For decades we have all been brainwashed through advertising and food guide pyramids to believe that dairy is an essential part of our daily diet. Yet we are the only creatures who consume milk after infancy and not even our own milk but milk from another animal that is not biochemically suited to our bodies.
Although dairy does contain high levels of calcium, contrary to popular myth, bone strength is not linked to the consumption of dairy products. Instead it comes from more plant based foods such as almonds, sesame seeds, nuts, beans, broccoli, kale, collards and tofu. Like much of the North American diet, milk and particularly cheese are acid forming products when metabolized by the body. When too many acid-forming foods are consumed they upset the pH balance in the blood and so the body immediately responds by drawing from the most available source of alkalinity…calcium, magnesium and potassium from the bones. Ironically, dairy can actually contribute to the depletion of bone strengthening minerals!
The other result of acid forming foods is that they increase the inflammatory response in the body. Dairy is one of the most inflammatory foods in our diet and can result in gas, bloating and diarrhea. Seventy-five percent of people are genetically unable to break down dairy products (called lactose intolerance). Many people also react poorly to casein, one of the two proteins found in milk, which has a similar molecular structure to gluten. The inability to properly digest dairy results in the body treating those large molecules as foreign substances, constantly stimulating the immune system to “neutralize” them. This daily irritation of the immune system and the storing of foreign matter in the body (often the joints) will eventually lead to inflammation. If chronic inflammation sets in, diseases such as autoimmune conditions, heart disease, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s can result.
Lastly, dairy often contains hormones and antibiotics. In America dairy farmers routinely inject cows with a bovine growth hormone to increase milk production, rBGH. The mastitis that is often caused by the increased production is treated with antibiotics. These elements enter into the milk. The full extent of their effect on the public is not yet known but it’s clear that humans are not meant to consume bovine growth hormone. Excessive antibiotic exposure is proven not healthy in the long term and kills the friendly bacteria in our gut.
Genetically, I am not lactose intolerant. But despite being able to digest lactose, I limit my dairy due to its inflammatory effects on the body. When I do indulge, I try to eat only raw, organic dairy. I make nut milk regularly (almond, brazil nut, or walnut) and use this as a base for smoothies and in my coffee and tea. Dairy is not crucial for good health. I get my calcium from other sources such as vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.