Is Dairy Right for You?
We used to take for granted that cow’s milk was good for us. Indeed many people believe that their health will be jeopardized if they don’t have milk regularly, something that has been pushed hard by the commercial dairy industry. In addition, milk itself was a very different product in the past, when it was drank in its raw, unpasteurized, un-homogenised form – but this is not what we are buying in supermarkets today.
I don’t recommend pasteurized milk at all.
In fact, I’ve been told by a few farmers that if a calf is given supermarket (pasteurized/homogenised) cow’s milk it will kill the calf within 72 hours.
PASTURISED COW’S MILK
Pasturized milk and raw milk are two very different things, but pasteurized milk is the product we are exposed to and consume on a massive scale. The calcium content after pasteurization is hard for the body to take up, so the very reason people are drinking it is compromised. In addition, other vitamins, enzymes and nutrients are destroyed through the pasteurization process.
The idea that the cow’s milk we buy in supermarkets may contribute to the very diseases it’s meant to prevent is controversial. The story of milk is one of evidence and counter-evidence. At stake are enormous commercial interests, deeply rooted patterns of agriculture and consumption – and our health.
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH MILK
The anti-milk lobby claims that consumption of pasteurized dairy products contributes to diabetes and can aggravate rheumatoid arthritis and has been implicated in colic, acne, heart disease, asthma, lymphoma, ovarian cancer and multiple sclerosis. Studies suggesting a link between milk and prostate cancer have been appearing since the 1970s, culminating in findings by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2000 that men who consumed two and a half servings of dairy products a day had a third greater risk of getting prostate cancer than those who ate less than half a serving a day. In the same year, T Colin Campbell, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, said that “cows’ milk protein may be the single most significant chemical carcinogen to which humans are exposed”.
The idea that cows’ milk is the most complete food to serve youngsters is widespread. Even as long ago as 1974, the Committee on Nutrition of the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) was answering the question, “Should milk drinking by children be discouraged?” with a “maybe”. Today the AAP has changed its mind and now recommends dairy products for children.
It is widely accepted that some people are allergic to milk, although this implies that problem lies in the individual’s constitution, rather than milk. Yet, when you look at it more closely, the extent of lactose intolerance is extraordinary.
Lactose is the sugar in milk, which needs to be broken down by lactase in our intestines and bowels. If the lactose we absorb is greater than our lactase capacity, undigested lactose travels to the large intestine, where it ferments, producing gas, carbon dioxide and lactic acid, which in turn causes bloating, cramps, diarrhea and wind.
In practice I often see a link a between digestive problems and milk, as well as skin problems, glue ear, sinus problems, asthma, eczema and more.
BENEFITS RELATED TO MILK
To milk advocates, this is outrageous and they present counter arguments. They counter that milk actively protects against a whole cluster of diseases, reducing the risk of hypertension and perhaps kidney stones, that it helps remineralise tooth enamel and can be positively anticarcinogenic (particularly against colon cancer). What’s more, Harvard University’s huge Nurses’ Health Study found a lower risk of breast cancer in pre- (but not post-) menopausal women who consumed a lot of low-fat dairy foods such as skimmed milk. Even more dramatic is a Norwegian study of premenopausal women that showed those who drank three glasses of milk a day had a 50% lower incidence of breast cancer. But before you reach for the milk, another Norwegian study found that those who drank three-quarters of a litre or more of full-fat milk a day had a significantly greater risk of breast cancer than those who drank more modest amounts. And so it goes.
CHILDREN AND MILK
The best milk for babies and infants is breast milk. The worldwide average age for stopping breastfeeding is about four years old – and this is ideal, but in Australia, UK and other western countries it tends to be much lower.
After the first year of life children don’t necessarily need milk so long as they are having a diet that provides the balance of nutrients needed in sufficient quantities. It’s best to contact me if you have a small child and want to work out whether to include milk in their diet and which type. It’s very important that a small child is receiving the right nutrition and milk can be useful and easy for many children, depending on how a child responds to it.
There’s often the idea that milk helps to protect against osteoporosis because of the calcium content.
Mark Hegsted, a retired Harvard professor of nutrition, has said, “To assume that osteoporosis is due to calcium deficiency is like assuming that infection is due to penicillin deficiency.” In fact, the bone loss and deteriorating bone tissue that take place in osteoporosis are due usually not to calcium deficiency but rather to its resorption: so it’s more an issue of our bodies excreting too much calcium.
To help protect against this the key thing is to have a balanced diet. For example too much protein has been linked to a leaching of calcium in the body, so the most important thing is to get the balance in.
I also recommend supplementing with a balance of minerals. To make sure that calcium is absorbed in the body, it also needs to be taken with a balance of other minerals. Many practitioners consider osteoporosis to be more of a magnesium deficiency rather than a calcium deficiency, as a magnesium deficiency opens the door to a leaching of calcium from the bones and prevents its absorption also. Vitamins D3 and K2 are also very important for good calcium and magnesium balance and absorption. Contact me to find out more.
CHEMICALS IN MILK
There are other controversies with milk too. Only today I read about chemicals found in milk in the Daily Mail (UK) in an article titled ‘It’s not all white: a cocktail of up to 20 chemicals in a glass of milk’ The article states, “A glass of milk can contain a cocktail of up to 20 painkillers, antibiotics and growth hormones, scientists have shown. Using a highly sensitive test, they found a host of chemicals used to treat illnesses in animals and people in samples of cow, goat and human breast milk. The doses of drugs were far too small to have an effect on anyone drinking them, but the results highlight how man-made chemicals are now found throughout the food chain. the highest quantities of medicines were found in cow’s milk.”
I don’t generally recommend pasteurized or homogenised cow’s milk. There are some different types of cow’s milk on the market today, which are healthier, including A2 milk. Different milks you can try include goats milk, sheeps milk, Almond milk, oat milk, A2 milk, lactose-free milk and rice milk. Also of note, milk from older types of cows, such as Jerseys, Asian and African cows are less likely to cause problems.
With infants, if the ideal situation of breastfeeding has ceased early, then I recommend that you monitor how your child reacts to cow’s milk or goat’s milk, either the formulas or milk from the carton (depending on their age). It’s not recommended to introduce other types of milk to small children.
There are also some useful homeopathics that help to correct health issues associated with milk intolerance that can be applied. Additionally, probiotics help to build resistance to milk allergy.
On this site, I aim is to provide well-researched information, in order to empower readers to make informed choices about their health and wellbeing. In both alternative and allopathic medicine new discoveries are being made and there are vast choices available to people, something to be mindful of. Nicholas Dale, Naturopath is not seeking to impose his views on readers, but rather encourage them to seek out any professional help they may need (in whatever form that may take) and discover what is best for them.
Information on this site should not be taken as medical guidance or advice. Readers should always consult personally with their healthcare provider. Information published on this site is not intended to act as a substitute for advice of medical professionals, and should not be taken as such.