(updated 13.4.2017) I grew up drinking low-fat skim milk huge amounts with every meal and thirst. At school, it was a must to drink milk. There was even a recommendation for the amount of milk to be consumed daily to “stay healthy” and it was advertised from maternity clinics and schools to working environments and elderly homes – throughout the life cycle. The message was to gain enough protein, calcium and vitamin D intake (which was and still is added to Finnish milk because of the poor D-vitamin supply generally in the nation).
But later in the years, I started to question this enormous amount of milk while I was struggling with my own health and trying to figure out the reasons or buffers for my illnesses. I was suffering from chronic sinus infections and some other lung and respiratory symptoms and noticed that the more I drank milk the more I had mucous in my throat. Until this day I haven’t really figured out if dairy is good for me or not, but since I quit drinking cow milk and cut the daily products basically only to goat cheese (and sometimes full-fat unsweetened yoghurt) a few years ago, I haven’t been suffering from the mucous so much. But.. I still haven’t recovered fully from chronic sinus infections etc. and what comes to my obvious gluten sensitivity I’m curious to find out if I’m having a cross-allergy reaction to dairy. But because there are healthy benefits from dairy products as well, I’m kind of in the middle. I wanted to find out what the science says about this.
DAIRY PROS AND CONS
Essential vitamins and fatty acids – Milk is quite nutritious, but the nutrient composition varies between the different types of dairy. For example, scientists have published a study showing that dairy from grass-fed or pasture raised cows contains more fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, K2) and beneficial fatty acids (short chain, CLA and omega-3’s), along with lower levels of inflammatory fats typically found in milk from grain-fed, conventionally raised cows.
Essential minerals & electrolytes– Especially raw milk (unpasteurized and unhomogenized) is a high source of essential minerals and electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium and potassium which people are often lacking in their diet. Unfortunately, high-heat pasteurisation destroys most of these minerals.
Diabetes 2 prevention – Looking at more than 3,300 people, researchers found that people with the highest byproducts of full-dairy products enjoyed a 46 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to people who ate less full-fat dairy.
Help for obesity – Researchers studied more than 18,000 women and found the ones who consumed more full-fat dairy were 8 percent less likely to be overweight or obese compared to the low-fat dairy group.
“One theory is that eating full-fat dairy helps people feel fuller longer. Aside from that, low-fat and fat-free dairy products are often laden with added sugar, a potent risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.” – Dr. Axe
Probiotics– There are only small amounts of probiotics even in raw milk, but when milk product is fermented into a Kefir, yoghurt or cheese, the good bacterias dramatically increase. Kefir is one of the most probiotic rich foods on the planet and has incredible medicinal benefits for healing issues like leaky gut.
After years of warning against it, the U.S. government is now recommending whole milk for your diet. Despina Hyde of NYU’s Langone Weight Management program spoke to CBSN about the changing guidelines.
PASTEURIZATION AND HOMOGENATION
Nearly all commercial milk has been pasteurised and homogenised. These processes actually turn naturally alkaline food into an acidic state. Pasteurisation is the process that kills microbes, mainly bacteria, but unfortunately, it also destroys essential enzymes and probiotics, as well as alters vital amino acids. Homogenization, in turn, is a treatment that prevents a cream layer from separating out of the milk but again unfortunately also oxidises fats and creates free radicals. If free radicals overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate them, a condition known as oxidative stress ensures. Free radicals thus adversely alter lipids, proteins, and DNA and trigger a number of human diseases such as intestinal inflammation, leading to leaky gut.
Kim Schuette, CN, Certified GAPS™ Practitioner tells her opinion about whether the milk is good or bad for humans. She also discusses the process that typically occurs between the animal and the store shelves and what that might mean to the products health effects.
