Dairy and milk products are staples in the standard North American diet. It’s touted as a complete, densely-nutritious food group with the ability to grow strong bones. Some sports enthusiasts even suggest chocolate milk as the perfect post-workout drink (how about a green smoothie?). However, there are problems and health concerns associated with milk that have caused many people to step back from their milk and cookies and ask for alternatives.
Because milk contains certain proteins, including casein, it has the potential to cause allergies. Milk is one of the major allergens that naturopaths remove from a patient’s diet when they experience non-specific symptoms such as digestive concerns, skin conditions, headaches, and joint pain to name a few. Many of my patients have experienced dramatic improvement with the removal of just dairy.
As we age, the enzyme required to breakdown lactose (a sugar in dairy) decreases, leading to lactose intolerance. This leads to very uncomfortable digestive symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea.
Because of milk’s popularity, farmers in the States use a synthetic form of a natural hormone, bovine growth hormone, rBGH, to increase milk production. Injecting this hormone results in greater levels of Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, IGF-1, which is analogous to the same hormone found in humans. This is a concern as high levels of IGF-1, which occurs with dairy consumption, is associated with greater risk of colorectal, breast and prostate cancer. The good news…rBGH is banned from use in Canada.
Cattle is treated with antibiotics not only to fight an infection, but to prevent it and increase cattle growth. Although Canada has guidelines restricting the amount of antibiotic residues in milk, antibiotic use in cattle creates antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be passed onto humans. And even the smallest residue amount can cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
Removing milk and dairy from a diet can be very difficult, but there are tasty alternatives, such as soy, rice and almond milk. Soy milk is a great option for menopausal women as it has estrogen regulating properties that can reduce hot flashes. Because soy is one of the most genetically modified foods (blog to come later on GMO health effects), only drink non-GMO and organic sources. My personal favorite is almond milk; it has a smooth consistency and tastes similar to milk with the added heart benefit associated with nuts. Buyer beware…any of these milk alternative drinks are flavored with sugar and additives. My advice: don-t drink these; if you are going to be healthier by not having milk, why are you going to add sugar and more additives to your diet?
But Dr. Klemm, if I don’t have milk and dairy, how will I get calcium for my bones? I love this question and I love the answer even more. Adults require 1000-1300 mg/day of calcium depending on their age. Milk contains 290-320 mg of calcium, which is high-I will give it that. But tofu contains about 340 mg, tahini contains 130 mg, sardines contain 286 mg and white beans contain 120 mg; even turnip greens have 100 mg of calcium. A diet rich in vegetables, fish, soy, legumes and seeds can provide enough calcium for the day without needing dairy products. Whats even better is that this diet also benefits heart disease, menstrual issues, obesity, joint pain and skin conditions.
Try it out! There are so many dairy-free products available, you will be amazed at how easy it can be.