cows and milk

Is Dairy Really Good for You? – Part 1

Is dairy good or bad for the body? For years as a child, I was told to drink my milk with dinner. I even instilled the same information in my own children.  I am trying to reverse this thought process but they’re older now and question everything I say so it’s been an uphill battle. But I will prevail. Oh yes, I will prevail!

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding dairy. Aside from the majority of the dairy industry being incredibly cruel, dairy doesn’t do a body good, like the commercials say.  And some alarmists believe those that give up dairy are buying into the latest trend.

I’ll break down some research for you on why everything you’ve known about dairy is false and why you should avoid it. Buckle up kids…it’s a long one!

Lactose Intolerance

Dairy contains a sugar called lactose. Lactose is too large for the body to absorb so it has to break it down by an enzyme called lactase. You’re born with the ability to produce lactase so you can break down and absorb breastmilk. As you age, your ability to produce lactase decreases.

Most people lose the ability to produce lactase around the age of 5.  This used to be considered weaning age. Due to passed down genetic alterations, some continue to produce lactase. When you lose the lactase, you become lactose intolerant.  Dairy then comes with some not-so-fun side-effects like diarrhea, gas, upset tummy, and bloat.

In countries where it’s uncommon to consume dairy post weaning, they have a 90-100% lactose intolerant population. Think of Asian and Indian cultures.  In countries where it’s common to consume dairy post weaning, they have a 65% average lactose intolerant population. Countries like the US and Europe.

However, whether you maintain the ability to digest lactose or not, are you supposed to? Your ability to digest it does not exclude you from a variety of health problems associated with dairy.

Leaky Gut

Leaky gut is the first one. I’ve written about leaky gut in the past.  And dairy is a top food I remove in my clients when I see this going on.

Many foods you consume aggravates your GI tract.  When your GI tract is aggravated it becomes inflamed. We have something called tight junctions holding the lining of the GI tract together. When they become inflamed, they swell. When this happens, things that weren’t meant to enter the bloodstream now do.

This causes inflammation in the body leading to a variety of illnesses. Leaky gut can be repaired by removing the aggravating factors and allowing the gut time to heal. We’ll address leaky gut here again in a minute. But let’s move on.

Calcium

The #1 benefit of dairy is calcium.  But is it really a benefit?

You were told dairy will make you big and strong.  And that you need the calcium for strong bones, right? Yes, the main mineral component of bones is calcium, it doesn’t actually reduce the risk of fractures. Sure, you should get in your required calcium intake daily.  Because calcium is needed for a ton of other things in the body.

But we need an ample supply of vitamin D for bone strength and lowered risk of osteoporosis. We also need vitamin K2 to allow your body to absorb the calcium being ingested. You could drink milk allllllll day but if you’re not getting vitamin K2, it’s a useless effort.

Countries with the lowest milk consumption also have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. You can find calcium in a variety of foods such as green, leafy vegetables and milk substitutes such as flax, hemp, or nut milks. You can also supplement with a quality mineral supplement (with caution).

Inflammation

Insulin Growth-like Factor I (IGF-I) is a hormone similar to insulin that everyone has. It’s produced by the liver.  It affects mainly the endocrine system (glands associated with growth, sexual reproduction, sleep, thyroid, etc).

Several studies found galactose (a byproduct of lactose) provokes the production of IGF-I in the body. An overproduction of IGF-I leads to endocrine-related cancers.  Examples would be breast, prostate, colon, ovarian, and others. Research has linked dairy intake to those specific cancers. There is a lower incidence of those specific cancers in non-dairy drinkers.

Dairy is linked to autoimmune disorders. Remember leaky gut?  This can lead to autoimmune diseases and inflammation within the body.  This causes a whole variety of issues such as joint pain, migraines, weight gain, food intolerance, IBS, increased aging, etc, etc, etc. The running theory is every disease starts with inflammation.

If dairy is inflammatory, it has the potential to increase your risk of other diseases I haven’t touched on.

Saturated Fat

I talked about saturated fat a few weeks back.  Saturated fat can cause some health issues, including expression of a fat gene.  Some don’t think about dairy and saturated fat.  A glass of milk doesn’t have a lot of saturated fat in it.  But heavy cream and cheese do.

Aside from the previous issues I hit on with saturated fat and dairy, let’s chat about the heart.

Saturated fat can increase cholesterol levels.  This isn’t overly concerning to me.  But it can also increase LDL levels.  This is the bad cholesterol.  This is the cholesterol related to inflammation in the body.  It also gums up the arteries.

And gummed up arteries reduce oxygenated blood flow throughout the body.  They also cause heart health concerns like heart attack and stroke.

Conclusion

I’m not here to tell you what you should do and shouldn’t do. I’m here to educate you on the pros and cons and let you make an informed decision regarding your health.

Do I think an ice cream treat once a week is going to cause cancer?  No.  Do I think you should limit dairy consumption to special occasions? Yes.  Do I ask myself questions and answer them?  Also, yes.

Look, there’re people who drink milk and are perfectly healthy!  And there’re people who smoke all their life and never get lung cancer.  I like to call these anomalies J

You’ve got the knowledge…what’s your plan of attack?  Leave a comment below letting me know if you’re a milk drinker and why or why not!

Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS

I'm Sunny! I'm a board-certified clinical nutritionist with an MS in Clinical Nutrition. I help individuals reduce fatigue, eliminate bloat, and lose weight by healing the digestive tract and balancing hormones. I provide individual and group nutrition consultations nationwide. Grab my metabolism boosting guide! http://completehealthsb.com/3-tips-to-boost-your-metabolism/

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