Dairy #2: Is Dairy Healthy + Should you be eating it?
Last week we began this series by looking at what dairy is, the types out there and they mean for your health and my own journey through eating or not eating dairy.Click here to read part 1.
You may have read last week and thought ‘she hasn’t given me any answers, should I be eating dairy?’ Well part of that is because one of my main beliefs and practices is to equip you to listen to your body, listen to what it needs and what is is communicating with you.
Communicating? Yes communicating. Our bodies are made to be very clever machines and they are are very good at telling you when they are not happy or healthy. Bloated, over weight, excessively tired (despite early nights), skin issues, food intolerances, bowel problems are to name but a few of the ways your body might be telling you it is not happy and needs some care. And, you my wonderful readers, are the only ones who can care, protect and strengthen your body. It is not a doctors responsibility, not a pharmacist responsibility – it is yours. So I do not aim to spoon feed you, but allow you to make naturally healthy choices.
So back to the white stuff. Many of you have heard conflicting information about dairy so I am going to look at some of the main objections and affirmations towards dairy eating and share my thoughts on them.
It is High in Fat – Against
This is why we have low fat cheese, skimmed milk and runny extra low fat yogurt. It is thought that high fat foods lead to high chloestrol, heart disease and weight gain, so best to avoid them (?)
My thoughts: Well if you don’t know how I feel about consuming natural whole fats then read 5 Myths about Fat and you will get an insight into what i think to call ‘our low fat epidemic’.
Also importantly, lots of the amazing and beneficial vitamins like Vitamin A D and E in dairy are stored in the fat, so if you remove all the fat from milk you are reducing vastly the amount of vitamins it contains. Also many skimmed products have milk powders or things added in order to bulk them out and make them seem more ‘milky’ which seems utterly pointless to me.
So using it as an argument for not eating diary I would say this is pretty void. Natural Fats are good if your body is healthy enough to tolerate them ( unhealthy guts may have problems with digesting fats) and are part of a healthy lifestyle.
It is High in Calcium – For
This is an argument for eating dairy as it does contain calcium, cheese especially. A 8ox glass of milk contains about 300mg of calcium and 2oz of cheddar cheese 400 mg with the suggested average daily intake being 1000mg for adults between 19-51.
However lots of other foods are also high in calcium. Almond contain roughly 210mg of calcium per 50g, green leafy vegetables (spinach, collards, watercress etc) have roughly 225mg when cooked. Sardines, cooked broccoli, tofu, dried figs and molasses are also contain good amount of calcium.
So do we need dairy for calcium?
My Thoughts: A lot depends on your state of health. A robust and healthy individual who is not lactose intolerant would be fine eating dairy. For someone who is lactose intolerant (feel bloated, sick, or very muscosy after eating dairy) is would only inflame the body further.
Food like leafy greens and nuts however may contain lots of calcium but it is not always accessible to our bodies due to oxalic acid in the veg or phytic acid in the nuts, which hinder the calcium absorption in digestion or could further inflame unhealthy/senstive guts.
I personally feel I am finally absorbing calcium and am noticing the effect on my nails, hair, PMS (slow progress) after I started healing my gut, incorporating dairy (after a long period of being diary free) and taking a calcium/zinc/magnesium supplement. I believe this is because my gut is healing and I am able to absorb the calcium, but also because I am consuming more dairy that is more accessible to my body as I seem to have effectivley treated my mild lactose intolerance ( being dairy free for many years helped me overcome my milk intolerance).
So dairy the best source of calcium? Not if you are intolerant to it and although it a source it is by no means the only or best source – variety is king so ensure you are incorporating other high calcium foods into your diet and listen to your body. If you feel sick eating dairy – stop eating it! If you feel mildly effected by dairy – stop eating it for a period and let your body heal.
Lactose Intolerance – Against
This is the biggest reason for not consuming dairy.
It i s estimated that 25-90% of the worlds population cannot digest lactose, which is the naturally occurring sugar in dairy that is broken down by the lactase enzyme. Many of us lack this enzyme.
Many people are allergic to dairy/lactose and will react severely if it is consumed. Others may just (it not a ‘just’ when your suffering from it!) have suffer from diahorria, bloating, skin problems (eczema/rashes etc) have sinus problems or asthma and this wold be seen more as an intolerance.
My Thoughts: We are all unique and have a different tolerance for different things. My whole family has very mild lactose intolerance – we all had it as babies and will probably always have to eat sensible amounts of it. I do believe though that most lactose intolerance can be overcome by a period of intense healing nutrition. When our gut/digestive system s are unhealthy, inflamed, or leaky (the gut lining allowing the wrong stuff into the blood stream) lactose can be problematic. Diets like GAPS or SCD are great for healing the digestive tract and are temporary diets (1-2 years) to ensure full healing of the body. Or you may just need to have a dairy free few months to give your body a break . I think were designed to be very clever, adaptable things and are always seeking to heal, we just have to give them a chance to do the thing they were made for – heal and give life.
Suspect lactose intolerance? I would recommend eliminating it from your diet for at least 2 months and seeing how you feel and then over time keep trying to incorporate dairy back into your diet and if you get your old symptoms return then your body is not ready. If you feel fine then feel free to eat small amounts of dairy beginning with mature organic cheese, butter and kefir. Also please note you may be able to tolerant kefir or probiotic natural yogurt even if you can’t handle any other dairy products.
Wether lactose intolerant of not though make sure you are getting calcium from a variety of sources as mentioned above and think about introducing kefir inot your diet as it will only do you good.
Milk and Dairy is Natural – For
Yes, basically dairy comes from animals and is very beneficial in its natural form. However, today we pasteurise our dairy – which removes all the potentially harmful bacteria but also all the good stuff ( if animals are farmed correctly there should be very little danger in thier produce) that help us digest it. We also homogenised our milk which mean the fat doesn’t settle, which messes with the fat molecules making them harder to digest.
Raw dairy straight from the farm is natural. The stuff we see on supermarket shelves is not. Its been heat and processed, skimmed and treated. It comes from unhealthy animals who are treated poorly and therefore our bodies may react to it.
My Thoughts: If you can get all your dairy in raw form and from a farm. Sorry scottish readers this is currently illegal for us (!!!) but if your in england shire i highly recommend it (here is a map of suppliers).
If you are lactose intolerant it may be that your body is merely intolerant to our messed up version of dairy and would handle the raw stuff fine? I know if I drink too much normal organic milk my body will react, so I stick mainly to kefir, organic mature cheese, homemade soured cream and butter.
Should you be eating it?
Are you intolerant? Then no you shouldn’t be eating it at least for a few months.
Do you eat loads of normal milk and cheese? Switch to organic and ideally raw and ensure you are getting varied sources of calcium.
You have IBS or other digestive problems? I would recommend kefir but no other form of dairy for a 2-4 months.
There you have it some of the objections and promotions of dairy debunked and answered. Next time I will be looking at dairy alternatives and what is really in them.
Are you lactose intolerant? Or tolerant it just fine? I would love to know!