What’s The Deal With Dairy?
Milk is sometimes referred to as the ‘basic food of life’, so why are loads of people ‘giving up dairy’? Especially when we are told that consuming dairy products gives us numerous health benefits like improved bone health and that dairy also provides us with nutrients like calcium, potassium, vitamin D and protein – all of which are vital for the health and maintenance of your body?
If you’re anything like me, then you may have grown up consuming vast quantities of dairy on a daily basis: milk on cereal, cheese sandwiches, ice cream, yoghurt, hot milk at bedtime – I still remember the skin on top…
What Is Milk Made Of?
Milk is actually a carbohydrate – a simple carbohydrate to be precise. Simple carbohydrates are disaccharides, so named because they are composed of 2 sugar units. Disaccharides require some enzymatic breakdown, but are easily converted to monosaccharides for digestion.
There are 3 types of disaccharides:
Milk is composed of lactose.
Lactose is the only sugar of animal origin. It is composed of 1 molecule each of glucose and galactose. It is broken down by the enzyme lactase, which is deficient or absent in many people after they stop consuming their mother’s breast milk.(Lactose is the sugar of human breast milk).
The total percentage of people who are lactose intolerant is around 33%. The total percentage of adults that have a decrease in lactase activity is around 75%. However, studies show that as many as 70% of lactose intolerant people don’t link their symptoms to consumption of milk sugar. Many people don’t know they are lactose intolerant. They’ll have excess gas, bloating or an upset stomach. They won’t feel so good after eating it. They think these symptoms are ‘normal’, but they’re not.
Lactose Intolerance Symptoms
Common foods that may cause an intolerance are gluten, corn, eggs, soy, peanuts, artificial colourings, sweeteners and dairy. Dairy intolerance symptoms include acne, eczema, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, excess gas, muscle aches, joint pain, depression, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, congestion, coughing, sneezing, weight gain and inability to lose weight.
There are new studies done all the time highlighting the pros and cons of dairy products and their consumption. Dairy products include foods that are animal by-products such as milk and milk products. Those with a known food sensitivity or intolerance should avoid dairy products as this is one of the top food intolerances/food sensitivities. As well as food allergies and intolerances, consuming excessive amounts of dairy products has been linked to many health conditions such as obesity, congestive problems, high blood pressure and some cancers.
Removing dairy products makes a huge difference in terms of many health issues including weight loss, excessive tiredness, skin issues, hair loss issues and digestive problems.
Studies have suggested that the nutritional benefits of milk are usually lost when a lactose deficient/lactose intolerant individual consumes milk, so not only do they fail to receive the nutrients that are normally supplied, but this frequently results in an upset stomach, diarrhea or the lactose intolerant symptoms mentioned previously.
An ellimination diet is recommended to rule out a food intolerance.
Commercial Dairy Production
There are concerns surrounding commercially farmed dairy products which include the environmental impact, industry conditions and procedures and production processes. Although a large proportion of the public still aren’t aware of these, the problems with commercial milk production are now more public knowledge than ever.
Dairy cows are often pumped full of hormones and antibiotics and sprayed with pesticides in order to withstand unsanitary conditions and lack of medical attention. They are fed diets of energy-increasing carbohydrates and fat supplements. They frequently suffer from life-threatening mammary gland infections, causing pus to be allowed into the milk. In most cases, a mild infection is acceptable, which allows ‘safe’ levels of pus into the milk. If the pus level is below a certain level, it is deemed fine to be sold.
Raw Milk vs Pasteurised Milk
Most shops won’t sell raw milk because, as you may have read in newspapers recently, raw milk may contain harmful bacteria and pathogens and is not recommended for consumption by many food standard agencies. Raw milk is said to be the most nutrient dense as well as being high in enzymes and gut healthy bacteria. The processing of milk leads to a decrease in nutrients. Enzymes are usually killed off when milk is processed and the gut healthy bacteria is also killed.
Some people who have an intolerance/sensitivity to milk can consume raw milk. However, some people can’t tolerate this either. If someone is allergic to milk, you should never give it to them.
Using Soy As A Substitute
Soy milk is a plant based drink produced by soaking dried soy beans and grinding them in water. Beans commonly cause an increase in intestinal gas, leading to flatulence, bloating and discomfort. This is caused by them fermenting in the intestines.
