difficulty digesting lactose.
Over centuries, whether for survival or human curiosity, we’ve attempted to make dairy more digestible by finding ways to reduce the amounts of lactose. Lactose can be removed or made more digestible through a combination of heating, pressing and fermenting. As a rule, the harder the cheese means the lower the lactose content; the softer the cheese, the more lactose there is. Also, some people tend to digest sheep and goat cheeses better than cow cheeses. When it comes to yogurt, live culture yogurt contains many strains of good bacteria that eat away at the lactose – so pay attention as you may be able to handle it.
Listen to your Gut & Avoid Poor Substitutions
If you think you are having issues with dairy, then try cutting it out in its entirety for 6-8 weeks and see if your symptoms clear up. However, if you haven’t cut out processed foods, sugar or other crappy foods first, then I can almost guarantee that your unwanted symptoms won’t change. And if you are trying to eliminate dairy, please DO NOT substitute it with low quality products full of GMO soybeans or fake-butter spreads like margarine. This will only disturb digestion, increase inflammation and cause you more health issues in the long-run (and issues for the planet as well).
Just remember that quality matters an we’re best to support the “modern herders” of the day who are raising happy cows, goats and sheep and farming sustainably for your health and the health of the planet.