In traditional diets, dairy products that were consumed came from the cows on the farm. Cow’s milk and milk products were made from fresh, unprocessed whole milk. Diary was part of the diet – certainly not the mainstay. Dairy we find in our supermarkets has been highly altered through pasteurization, alteration of the fat and nutrient contents, and “fortified” with additives and other chemicals. As such, more and more people are tolerating dairy products less and less, as their bodies see what they are consuming as foreign. The more we stray from the original whole food that nature provides, the more likely our bodies are to react unfavorably to what we are eating. In severe cases, intolerance to foreign proteins can result in activation of the immune system with significant impact to overall health.
Commercial dairy products are made from milk that is pasteurized and homogenized. During the process of pasteurization, the heat in the process not only removes “bad” bacteria, but it also kills good bacteria and can neutralize some of the nutrients and enzymes. When present, these help to digest and assimilate nutrients from the milk products. There are some studies that have shown higher amounts of food poisoning from commercially available, pasteurized milk than from raw milk from cows that roam freely and are raised naturally.
Some people – especially most African Americans, Asians and Native Americans, are not able to produce adequate amount of the enzyme lactase to digest lactose. The sugar found in milk. This begins in their bodies once they have weaned off human milk and are transition to the milk of another species. Undigested lactase causes a condition called lactose intolerance, which can include symptoms such as bloating, cramps, intestinal disturbances with pain, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
Other important considerations about dairy consumption are the residual hormones and antibiotics that are common contaminants. These are used to combat issues that arise from the crowded conditions in what the cows are raised in large, factory farms what produce most of the dairy products for North Americans. In particularly the hormones are passed along to people consuming the dairy, and can affect their endocrine balance.
Dairy consumption has also be associated with an increase in the mucus in our bodies, which causes many types of congestion. There are reports of people who have suffered from life-long sinus problems that disappeared when they eliminating dairy from their diets.
Although dairy is one source of calcium, it may not be the best way to maintain bone health if all factors are considered. Data from studies have shown that countries with the highest milk consumption also have the highest osteoporosis rates. It is postulated tat dairy causes blood pH to become acidic. And in an effort balance blood pH, the body draws out calcium from the bones, which has the overall effect of reducing bone density. Additionally, the calcium in dairy products may not be the best kind that the body is able to absorb.
There are many others excellent sources of calcium in other foods. A few examples include dark leafy green vegetables, bone broth, beans, almonds, sesame seeds, and sea vegetables. With healthy eating, calcium supplements are rarely ever needed.
Many of us love our dairy product and simply can’t imagine eating without them. This is particularly true of cheese! Recent research has shed some light as to why giving up dairy might be especially difficult. Milk – and in its more concentrated version as cheese – contain substances call casomorphins. These are protein fragments that come from the milk protein, casein. Casomorphins have a kind of opioid kind of addictive effect in the human body! Indeed there is a biochemical reason behind our love of cheese. Evolutionarily, this makes sense. It is important that a baby mammal is calmed and sedated by its mother, establishing a nurturing bond with the offspring. This casomorphin effect may be one of the most important reasons behind our deep love of dairy.
Thankfully, we now have numerous very delicious dairy alternative “milks” made from nuts, seeds and grains available to us. Soymilk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, hemp milk, rice milk and cashew milk are gaining popularity and can be found in many markets and restaurants. It is important to read labels as these, too, can contain unhealthy sugars and additives. Unsweetened varieties that are carrageenan-free are highly recommended.
Have you tried dairy alternatives? What is your favorite?