There are a lot of competing ideas out there about what is good for you and what isn’t. This is particularly true when it comes to dairy products and grains, especially wheat. For this article, however, I will focus solely on why you should not eat dairy products in any shape or form from any animal.
So, why no dairy?
Below, I have a list of scientific reasons why I think you should not eat dairy products. But don’t even read them if you are so locked into the false belief that dairy products are good for you and you have to eat them for strong bones and protein. The biggest reason why I advocate eliminating dairy products from your diet is that I have seen more suffering from common health complaints stopped immediately by eliminating dairy products than any other single medical therapy.
Doubt me? Then just take the “Ain’t Got Milk” challenge for one month and see for yourself. When I say the “Ain’t Got Milk” challenge, I mean eliminate all dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, kefir, etc.) from any animal for one month. After that one month it will be abundantly clear that you will feel better, and many complaints-some mild, some serious-will be eliminated.
Usually when I tell people to avoid all dairy products for a month or two, they look at me with this incredulous look, as if I had just said the most un-American thing I could ever say. But I’m not kidding. The first three weeks will be hard, but then the cravings will go away. I am not sure why the cravings last three weeks, but that has been my observation with milk products, especially cheeses. The harder and more ridiculous this concept of staying off milk products seems to you, the more I want you to try it! The most ‘stunned’ people are usually the ones who have the most dramatic responses.
Ok. You’re thinking of taking me up on the “Ain’t Got Milk” challenge but you can’t get passed one thing: “How do I get calcium for my bones if I am off dairy products?”
In America, we are hammered with the “calcium-milk-bone myth” from an early age. Amy Joy Lanou, Ph.D. challenged this very issue of dairy products and bone loss-fracture prevention in her 2009 paper published in the well-respected American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Commenting on two very large studies on the subject Dr. Lanou stated, “Both showed no protective effect of increased milk consumption on fracture risk.” She continued, “Further, two meta-analyses of studies of milk or dairy consumption and fracture risk have shown no reduction in risk with higher intakes of milk, dairy, or total dietary calcium.”
It is noted that osteoporotic bone fracture rates are highest in countries that consume the most dairy, calcium, and animal protein. It is also noted that the countries with the highest calcium intakes have the highest hip fracture rates and those with the lowest calcium intake have the lowest. You should also know that fracture risk is associated with higher protein intake, which can cause more calcium spill in the urine. (Note: Dr. Lanou and Michael Castleman are co-authors of an easy to read and incredibly well-referenced book on this topic, which I highly recommend if you are fearful of your bones falling apart by not eating dairy products. The book it titled, “Building Bone Vitality: A Revolutionary Diet Plan to Prevent Bone Loss And Reverse Osteoporosis” (McGraw-Hill, 2009))
In an effort to be balanced on the protein and urine loss of calcium debate, a counter opinion to Dr. Lanou’s argument was expressed in an interview I did with Dr. Loren Cordain, author of the Paleo Diet (2011). Dr. Cordain shared that while higher animal protein intakes can increase calcium loss in the urine, higher meat diets also increase calcium absorption, thereby resulting in a net increase in calcium absorption. He further shared that increased meat consumption enhances IGF-1 which can increase bone formation by stimulating the bone forming cells called osteocytes.
Of course, there are successfully aging cultures that eat natural dairy products and do fine. Take for instance the “Blue Zone” Sardinian (Italy) goat and sheep herders. Because these are naturally free-ranged animals, they probably have a more anti-inflammatory fatty acid profile (more omega-3 fatty acids), and goats in particular consume a plant (dwarf curry) rich in a powerful anti-inflammatory compound called arzanol. The popular goat milk and cheese products consumed by Sardinians may have healthful anti-inflammatory properties from the good fatty acid profile and arzanol.
Generally speaking, healthy aging cultures from around the world consume small quantities of dairy products. Eating dairy naturally and locally is considerably different from eating mass-produced, pasteurized dairy products from factory farming in which the animals are given hormones and antibiotics, live in crowded conditions, and are kept in nearly a year-round state of lactation.
Also, the diets of these healthy aging cultures are generally not high animal protein diets. They are generally low to moderate in animal protein with lots of vegetables, beans, and a staple starch, fruit, some nuts and seeds, virtually no processed foods, and lots of physical activity and sunshine (vitamin D). Their diets are generally more alkaline from lots of vegetables and fruit and less animal foods and virtually no processed foods. Therefore they are more calcium sparing. Grains, even whole grains, are mildly acidic, like meats, which may aggravate bone loss if not balanced by a high intake of fruits and vegetables.
