Is it time to ditch dairy?
About 75% of the world’s population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and dairy products, or lactose intolerant. Many of us are brought up on the idea that dairy is natural – it’s a comfort food with a calcium hit to boot. But the truth about dairy consumption is something that’s finally getting a foothold in the popular press. It’s only comparatively recently that Western culture has started to question this constant presence in our lives.
When it comes down to it, milk has been lovingly manufactured by nature to be the perfect food – perfect for baby calves! Instead of providing calcium to humans, not only is most of milk’s calcium not absorbed, it actually depletes the bones of calcium. Dairy actually may increase your risk of fractures by 50%! Countries with the lowest rates of dairy consumption (Asia and Africa) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.
Outside the body milk is alkaline, but once inside, milk adds acid to the body’s pH, and the body wants to neutralise this, so it deploys calcium. The calcium stored in bones is sent out to neutralise milk’s acidic properties, lowering the body’s calcium reserves.
When we consume dairy products it can lead to a lot of gut inflammation, causing the digestive system to be sluggish and irritable – it’s extremely tough on digestion and is a contributing factor to constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Keeping the digestive system healthy is key in Chinese Medicine, while keeping the body with an alkaline pH is a crucial aspect of cancer prevention. Processed cheese and ice cream are considered highly acidic foods and bad for weight gain.
Dairy is also a major contributor to phlegm, allergies, sinus and ear infections. It feeds the phlegm along with fruits and sugars. If you have been coughing or have a phlegm, then you may be consuming too much dairy. It also contributes to other major health issues
Dairy has also been shown to link to cholesterol levels, it is full of saturated fats, which in turn is linked to heart disease and other serious health conditions. Dairy consumption also increases the body’s level of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) which is a cancer promoter. In men, it is linked to prostate cancer.
Our bodies just weren’t designed to digest milk on a regular basis.
From an animal welfare point of view, dairy cows, which all ultimately end up in the slaughterhouse, are not always living under the guise of kindly farmers. These sensitive and intelligent creatures are often four-legged milk factories. Conditions vary from country to country, but many are fed hormones and antibiotics – which in turn are extremely bad for our health.
And from an environmental point of view, there are other reasons to ditch dairy. Cows are fed with grain – which used a large amount of water to be grown. Depending on local conditions, there’s possibly 200 litres of water used to produce just a single glass of milk.
Tips to deal with dairy:
1. Reducing dairy consumption for the sake of your health, your weight, the environment or for animal welfare reasons. Try giving up dairy altogether.
2. Don’t rely solely on dairy for healthy bones and calcium. For healthy bones get lots of exercise and take Vitamin D (at least 2000 IU).
3. Do some research on dairy-free alternatives. Soy, rice or nut milks such as almond, macadamia are great replacers and it’s worth experimenting with different brands, as flavours vary widely. But soy, rice and almond milk are also on the acidic side of the scale, so, like everything, consume in moderation and check your acid/alkaline charts.
4. Get your calcium, protein and fat intakes from other food sources such as whole plant foods, vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, seeds and nuts.
5. For many, dairy is part of everyday dietary life and the idea of saying even a partial good bye to it is a big, uncomfortable step. The health rewards, however, are quickly palpable. You’ll feel less sluggish. You’ll probably be lighter. And your digestive system won’t get bogged down trying to process hard-to-digest animal fats, so your energy levels will increase dramatically.