Drink Your Milk: The Many Benefits of Dairy.
I am emphatically pro-dairy. But dairy can be a controversial topic. Some will say milk and dairy are full of hormones, antibiotics and toxins; that dairy is allergenic and hard to digest. But dairy products themselves are none of these things; it’s the tampering and processing of dairy products that is the culprit of these problems. Real, unhampered, dairy products are actually very nourishing and good for the body.
Milk is make of fat, protein, and a milk sugar called “lactose” (more on that later). The protein in cow’s milk is mostly casein, the rest is whey. You may have read my warnings against whey protein powders, but this is different. The process of making the powder lowers the protein content and increases the toxicity. Why consume a toxic whey powered when you can consume whole dairy, the power protein.
Dairy is the cleanest source of protein available in the United States. It’s actually the best protein drink you can buy! In the 1960’s the US went to great lengths to clean up the dairy industry by getting rid of the harmful pesticides sprayed on the grass cows fed from and by controlling the additives put in to the milk supply. The meat industry, on the other hand, has not been as quick to clean up. Dairy is safer than most other foods in terms of pollutants and toxins. Plus it is a complete macronutrient having protein, carbohydrates and fat!
There are many publications available that discuss milk or dairy allergy, but these tests have only been performed on a small group of patients and rarely involve subjects who were healthy to begin with. So when someone has a dairy allergy, what is really going on?
Consider this: according to U.S. law, reduced fat milk must have vitamin D and vitamin A added to it. Many of the contaminants in the vitamins themselves are possible sources of allergies to commercial milk, not the milk itself. Whole milk, which many people choose to avoid, is actually the most likely to be allergen free! Carrageenan is also commonly used in milk products as a thickening agent. But carrageenan is a powerful allergen that can cause a reaction similar to latex allergy.
There is also evidence that dairy allergy may actually be a symptom of other bodily inflammation. That is, you may be more likely to experience a dairy allergy if you are already suffering from a different diet-induced inflammation.
Lactose is the type of sugar found in milk. The body requires a certain enzyme (lactase) to digest and metabolize lactose properly. People who are “lactose intolerant” are deficient in this enzyme. Many people assume that this deficiency is the function of genetics or belonging to one or another ethnic group. But bacterial over growth in the small intestine (often caused by hypothyroidism) can damage the lining of the small intestine and cause the loss of lactase enzymes. Progesterone deficiency will also cause lactase enzyme deficiency. Inflammation in general shifts cell function and causes you to lose many functional enzymes, including the lactase enzyme.
Drinking or eating “lactose free” products is not a good option. Lactose in milk helps the body absorb the calcium properly. Without the lactose, we don’t absorb as much calcium in our bones. If you have experienced symptoms of lactose intolerance, instead of buying lactose free dairy, add dairy in to your diet slowly and avoid drinking milk on an empty stomach. Start with one cup or less at every meal and, after about two weeks, your body will adjust to the new enzymes and your cells will adapt to the new food.
Dairy and Weight Gain
Another reason people give for not drinking milk is that it may lead to weight gain. However, in recent years there have been studies proving just the opposite; milk drinkers are less fat than non-milk drinkers. A 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that both higher dairy calcium intake and increased vitamin D were related to greater diet-induced weight loss. A similar study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that low dietary calcium intake is a significant risk factor for weight gain in adults.
Why? Because calcium and dairy supplementation facilitates appetite control and the high quality protein and saturated fat found in milk contribute to its anti-obesity effect. Calcium is an all-around good metabolic regulatory.
- Calcium reduced the formation of fats in the body, increases the metabolic rate, protects against free radical oxidation and increases longevity.
- Dairy helps regulate blood sugar and has anti inflammatory properties and protective hormones like thyroid and progesterone.
- Vitamin D, found in dairy, also lowers inflammation which can contribute to a slow metabolic rate. The saturated fat in dairy protects the body as is very important as we grow older; it has a curative effect on the liver an anti-inflammatory effect and an anti-oxidant effect.
- Calcium in dietary protein has an anti-stress effect
The Parathyroid Hormone
Dietary calcium dose more than just keep us satiated and at a healthy weight; it helps control the parathyroid hormone (PTH). PTH regulates calcium metabolism. If we do not consume enough calcium via our diet, the blood calcium decreases and the PTH increases. When the PTH increases, it steals calcium from the bones to replenish the amount in the blood. But the dangers of elevated PTH don’t stop with lower calcium, they get much worse! Elevated PTH also causes:
- Calcification of tissues
- Multiple sclerosis
- High blood pressure
- Insomnia (eating dairy can help you sleep!)
Plus, low PTH also lowers fatty acid syntheses which lowers the chance of tumors. High PTH and FAS are clearly associated with cancer, including prostate and breast cancer.
Eat The Dairy That Agrees With You Most
I used to only like raw dairy, but now I believe that getting dairy into one’s diet is more important than the “raw or not raw” debate. If you like raw dairy, then go for it! If not, try pasteurized, but search for grass fed, hormone free, organic dairy products. When I work one-on-one with clients I always recommend whatever dairy products and brands agree with them best but, as a general rule of thumb:
- Organic dairy is best
- Pasteurized dairy is better than ultra-high pasteurized dairy
- Grass-fed dairy is best, but check that the grass (and soil) is not treated with chemicals
- Full fat (whole) dairy is better than partially skimmed dairy if you are sensitive to the added vitamins (A and D)
If someone hasn’t consumed dairy in a while, then I recommend they go slow to build up the enzymes needed to digest diary. Some people may not feel well on cow dairy but may fair must better on goat, sheep, or buffalo dairy. Sometimes the trouble with cow dairy is the whey, other times it’s the bacteria. Often times, switching the brand will solve the problem. If not, try cheese; ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmigiano Reggiano do not have the cultures that some people are sensitive to. Just make sure the cheese is not “processed.”
One great resource I found recently is called www.whereismymilkfrom.com. You type in the code from your milk and it will tell you which dairy it came from. It even works for other dairy products other than milk.