Chemical burden – The scientists have shown that a glass of milk can contain a cocktail of up to 20 painkillers, antibiotics, growth hormones and others! The highest quantities of medicines were found in cow’s milk and the researchers believe that it’s due to the drugs and promoters that were given to the cattle, or got into the milk through cattle feed or contamination on the farm. The Spanish-Moroccan team analysed 20 samples of cow milk bought in Spain and Morocco. If the findings are true for Spanish and Moroccan milk, they could equally be true for milk produced in Britain, northern Europe or elsewhere in the world.
Increased insulin levels – In addition, some types of protein appear to cause greater insulin responses than others. One study found that whey and casein protein in dairy products raised insulin levels even higher than bread in healthy people. Another study in obese adults showed a high-dairy diet led to higher fasting insulin levels than a high-beef diet. Bottom Line: Avoiding excessive amounts of protein, especially dairy protein, can help prevent insulin levels from rising too high after meals.
If you enjoy your dairy in full-fat version, the insulin doesn’t rise so high.
Lactose intolerance and milk allergy – Of course there are people with lactose intolerance or milk allergy and it’s common sense to avoid dairy in those cases. Some of my friends have found help for lactose intolerance from organic milk but what comes to an allergy for milk protein, even the proteins in sheep and goat’s milk are similar to those in cow’s milk and might also cause a reaction. My daughter was suffering from milk allergy until she was five, but luckily those early infancy allergies often disappear.
Skin problems – I’ve always had a good skin but for some reason processed cheese made of cow’s milk is the one that gives me the spots, but for me, a raw cheese, goat’s or sheep’s cheese doesn’t do the trick. There are actually a whole bunch of studies to back up this consumption of milk causing acne. (10,11,12,13,14)
Mix-allergy for gluten – But how about us who don’t exactly suffer from lactose intolerance or milk allergy, but still find ourselves having some difficulties in digestion or suffer from an autoimmune disease. Some research shows milk mix-allergy for gluten. So for me, as a gluten sensitive person, could it be that I should avoid milk totally to get healthy?
IS THERE GLUTEN IN DAIRY?
A majority of gluten sensitive individuals do not tolerate milk or dairy based foods. Actually, some research shows that dairy can be very problematic to those who already have gastrointestinal inflammation. Additionally processed dairy (using the enzyme microbial transglutaminase) seems to trigger a gluten-like reaction in those with gluten sensitivity. The staple diet for commercial dairy cows is grain, but whether or not glutens from feeding cows grain crosses into dairy is still in question and has not been adequately studied.
Some research has identified that gluten passes from the diet, into the milk of breastfeeding mums. Considering the growing trend of asthma, allergies, colic, autism, ADD, and other gluten-related disorders of childhood, there might be a major problem lurking around the corner. Many people with gluten sensitivity don’t develop symptoms until their mid-thirties due to glutens insidious behaviour. That’s when they might have developed a severe autoimmune disease or other inflammatory conditions. How could this be prevented? The answer seems to be prevention! There are cutting-edge tests available to see if your baby’s sensitive to gluten. You cannot change your genes, but you can alter your environment to accommodate them. (11)
With that being said, a common sense of the obvious should supersede the decision to use dairy. Gluten Free Society recommends avoiding dairy for at least 6 months. Beyond this, it is recommended that any dairy in the diet comes directly from pasture fed cows if any at all.
Dr David J. Clark, DC gives a clear explanation: What does it really mean to be “cross-reactive” to dairy?
Dr Hagmeyer talking about a common cross reactive food that can continue to rob you from enjoying good health. Perhaps you have embarked on a gluten-free diet, you have done an amazing job at avoiding bread, pasta, beer, cookies, pretzels but yet, you continue to experience many symptoms.
GLUTEN SENSITIVITY AND CROSS-REACTIVE TESTING
Diagnosing gluten sensitivity has been difficult and met with much controversy in the medical establishment. Unfortunately, the old school blood testing and the biopsies aren’t nearly as accurate as the new cutting-edge tests developed 10 years ago. These following labs have panels to look for gluten antibodies in addition to genetic testing. Also, Gluten Free Society offers HLA-DQ Genetic Testing for gluten sensitivity.
