I went dairy free several years ago - here's the story that led to my choice. Can you relate?
After meals I often had severe abdominal pain coupled with bouts of diarrhea which left me malnourished and dehydrated. Throughout my late-teens/ early twenties I was chronically fatigued, and sleeping in the afternoon was mandatory - I was exhausted. My skin was unsightly, I went through cycles of tetracycline and Accutane to combat the blemishes - with no success. This took a toll on my self confidence. Throughout all this my mood was unstable and drastic. What the hell was going on?
At the time I didn't know there was a better way to live. I had no idea. I thought, "this is just how I am" and I put up with it. I know I wasn't a pleasure to be around, and my fatigue was almost debilitating - I hated wasting an hour a day because I had to nap. I thought I was going to out-grow the acne but in my twenties I still had it. It wasn't until years later that I met someone who had a huge influence on me and introduced me to real nutrition. He was a raw vegan and he claimed to be 40 years old - though the man didn't look a day over 28. His skin was soft and clear, his eyes sparkled and his energy was constant. I'm always open to self improvement and growth so I didn't just shrug him off as some new-age hippy, instead I thoughtfully listened to what he had to say (over an incredible raw vegan meal!). Curiously and instantly, after eating that meal I felt GOOD. The food didn't sap my energy - it GAVE me energy. Wow, I thought this is powerful. So as time passed I incorporated more and more vegan type foods into my life. I didn't make a conscious choice to cut out dairy - I just crowded it out with alternatives. There was almond milk, and coconut based ice cream, and almond or coconut dairy free yogurt... What more did I need? So, fast forwarding to today - 5+ years later - I've been dairy free, and I've never felt better in my body. I feel... healed. Like my body is functioning as it should. And you know what? It's been easy! I used to need "my cheeses" but I swear, I never miss it. There is always some alternative if I really want it.
There are many issues often raised with modern day milk intake. These include a link of milk intake to acne, recurrent ear infections in children, possible relation to low thyroid activity, hormone related cancer, and food allergy and food sensitivity.
So now I'm going to bring up the dark side of Dairy. The reason why I was feeling as crappy as I was before I changed my diet. I know when it comes to altering diets it can be controversial at best, so what I'm going to tell you is what I've learned through my experience as dairy free woman for several years along with some thought provoking studies on dairy.
For as long as I remember dairy was apart of my day. Milk with my cereal, yogurt at lunch, milk with dinner, cheese on everything. It was heavily advertised as "part of a balanced diet" and it was said that milk was the place to get your calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones. And this is true, milk does have levels of vitamins and minerals - that's not the problem. But it got me to thinking about how we evolved - why would humans need to get their main calcium/vitamin D supply from cows milk?
Surely we didn't evolve that way... to extract, process and pasteurize the milk of cows for the sake of our bones. I can't see our ancestors doing that. Think about this; we are the only mammals to consume milk long after we are weaned - and another species of milk at that! And it's interesting to note that our ability to digest lactose (the sugar in milk) begins to decline after the age of two, the time when we are suppose to wean off mothers milk and start eating solid foods. Because of this, some 40 million people in America have digestive problems (!).
No doubt, dairy is tasty. Cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream... (!?) These products sell well because of their versatility and good taste. So big companies, particularly one called Monsanto, decided to capitalize on the dairy industry. But like all big companies, Monsanto is very greedy and profit by any means was the goal.
And this is where and when dairy products got sketchy.
Monsanto eventually manufactured a genetically engineered hormone to inject into the cow to produce more milk. Normally, a cow only produces milk while with calf and after a year or two the milk production stops. Well this wasn't economical, so Monsanto created the infamous Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). rBGH is similar, although not identical, to a hormone the cow produces naturally while pregnant and/or nursing. Injecting this hormone artificially boosts milk production beyond the cows natural cycle. Causing a chain reaction of nastiness inside the cow. rGBH is actually banned from Canada and Europe because of concerns of human health and animal welfare. But it still used in the States. (!!)
