Dairy: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
I’m often asked my opinion on eating dairy. My answer is usually the same as it is to many other foods: ditch it for three weeks, add it back in and see how you feel. Foods that you especially don't think you can give up (cheese?) you should absolutely give up temporarily. Although I can give you a template for what you should eat and what you should avoid, we are all wired just a little differently. Eating quality proteins, veggies and fat is a pretty safe food template, but sometimes we want to change it up. Here is a quick breakdown of my thoughts on dairy.
The Good: Dairy can be a quality source of protein and fat when it comes from grass fed animals. Humans thrive on animal proteins. They are utilized by the body very efficiently and dairy is a great source for this. Heavy cream and butter are also good sources of quality fat of which many of us don’t get enough. Goat’s milk is a bit closer to human’s milk and thus can be easier to digest. Another reason I like dairy, it that it's a lot easier to find local than many other forms of "milk" or fat here in Canada (and the US). And it's typically less processed with less fillers than milk alternatives.
The Bad: Humans’ production of lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose) greatly decreases when nursing ceases. Technically, mammals simply don’t consume milk once they are done breastfeeding. That being said, humans do a lot of things differently than other mammals, like cook their food, for instance. With the lack of lactase, lactose is difficult to break down leading to a host of problems including, but not limited to IBS, indigestion, acne, brain fog, bloating and cramps. The higher the fat content of the milk product, the lower the protein content thus less lactose to be irritating if one does react to dairy. This is just one of many reasons to choose high fat dairy products.
The Ugly: Realistically, the dairy you are consuming is far removed from its original state. With the exception of a few cheese brands out of Quebec, raw dairy is illegal to sell in Canada. We have to remember that you are not only what you eat, but what you eat eats. When you are drinking milk from a cow that has been fed grains (cows thrive on grasses) they function poorly and need antibiotics and hormones to survive or to produce more milk than they would naturally. You are being exposed to what he cow has been exposed to. The milk has then been pasteurized, stripped of its original nutrients then fortified with synthesized vitamins and minerals. It’s just not real food anymore.
My personal experience with dairy is a bit unconventional. I have eaten what I would call a pretty clean, but not perfect, diet for over ten years. I stopped drinking soda when I was 12, I gave up milk when I was 16 and my mom decided we were going to be gluten free before it was cool. But, I always had mild acne, mostly around my jaw. I was frustrated knowing I was doing so many things right and even educating others on nutrition and health when clearly mine wasn’t ideal. My thought was that I was only putting heavy cream into my coffee. That small amount just couldn’t be the culprit. I finally made the decision to kick the dairy when I gave up coffee for a month. And it rocked my world. Not only did my skin clear up (and even more so with a few more interventions which I will write in another post), my mood completely changed. I wouldn’t consider myself a moody person, because I know what it’s like to be moody. Ask any girl who has been on hormonal birth control. She was probably a nut case. I was, at least. But all of a sudden, I became what I would currently consider a stable person. I could handle difficult situations without panicking. Little hiccups weren’t blown out of control. I wasn’t quick to tears. It was amazing. I will never go back.
That was discovered in the fall of 2012. Although I’m not perfect, I choose to avoid dairy for my own sanity and to keep friends. I’ve recently learned to enjoy my coffee black. I keep a digestive enzyme supplement around in case I do choose to eat cheese to help my body break it down.
The bottom line? Kick the dairy for three weeks. See how you feel when you re introduce it. Know a girl with PMS? What if it’s just dairy? Adult acne? What if it’s just dairy? Feeling bloated? What if it’s just dairy? What do you have to lose?