Is Dairy Healthy?
Deciding if dairy is right for you, depends on a few factors that I cover on this page. Arm yourself with knowledge and consider doing the appropriate testing so you can make the best decision for your health.
Do you get a tummy ache when you eat diary?
Or perhaps your cheeks turn red or you notice a breakout or rash?
Or maybe you feel 100% fine when you eat dairy but are just looking for healthier ways to enjoy it?
So what is the deal with dairy? Is dairy healthy? I get this question often along with questions about gluten.
Conventional dairy products, meaning ones that aren’t raised from cows who eat grass and do not follow strict organic guidelines can harm your health. This may sound shocking as many of us (myself included) were raised on your standard 2% milk and other dairy products. Our parents were taught that they were “healthy” and good for growing children.
The reason why conventional dairy is harmful is because most dairy cows are dosed with high levels of antibiotics and growth hormones. Both are regularly used, to keep production high and to prevent them from getting sick because most dairy cows live in confined, unsanitary conditions. These potent medications and hormones inevitably get into the dairy products and into our bodies causing a wide range of issues including allergies, disrupted hormone balance, resistance to antibiotics, and more.
Organic milk, on the other hand, is free from pesticides and other harmful compounds and grass-fed diary has a very different nutritional profile and is raised with completely different considerations. This potentially means organic and grass-fed, could be better options if you don’t have gut issues or a dairy allergy. Sadly, organic and grass-fed milk, cheeses, and other products are very hard to find and not the products that restaurants and standard coffee shop chains are using.
I always suggest using unsweetened coconut or almond milks (with few preservatives) for smoothies. If you are certain you do not react to dairy, always be sure to go organic and opt for grass-fed options. I do not recommend soy products, as they can off-set hormone balance and tend to be highly processed. If you do not have an allergy to dairy and enjoy cheese as I do, you can opt for good quality hard imported cheeses that are low in lactose, a fermentable sugar that is linked to gut issues.
You may be thinking, “how do I make sure I’m getting enough calcium?” if I limit my dairy intake. There are plenty of non-dairy sources of calcium including kale, bok choy, raw broccoli, and watercress. These foods also have a wide range of other nutrients such as sulfur compounds that promote detox while giving you a wide range of nutrients you need every day.
To increase your calcium intake, simply fill your plate with handfuls of these high-calcium vegetables and top with your favorite, anti-inflammatory fats like avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds when appropriate. Add 2 to 4 ounces of high quality proteins such as organic, grass-fed meats, wild seafood, organic, pasture raised chicken, or organic pasture raised eggs.
Sadly, food allergies are very common and dairy is one of the top allergens. Most people don’t realize that they have mild to severe issues to specific foods such as dairy, because they haven’t had any testing or haven’t had the right testing. I recommend consulting a functional medicine practitioner to discover which testing it right for you.
Dairy can also interact with other allergies or amplify them. For example, if you have a sensitivity to gluten chances are you may also have issues with dairy as milk products that contain the protein casein can cross-react with gluten.
People with a history of gut issues (many have undiagnosed gut imbalances as well) can be extremely sensitive to dairy. Many people unknowingly suffer with small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) which is one of the major causes of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). They usually react to milk because the overgrowth of bacteria ferments lactose found in dairy, causing gas, bloating, and other unwanted symptoms.
If you suffer from autoimmune diseases such as RA, Crohn’s, Psoriasis, Type 1 Diabetes, or Hashimoto’s, you should consider illuminating dairy completely from your diet. If your gut and your immune system is compromised, dairy can create unwanted digestive symptoms and other issues on top of other symptoms you may be experiencing from an autoimmune condition.
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