EnteroLab, located in Texas, Dallas is a registered and fully accredited clinical laboratory specialising in the analysis of intestinal specimens for food sensitivities (reactions by the immune system to common proteins in the diet) that cause a variety of symptoms and diseases. One particular area of their focus relates to intestinal conditions caused by immune reactivity to gluten. EnteroLab has developed a unique screening test for gluten sensitivity, as well as for many other antigenic food sensitivities, that is more sensitive and specific than tests in current use (U.S. and International patents issued). International orders are also possible depending on the local shipping regulations (allowance to send a non-infectious, exempt human biological specimen). Entero Labs will send you a testing kit.
Cyrex Labs is located in the United States but as they are expanding rapidly they already have partners in Canada, UK and Ireland. The tests must be ordered by a doctor that has an account with Cyrex. Cyrex Labs are an advanced clinical laboratory focusing on mucosal, cellular, and humoral immunology and specialising in antibody arrays for complex thyroid, gluten, and other food-associated autoimmunities and related neuro dysregulation.
Cyrex Laboratories Array 3 (Wheat/Gluten Proteome Reactivity & Autoimmunity)
Cyrex Laboratories Array 4 (Gluten-Associated Cross-Reactive Foods and Foods Sensitivity)
Dr Mark Hyman explains how there’s a lack of evidence for the general recommendation for dairy intake due to the casein that might cause inflammation, autoimmunity or type 1 diabetes as well as a different toxin that has got into the milk during the process.
SO IS DAIRY GOOD FOR ME?
What I’ve found out, is that the health benefits or side effects in the first place depend on the health of the animal and the processing methods of milk. Whether the milk is produced from conventionally raised cows that are fed with feed and a steady stream of antibiotics or whether the cows are pasture raised or grass eating healthy cattle. Also, it seems that low-fat versions are lacking the nutrition and there is often added sugar in them. Pasteurised milk can contain all sorts of chemicals such as antibiotics, painkillers, steroids and anti-malaria drugs.
Some people suffering from lactose intolerance find organic or raw milk suitable since it seems to be the milk processing that makes milk harder to digest. But if you have any problems with digestion, skin problems, bloating or you are suffering from any autoimmune disease, it might be a good idea to stop using dairy products for 6 months or perhaps even for a couple of weeks and see if there’s any improvement in health. Or then you might see major problems turning up when you return to dairy after some pause.
The way people, as individuals, react to dairy also depend on our genes, epigenetics and our body’s capability to handle the dairy. Other sensitivities such as for gluten So there’s no one-size-fits-all answer really. On the other hand, there are plenty of other milk than a cow’s milk to choose from if you feel uncertain whether dairy is good for you or not.
- Raw milk or organic dairy from pasture-raised cows to avoid chemical burden.
- Kefir, fermented milk.
- Organic, grass-fed goats or sheep: raw, fermented dairy.
- Coconut milk or almond milk
For me, it has already been a struggle to get rid of gluten and the excess sugar from the diet so giving up dairy as well feels overwhelming. I’ve been dairy-free every now and then, but after time I seem to give up to goat cheese and fermented dairy. I know that at least processed milk builds excess mucous in my throat which is not good for my chronic sinus infection. I’m planning to get tested for gluten sensitivity and cross-reactions (Cyrex or Entero Lab) to make it easier to find the right diet to prevent any more inflammation in my body. If I’ll find out that dairy is suitable for me, I will definitely stick to organic dairy from pasture-raised cows, goats or sheep to avoid chemical burden in milk and favour almond and coconut milk as I already do.
Note! I’m a Nutritional Therapist, not a doctor or a nutritionist, and I have learned my way through the hard way: by studying, experimenting, reading and investigating. All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The Healing Foodie is not responsible for errors or omissions.