((Imagine ladies; what it would take for you to constantly produce milk ?? You'd have to be artificially inseminated and injected with some weird hormone to maximize milk production. And since you were required to give as much milk as possible, you would be hooked up to a milking machine and milked several times a day. Your breasts would be so raw and inflamed, it would be hard for you to sleep at night. In fact, your nipples get infected so you are given a slew of antibiotics to combat the infection. And then, on the occasions you have a baby, it's taken away from you within a week and sent for slaughter. Would you drink that kind of milk? Then ask yourself why you are drinking cows milk...))
When the cows are artificially triggered to produce more milk, chemical imbalances occur internally which create problems for the animal, which in turn contaminate the product we grab from the shelves. Whenever cows are forced to produce more milk they become susceptible to udder infections and the infections in the udder can increase the amount of pus in the milk. Monsanto's own research shows that there is a 79% increase in udder infections among cows since the hormone injections were implemented and a resulting 19% increase in bacteria and pus in the milk (!). Besides being super nasty, what does this mean to us, as consumers of dairy products coming from these animals? Ingesting dairy may increase digestive orders in our population, such as bloat, diarrhea and stomach cramps - to name a few.
Which leads me to a personal anecdote. So as I was saying, I always had dairy growing up and I thought the probiotics in yogurt were good for my gut and the calcium in milk was essential to my growth. All the while I was suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Basically, I would eat something and soon after have to go to the bathroom (in the worst way). I remember my family would joke about it, but in reality it was totally uncomfortable and left me feeling wasted. And I couldn't figure out what the hell was happening. Back then I never associated how I felt or what I saw on my body as a sign or clue to what was going on internally - which was related to what I put in my body
For the most part, the some 9 million cows in America are not healthy.Half of the herds have cows affected with bovine leukemia virus, and half of the herds are infected by a bacterium causing Chrohns disease - the latter being the cause of 40 million Americans having Irritable Bowel Disease. I was part of that statistic.
And besides the injections, these poor creatures are cooped up side by side to other cows, unable to move, (((Imagine Bodyrockers, if you couldn't stretch or exercise... Ever!?))) and fed an unnatural diet of genetically modified corn and soy along with many other unmentionable items including scraps from the slaughterhouse floor. All the while, they have overtly large, infected and uncomfortable milk bags hanging between their legs - making it hard to get comfortable at all!
"The milk we drink today is quite unlike the milk our ancestors were drinking" without apparent harm for 2,000 years, she said. "The milk we drink today may not be nature's perfect food.
" - Ganmaa Davaasambuu is a physician (Mongolia), a Ph.D. in environmental health (Japan), a fellow (Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study), and a working scientist (Harvard School of Public Health).
The massive amount of research and scholarly articles online is much too deep and broad to cover in this blog post but I recommend digging in yourself for a more comprehensive learning. Here I will present some of the most jaw-dropping things I've read about dairy:
-Research shows the increase in cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and asthma that has occurred in the Western world over the past century directly correlates with the increase in dairy consumption.
-There are a variety of factors within the dairy products that raise our susceptibility to disease; high levels of hormones like estrogen (being of particular concern), antibiotics, pesticides, bacteria, pus and more, all contribute to a higher risk of some cancers.
-One study compared diet and cancer rates in 42 counties. It showed that milk and cheese consumption are strongly correlated to the incidence of testicular cancer among men ages 20 to 39 and rates were highest in places like Switzerland and Denmark, where cheese is a national food, and lowest in Algeria and other countries where dairy is not so widely consumed. In another study, rats fed milk showed a higher incidence of cancer and developed a higher number of tumors than those who drank water.
-The Bovine Growth Hormone is called “dangerous” because of its high levels of growth stimulant which increases the risk of breast, colon and prostate cancers.
-Casien makes up 87% of milks protein content and it's consistently linked to the promotion of all stages of cancer. Laboratory studies have shown that casein and cancer are linked in rats, but since this study hasn't been done with people it's unclear if these findings hold true for the human population.
-The levels of hormones in milk could heighten risk to hormone sensitive cancers including breast cancer and prostate cancer. Not only are the naturally-present hormones in cow’s milk stronger than human hormones, the animals are routinely given steroids and other hormones to plump them up and increase milk production. These hormones can negatively impact humans’ delicate hormonal balance.
