Milk: Does it do the Body Good?

Are you a baby cow?

No? Then why are you drinking food for baby cows?

I am being snarky, I know, but it really is that simple. You are a human, not a cow, so why would you drink another species’ breast milk? It would be like feeding your dog human breast milk. Totally weird, right?

And when we view this from the perspective of evolutionary biology, we also see some other problems with continued dairy consumption. All other mammals only consume milk in infancy. As a result, mammals only produce lactase, the enzyme to break down lactose, the sugar in milk, during infancy. Human beings, being mammals, naturally lose their ability to produce lactase as they age. This leads to lactose intolerance, which is very common and produces digestive symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and flatulence.

So maybe you are starting to see that our natural physiology as human beings doesn’t support the continued consumption of dairy. But let’s go back to the consuming other species breast milk thing. Breast milk, from any species, naturally contains hormones and growth factors from that species. So…do you think your body needs cow hormones? Do you think hormones from another species will support normal physiology in your body? Probably not. But here is the thing. Commercial dairy products don’t just contain naturally occurring hormones and growth factors. They also contain synthetic growth hormones that they give the cow to produce more milk. So now you have natural and synthetic cow hormones in your body. So, is milk doing the body good?

Consider the science:

  • Milk consumption does not improve bone integrity in children. What!? But it has calcium! But here is the truth. Milk is not the only source of calcium in the world and nor is it the best. If you want your kids to get enough calcium, feed them leafy greens.
  • Dairy consumption is linked to higher risks of prostate cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer. One study found that consuming more than one glass of milk per day increased your risk of ovarian cancer by 73% compared to women who drank less than one glass a day.
  • Dairy products, particularly milk, are contaminated with antibiotics, pesticides, PCBs, and dioxins. These toxins can negatively affect your immune function, your nervous system, and your reproduction. Dioxins and PCBs are also linked to cancer.
  • Your eczema, constipation, ear infections, chronic congestion and postnasal drip, and acne may be caused or worsened by dairy consumption. Your immune system may react to proteins found in dairy, causing inflammation in your body.

What about organic dairy products?

Organic dairy products will not contain residues of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, pesticides and perhaps some toxins, but they still contain the sugars and proteins that our bodies may not tolerate well.

What about raw dairy products?

Unlike many other dairy products, raw products contain bacteria, which has the potential to restore or maintain a healthy population of gut bacteria. This probiotic effect is why many people experience health benefits with raw milk. But raw milk is not necessarily safe. It can easily be contaminated with bad bacteria that could make you very ill or even kill you. And again, it is still milk, so it still contains hormones, sugars, and proteins that do not serve our health. And, there are many other probiotic foods that will have the same health benefits without the risks of raw dairy and without the harm of dairy.

What about goat milk?

Goat milk is still breast milk from another species. It still contains hormones, sugars, and proteins that may not serve our health. It has a different concentration of sugars and proteins compared to cow’s milk, so it may be better tolerated, but it is still dairy.

But dairy is delicious!

I know. Cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are so delicious. Unfortunately, delicious does not equal healthy. Life would be so much better if that were true.

But why is dairy so delicious? Well, it alters our brain chemistry. We are biologically programmed to experience spikes in dopamine when we consume foods that are high in sugar, fat, or salt. Again, this goes back to evolutionary biology. When food was hard to come by, it behooved us to have a neurological response to foods with high caloric density. The taste of sugar, fat, or salt, caused a dopamine surge that felt pleasurable and caused people to crave and seek out more of those foods. When starvation is an issue, this drive could help you survive. But in modern society where food is plentiful for many people, this biological drive doesn’t serve our health. When we eat cheese or ice cream today, it triggers this neurological pattern that keeps us coming back for more. In essence, it creates an addiction. And this is why it can be so hard to give up these foods.

Hopefully, I have convinced some of you to rethink your dairy consumption. But I know I have not convinced all of you. Many of you may be thinking that you currently eat dairy and you are totally fine. And that may be. But what does “fine” really mean? When it comes to dairy consumption, all of us have different levels of tolerance. And depending on your genetics, your immune function, your lymphatic function, your gut bacteria, and your ability to eliminate waste and toxins from the body, you may be able to tolerate many foods that don’t serve your health. And if you want to just keep “tolerating” that is fine. But one day soon, you will hit your tolerance threshold and your health will start to crumble. I personally choose foods that I know will actively contribute to my health. To eat a food just because it doesn’t cause outright harm is not good enough for me.  But I view food as medicine. And in that light, what you put in your body has a lot more significance.

Please share this article with your dairy-addicted friends and family!

References

  • Lanou AJ, Berkow SE, Barnard ND. Calcium, dairy products, and bone health in children and young adults: a reevaluation of the evidence. Pediatrics. 2005;115:736–743.
  • Swallow DM. Genetics of lactase persistence and lactose intolerance. Annu Rev Genet. 2003;37:197–219.
  • Qin L, Xu J, Wang P, Tong J, Hoshi K. Milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer in Western countries: evidence from cohort studies. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16:467–476.
  • Song Y, Chavarro JE, Cao Y, et al. Whole milk intake is associated with prostate cancer-specific mortality among U.S. male physicians. J Nutr. 2013;143:189-196.
  • Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Ma J, Gann PH, Gaziano JM, Giovannucci E. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians’ Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;74:549-554.
  • Kroenke CH, Kwan ML, Sweeney C, Castillo A, Caan Bette J. High-and low-fat dairy intake, recurrence, and mortality after breast cancer diagnosis. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013;105:616-623.
  • Kushi LH, Mink PJ, Folsom AR, et al. Prospective study of diet and ovarian cancer. Am J Epidemiol. 1999;149:21–31.
  • Outwater JL, Nicholson A, Barnard N. Dairy products and breast cancer: the IGF- 1, estrogen, and bGH hypothesis. Med Hypothesis. 1997;48:453–461.
  • Bhandari SD, Schmidt RH, Rodrick GE. Hazards resulting from environmental, industrial, and agricultural contaminants. In: Schmidt RH, Rodrick GE, eds. Food Safety Handbook. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 2005:291–321.
  • Baars AJ, Bakker MI, Baumann RA, et al. Dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs and nondioxin- like PCBs in foodstuffs: occurrence and dietary intake in the Netherlands. Toxicol Lett. 2004;151:51–61.
  • Sampson HA. Food allergy. Part 1: immunopathogenesis and clinical disorders. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2004;113:805–819.
  • Host A. Frequency of cow’s milk allergy in childhood. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2002;89(6 Suppl 1):33–37.
  • Iacono G, Cavataio F, Montalto G, et al. Intolerance of cow’s milk and chronic constipation in children. N Engl J Med. 1998;339:1100–1104.

Hi!

I'm Dr. Carly and my mission is to create a health revolution. I believe that another prescription is not the answer. I believe in using natural therapies that go beyond the symptoms. And I believe that doctors should spend way more than 7 minutes with a patient. 

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