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[Don't] Drink Your Milk

“Drink your milk.” How many North American mothers have sounded like a broken record repeating those three words over and over to their children over the last couple of generations? It is generally assumed that milk and other dairy products are an essential part of a healthy diet, especially for growing children and pregnant women. However, vegans are able to be perfectly healthy without using any animal products, including animal milk. And there can be health effects from dairy products.

Allergies and sensitivities to milk are relatively common. But there are other issues as well.


A report in the New England Journal of Medicine links milk with insulin-dependent diabetes. Evidence by Canadian and Finnish researchers suggests that a combination of genetic predisposition and cow's milk exposure can causes the childhood form of diabetes. The suggestion is that cow's milk proteins enter the bloodstream and stimulate the production of the antibodies, which in turn destroy the insulin-producing pancreatic cells.


At least since the early 1980s, milk has been implicated in the formation of cataracts. Populations that consume large amounts of dairy products have a much higher incidence of cataracts than those who avoid dairy products. The culprit seems to be lactose.


It has been well known for some years now that many people are unable to digest the milk sugar lactose, resulting in diarrhea and gas. Studies show that as many as 65 percent of the human population has problems with lactose. People with lactose intolerance do not produce adequate amounts of the enzyme lactase which is required to break down lactose, a sugar found in milk. This can result in symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea.

Lactose has also been found to contribute to the formation of cancer of the uterus and ovaries. A Harvard University researcher studied hundreds of women with ovarian cancer and found that, compared to another group of women who had not developed cancer, the cancer patients had eaten dairy products much more frequently, especially yogurt and cottage cheese. The researcher speculated that the problem may lie with lactose. When dairy product consumption exceeds the enzymes' capacity to break down galactose, there is a buildup of galactose in the blood, which may damage a woman's ovaries. The bacteria used in the production of yogurt and cottage cheese increase the production of galactose.

Iron Deficiency:

Milk tends to displace iron-rich foods, and is, itself, low in iron. It can also cause the loss of blood from the intestinal tract, which over time reduces the body's iron stores; dairy products also interfere with the body's absorption of iron. According to an article in the American Journal of Nutrition, milk or cheese eaten with a meal will reduce the amount of iron absorbedby about half (calcium supplements reportedly do the same thing).


The list is long of modern diseases that have their basis in chronic inflammatory conditions. They include Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases like various kinds of arthritis, MS, and lupus, dermatitis and psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

The research about inflammation and milk is mixed. If you have a dairy allergy, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, gluten intolerance or intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut), there is evidence that dairy can promote an inflammatory response. However, that may not be the case for otheerwise healthy people. In fact, one literature review, conducted in 2020, reported that eating dairy could even reduce biomarkers of inflammation in some cases, where subjects did not have inflammatory disorders or other conditions.

So although milk is undoubtedly rich in nutrients, there appears to be growing evidence that it is a far better food for baby cows than it is for people. If you do tchoose to consume dairy, choose high quality, full-fat, organic, pasture-raised products from grass-fed cows, goats, or sheep. And, yes, contrary to previous health information, full-fat dairy has shown to be more beneficial than low-fat. Organic is important, because conventional dairy products contain hormones, chemicals, and antibiotics which have their own negative consequences to human health. Additionally, dairy products from goat and sheep are often better tolerated by many people because they contain lower levels of milk proteins.

Testing is available for dairy intolerance. And experimenting with a 30-day dairy-free diet followed by a reintroduction of milk can help you discover negative reactions to dairy products.


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