-Dairy products, when metabolized, are acid forming and our bodies are constantly striving for biochemical balance to keep our blood at 7.365 pH. Eating excessive acid-forming products can cause our bodies to overuse some of its acid-balancing mechanisms, one of which is the bones. Alkaline calcium is stored in the bones and released to combat excessive acidity in the body. Over time, bones can become fragile.
-Most dairy products are pasteurized to kill potentially-harmful bacteria. During the pasteurization process, vitamins, proteins, and enzymes are destroyed. Enzymes assist with the digestion process. When they are destroyed through pasteurization, milk becomes harder to digest, therefore putting a strain on our bodies’ enzyme systems.
-Dairy products are mucous-forming. They can contribute to respiratory disorders. When I remove dairy and sugar from the diets of my clients, they stop experiencing hay fever and seasonal allergies.
-Research links dairy products with arthritis. In one study on rabbits, scientist Richard Panush was able to PRODUCE inflamed joints in the animals by switching their water to milk. In another study, scientists observed more than a 50% reduction in the pain and swelling of arthritis when participants eliminated milk and dairy products from their diet.
-Cow's milk, especially process cows milk, has been linked to a variety of health problems, including: mucous production, hemoglobin loss, childhood diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, kidney stones, mood swings, depression, irritability, allergies...
Heck, check this out http://www.notmilk.com/52reasons.txt
At the end of the day, make your own decisions about what you eat because it's your life. I am just giving you an opportunity to be informed about a perspective that appears to be supported with some strong evidence. Since there is always strong opinions on topics like these, a skeptical approach and thorough research must be used.
Milk is a complex food, and contains beneficial nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. So if you feel good on dairy, that's great. If you know deep down you should be feeling better than you do, this may shed a light on what ails you. I'd say if you are eating large amounts of dairy foods in the form of daily milk intake, cheese, yogurts and other foods AND you are suffering from hormone related issues (acne, PCOS, PMS, prostate, depression etc), then it may be wise to reduce your milk intake, eliminate it for a brief period of time or find a permanent replacement for milk. I use almond milk myself.
What I can tell you is what I know to be true - the things I've FELT them from the inside and SEEN on the outside. After being dairy-free for 5 years and adopting a plant-based diet coupled with exercise (from www.thedailyhiit.com), I've never felt or looked better.
After switching to dairy-free alternatives my skin is finally acne-free, I don't have excessive gas, bloating or digestive issues, I rarely get so much as a common cold, my energy is sustainable throughout the day, I sleep soundly at night, my mood has stabilized, my libido is back in full swing, and I'm sure as hell proud to boycott such a disturbing, inhuman industry.
These changes don't happen overnight - changing your diet takes time. So I recommend being patient with yourself as you wean off your old dietary staples. To be successful in eliminating dairy foods don't necessarily think of cutting
them out, but rather crowding
them out. Just buy the dairy-free alternatives when you need them. If you're like me, if it's not in your house you won't go out of your way to get it. So just avoid buying the foods you don't want to eat. And luckily, there are all sorts of products on the market that make great replacements for dairy-based foods like butter, cheese, milks, yogurts and coffee creamer. My personal favorite is Coconut Bliss (a coconut milk based) ice-cream!
You might consider going dairy-free for a month and take note of any changes.
P.S.! I am writing this article in a coffee shop and right now there is a group of young kids to my left talking about what they have for breakfast. One says he has"bagel with cream cheese, yogurt and milk." And the other says he eats a bagel to but doesn't like the milk because it doesn't make him feel good. And the first kid is like "I LOVE milk". And they continue to go back in forth in this way. And I notice it's as though the kid that "loves milk" is right, and the other kid feels ashamed that he can't love milk in this way. With all the commercial advertising we're exposed to, dairy is still considered a necessary food group to many families. So this kid feels like an outsider for not enjoying milk. But the truth is, that second kid is intolerant and the uncomfortable feeling he's getting after consuming dairy is his bodies way of telling him "something is not agreeing here".
And why do children (and adults alike) LOVE milk? Because it's laden with sugar - 13 g of sugar to one cup of milk! That's 3.5 tsp of white, granulated sugar in your cup of milk (!).
Peace and Love everybody. I'm not really trying to ruffle feathers here, I just want people feeling better then they believe they can.
Freya: Personal Trainer specializing in Vegan Nutrition in Montreal, QC