Soy beans are a common, yet controversial bean. Soy is one of the most farmed crops in the Western World and is almost always genetically modified and doused in pesticides. It is heavily processed, but a very popular meat and dairy alternative in society. Whilst soy beans are high in protein, they are almost never consumed in their natural state. Almost every ingredient in soy milk is cause for concern, including cane sugar and flavourings.
Soy is highly allergenic and is definitely not recommended for people with hormone imbalances and thyroid conditions. Soy consumption can wreak havoc on our estrogen levels. One study showed that infants consuming soy formula had concentrations of blood estrogen levels 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than normal estrogen levels.
Numerous studies show that soy may be linked to breast cancer as it increased the proliferation of potentially carcinogenic breast cells. Soy also contains high levels of phytic acid – a compound that reduces the absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc.
Which Milk Substitutes Are Best?
Coconut milk is a safer substitute milk if cutting out dairy. It is also more nutritious, easier to digest and much ‘creamier-tasting’ than almond milk. Aside from purchasing a coconut and drinking the milk from inside, (the most natural option), there are also 3 other types of coconut milk you could try:
- Creamed coconut in a block. Add hot water for milk. Totally natural, but very ‘watery’.
Canned coconut milk – extremely thick. Good for cooking – not drinking!
Coconut milk in a carton. Lasts about week in fridge. Good for tea and coffee. Various brands have different things added, e.g, rice – this is definitely no good, especially if gluten intolerant.
The brand on the left seems to be one of the better brands, however, there are a few ingredients in there that you may want to check out before deciding if it is right for you.
Which Yoghurt Substitutes Are Best?
Homemade yoghurt would be the best, however, many people do not have the time, patience and know-how to do this. Coconut yoghurt is another excellent substitute, however, almost all commercially available coconut yoghurts contain thickeners, which often cause bloating. This is a shame, as it is really tasty, extremely nutritious and would otherwise be one of the healthiest yoghurts you could consume. So, the next viable alternatives are goats and sheeps yoghurt.
People often digest the whey proteins in sheep or goat dairy more easily. The lactose in goat and sheeps yoghurt is generally better tolerated than in cows milk. Even if people are severely lactose intolerant, they can often consume yoghurt rather than milk. This is because the lactose will have been converted into lactic acid in the yoghurt making process. This is magnified further when consuming goats and sheeps yoghurt rather than cows yoghurt.
Goats and sheeps yoghurt is also 3 times higher in protein than cows milk – this makes it easier to digest.
Yoghurt, especially acidopholis yoghurt (‘natural’ yoghurt), supports your immune system by restoring the gut flora back to its original load, preventing bad bugs from taking over.
Goats yoghurt tastes like feta cheese – more of a bitter taste, whereas sheeps yoghurt tastes very ‘creamy’.
St. Helens Farm Goats Yoghurt
Woodlands Organic Sheep Milk Yoghurt
Consuming Dairy – One Last Cosideration…
Although people often digest goat or sheep dairy more easily, like cows milk, it is extremely acidic to the body. This causes the body to leech out minerals from your bones to make it more alkaline. This means that this cancels out much of the ‘strong bones’ benefits you may get from consuming the calcium in milk as your bones leak these minerals out every time you consume it. If you want to consume calcium rich foods for your bones, leafy greens, seafood and fruit contain the same amount of calcium as milk, plus they also contain a plethora of other vitamins and minerals.
For example, one cup of bok choy, one and a half cups of kale or 2 cups of broccoli contain the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk. They also have a much better calcium absorption rate (about 50-60%).
In the case of consuming goats or sheeps yoghurt for its ‘good bug’ benefits, a small amount daily should be fine for most people, but ensure that you’re taking a really good multi-mineral and multivitamin to counteract the acidity that the dairy will bring to your body. However, if you are consuming various dairy products throughout the day, you may want to consider alternatives.
What Should I Do Next?
If you feel giving up cows milk/cows milk products will be tough, start by eliminating one thing at a time, eg, cheese. You could also substitute one cows milk item, with a non cows milk item, eg, the milk in your coffee. Alternatively, eliminate all cows milk products from your diet for 30 days and keep a food diary of how you feel. If there’s no change, nothing lost. If you feel a change for the better, then it’s a no-brainer!