When it comes to dairy, I used to always be a DO person and there were never any DON’TS on my list…yes, dairy was a dear friend of mine for many, many years – actually we carried on a pretty serious relationship! These days, I eat dairy free for several reasons, but mostly because I found that dairy is a trigger that will increase my joint pain, sinus congestion, and digestive distress, so after a fierce battle in my brain and listening to my body, dairy is now a DON’T for me.
If you experience adverse symptoms like chronic sinus or ear infections, chronic yeast infections, brain fog, bloating, constipation, gas or diarrhea, or joint or muscle pain, you may want to consider doing a 30 day dairy free challenge as part of an elimination diet. If your symptoms go away or get better, this may be a sign you have a dairy sensitivity and would benefit from excluding it from your diet. If you'd like to learn more about how to do an elimination diet, check out our Detox Diet plan here.
That said, trust me, I DO understand why most people want to include dairy in their diet…it is just sooooo good! In fact, one of the most interesting things I learned about dairy along the way is that casein (milk protein) is broken down during digestion to produce casomorphins which actually have an ‘opiate like’ effect that tell your brain, “GOOD! YES! MORE! NOW!” This is natures little way of getting newborn baby cows and goats to nurse more, but for us starts a vicious craving cycle in our bodies. Kind of crazy, right??! It took me over 2 months of going dairy free before my dairy cravings diminished but now they are thing of the past.
If you are a dairy eater, I've outlined some things to consider when choosing HEALTHIER DAIRY OPTIONS. Just to make sure we are all on the same page, when I talk about dairy here it applies to all milk, cheese and yogurt products.
DO Choose Whole Dairy – DON’T Choose Fat-Free or Low-Fat
The most important thing to understand here is that when fat is removed, it is ALWAYS replaced with something – usually that something is sugar or artificial sugars (like aspartame, etc). And remember, when we give our bodies foods that have been modified or are not in their natural state, our bodies know something is missing and respond by sending craving signals for sugars, carbohydrates, fats, salts, etc. So, while the saturated fat from whole dairy products has been linked to higher cholesterol, low-fat milk may lead drinkers to consume more high-glycemic-index foods, which can increase the level of triglycerides that can amplify the effect of heart-disease risk factors such as high cholesterol and hypertension.
DO Choose Organic
Simply stated dairy consumption affects hormone levels and responses in the human body. Did you know that conventional dairy farmers milk their cows through 75% of their pregnancy when hormone levels are at their highest? Many also use a growth hormone to stimulate extra milk production in their cows. Not only do all these excess hormones make it into the milk you drink, but it means that udders get infected more with increased production, and antibiotics must be used more. And guess where those antibiotics end up? Yes—in the milk you drink. Surprisingly, producers are not required to label milk from cows that have been treated with hormones or antibiotics, so you can’t know if your milk has them or not unless the package specifically says so or you buy organic.
These hormones look and act like the hormones your body already makes and can increase the risk of prostate and breast cancer by stimulating growth factor proteins. A study out of Harvard that followed 47,781 health professionals who consumed 2 servings of dairy per day found their risk for prostate cancer increased by 60%. (Click here to learn more about Harvard Health Professional Study)
Do Question What You’ve Been Told About Dairy & Bone Health
The USDA endorses milk as the main vehicle for getting dietary calcium, recommending 2-3 cups a day to prevent osteoporosis. However, over the last 50 years the occurrence of hip fractures has risen significantly worldwide. Incidentally, there are more fractures in regions that have higher consumption of milk products, namely the U.S., U.K., Canada, and mainland Europe, than in those that don’t such as Africa and China. There are several large-scale studies showing that high calcium intake doubles the risk of hip fractures. (Click here to see a Harvard study that followed 78,000 nurses for 12 years). We will address bone health in a future publication, but for now, just know that for most folks, a clean, whole foods based diet full of leafy greens, legumes, lean proteins, clean carbohydrates and healthy fats is the best way to get in all the nutrients and vitamins you need for good bone health!
Do Experiment With Non-Dairy Milks
Remember, I was a dairy-o-holic (2-6 servings a day)…so if I can learn to like and use these non-dairy substitutes, I know you can too! Just remember to buy these products organic!
Creamy and slightly nutty – great for use in coffee, tea, cereal, and for baking.
Offers a rich, earthy taste that is good for drinking straight or use in cooking and baking.
Light, fresh, and smooth – great in smoothies, soups, and baked goods.
These three are my favorites, but rice, soy, oat, and other nut milks should also be considered. Lastly, keep in mind that no one person is the same and that you have to find the right amount and types of dairy or non-dairy sources that make sense for your body. If you are interested in learning more on this topic or want help incorporating healthy dairy choices into your life, please do not hesitate to contact me. ~Billie
Billie Shellist, FDN-P
I practice functional nutrition, an approach that allows me to look at your entire health history and help you find the "root causes" of your chronic health complaints.
This cuts out the trial and error process and helps you get real symptom relief and resolution!
Food is medicine and knowledge is power -I hope you enjoy my anti-inflammatory recipes which are gluten, dairy, and soy free as well as very low grain and sugar.
If you'd like to heal from the root cause(s) of your chronic symptoms, try starting with a complimentary 15-minute consultation. Click here to request your free session.