With that said, consider the following facts and then decide for yourself whether dairy products really do your body good, or just eliminate them completely for one month and see how you feel:
- Humans are the only species to regularly consume the milk of another species after weaning.
- Increasing milk (dairy products) consumption has not consistently been shown to improve bone density and reduce fracture risk.
- Cheeses, especially hard cheeses, are some of the most acid producing foods, which contribute to bone loss by taking calcium and phosphorous from bone to buffer the blood.
- Prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer have been linked to dairy products.
- Many people are lactose intolerant, meaning that they cannot digest the sugar in milk. (This is not a true allergy but rather an enzyme deficiency.) This can cause lots of gastrointestinal (G.I.) complaints.
- Dairy products can be high in saturated fat and cholesterol generally.
- Dairy products are not an adequate source of vitamin D, with current research suggesting 1,000-5,000 IU per day being more optimal.
- Feeding infants cow’s milk early in life may increase the risk of type 1 diabetes by triggering an autoimmune reaction.
- Milk proteins, milk sugar, fat, and unsaturated fat in dairy products can increase health risks for children, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants below one year of age not be given whole cow’s milk.
- Early introduction of milk in children may increase the risk of constipation and iron deficiency.
- There are many food-intolerant reactions to dairy products. You name a symptom, and I have seen it caused by some type of dairy product consumption.
- The Paleolithic diet, which many people seem excited about, didn’t contain any dairy products at all (except maybe occasional eggs), yet where is the evidence that Paleolithic man had weak bones and wasn’t strong?
- Species with the most massive bone structure (elephants, hippos, rhinos, giraffes, cows, etc.) don’t eat milk products to maintain strong bones or muscle mass.
You don’t have to take my word for it any more than you have to believe the slogans of the dairy councils or those world-famous athletes with the milk mustaches, which in my opinion did a great disservice to the public. Why not just go with how your body feels?
So go ahead. Take one month and do the “Ain’t Got Milk” challenge and completely eliminate all dairy products. Don’t just cut down or cut out one group of dairy products. Go off all dairy products from all species of animals for one month. Also, keep a Diet-Symptom-Exercise Diary and notice how many of your pre-existing symptoms/conditions improve. Then after one month add the dairy products you eat most frequently back in to your diet and see how you feel. I guarantee many of you will discover that not only is dairy a cause of excess calories which results in weight gain, but it is also the cause of some of your distressing symptoms/conditions.
Common Problems Caused By Dairy
This a short list of symptoms and conditions I have seen caused or aggravated by dairy products over the last three decades:
- Back pain
- Chronic cough, morning cough
- Chronic infections of the sinuses, ears, or throat
- Constipation (sometimes diarrhea)
- Edema – water retention
- Foggy brain
- Headaches (migraines)
- Hearing problems in young children (fluid in ears)
- Heartburn (GERD)
- Joint pain (any joint)
- Menstrual cramps
- Nasal congestion
- Puffy hands and fingers
- Sleep apnea
- Stomach pain, cramping
- Upper respiratory phlegm production
- Water retention
- Weight excess
As a certified physician’s assistant specializing in nutrition, prevention and integrative medicine, KIRK HAMILTON maintains that if there’s one cure all for chronic disease it’s what you eat. With his emphasis on consuming more unprocessed, micronutrient dense plant-food along with simple cross-training and mind/body principles, Kirk has been instrumental in guiding his patients and clients toward the path of optimal health since 1983. He has also been a valued educator to health professionals. As the founder of Clinical Pearls Publications, Kirk provided summaries of nutritional research to practicing physicians and researchers around the globe until he sold the company to Tishcon Corp. in 2004. Since 2009 Kirk has hosted his own radio program/podcast titled Staying Healthy Today. He has interviewed hundreds of the top experts in the medical field including Joel Fuhrman, Dr. David Jenkins and Dr. Neal Barnard. Drawing on his 28 year career, in August 2011 Kirk self-published the book titled “Staying Healthy in the Fast Lane – 9 Simple Steps to Optimal Health.” His book serves as a guide for individuals, professionals and policy makers on how to create a new health paradigm that is focused on staying well and prevention instead of treatment.
The greatest medicine of all is to teach people how not to need it.
Read about how to lose weight and prevent chronic diseases by purchasing Kirk’s book, “Staying Healthy in the Fast Lane – 9 Simple Steps to Optimal Health.” Order your copy here. Enter code “RX40” and receive an automatic 40% off your book purchase.