If you are like the majority of North Americans slurping back your pasteurized, homogenized skim milk every day and wondering why you are bloated and inflamed, then taking a break from dairy products might be just what you need.
Sorry to be a Debbie-downer here, but truth be told, many of my clients with health issues like bloating, constipation, acne and eczema are pretty much addicted to dairy products like cheese and milk. Once they take a break from dairy products, even just a week or two, they see a remarkable improvement in their energy levels, skin health and of course, digestion.
There are so many opinions on dairy, but I’ll give you my holistic nutritionist point of view and then you can decide for yourself. This is why the majority of my diet is dairy-free — and if I do eat dairy, you can bet it’s always organic and full-fat (but I don’t drink milk).
Read on for five reasons to avoid dairy, plus a dairy-free ice cream recipe as below.
You might not be old enough to remember this, but about 40-50 years ago our parents or grandparents were drinking milk from a glass bottle with a layer of cream at the top. This was non-homogenized milk. Along came food processing, which decided that the gob of fat at the top just wasn’t pretty, so they chemically altered the fat via homogenization, which is a process that breaks the fat down into smaller sizes so it no longer separates. Many health experts, including myself, advise against this. Why? Quite simply, your fat-digesting enzymes much prefer larger globules of fat to deal with and break down. Homogenize the milk and you turn the fat globules into a microscopic size (a chemically altered food). Many people who have trouble digesting milk fat do much better drinking non-homogenized milk.
To pasteurize or not to pasteurize? That is the question. Here’s the deal: Pasteurization kills all the bacteria in the milk and you are left with a sterile, white liquid. Might sound pure and lovely, but the problem is not only do you kill the bad bacteria, but also the good. The friendly, good bacteria is so incredibly important for your immune system, absorption of nutrients, brain health, digestive health and so on that we need them to colonize our gut in the trillions. Many argue that we need to kill the bacteria in milk to prevent food poisoning, but did you know there is actually more documented cases of food poisoning in pasteurized milk than raw milk?
3. Are you lactose intolerant?
You are not alone, as many as 60% of the world’s population cannot digest milk. In fact, if you are like most North Americans, it’s actually an odd genetic adaptation if you can digest milk. In fact, some researchers state that the ability to digest milk is so abnormal, it shouldn’t be called “lactose intolerance” because that assumes it’s a disease. But rather, it should be called “lactose persistence.” Not digesting the milk sugars is very unhealthy for your body. This is not considered an allergy, mind you, but bloating, gas, pain and diarrhea are very common symptoms of eating a food that is literally indigestible for your body.
A major cause of heart disease and cancer is inflammation, and there are foods that increase inflammation due to the type of fats they contain. Milk is one such food that can increase inflammatory hormones in the body. It is also an acidic substance and over-consumption of acid foods are a magnet for disease. The problem with inflammation is that it is often silent. Milk, a source of arachidonic acid when consumed in excess, promotes inflammatory cells and hormones. While some inflammation is good for you (ie. a swollen ankle from a sprain to promote healing), chronic inflammation from slurping back your milk latte every day is too much and most people consume far too many dairy products.
5. Allergies and food sensitivities
Again, inflammation ensues when we constantly bombard the body with proteins it is either sensitive or allergic too. Casein and whey are dairy proteins that are also two of the most common allergens and food sensitivities, right up there with peanuts, soy, shellfish and wheat. This happens largely in part due to overconsumption. How? We put milk in our cereal, then our coffee, eat cheese, yogurt and then repeat the next day. This overwhelms the immune system and inflammation is the result.
So you love ice cream, but want to avoid the belly bloat? Here’s a recipe that is kind to your body, courtesy of my nutritionist friend Elaine.
Choco-Banana “Ice Cream”
2 ripe bananas (ripe = naturally sweet)
1 heaping tbsp of raw cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder)
1 tray of ice-cubes
Stevia to taste (approx 5-6 drops) – or your natural sweetener of choice
1 tsp of pure almond extract (optional)
1/4 cup of almond milk to facilitate blending
Method: Blend all ingredients using a high-speed blender. Enjoy immediately while cold or store in the freezer for later! Serves two.
Joy McCarthy, registered holistic nutritionist and health coach of Joyous Health, loves to inspire others to eat well and live well. She also teaches an array of wellness workshops and co-creator of Eat Well Feel Well, a six-week nutrition and yoga course in Toronto. Joy welcomes your questions or comments.
Please note: All of these recipes are created in my joyous kitchen with the healthiest ingredients. I’m not a calorie counter or a professional chef — I’m a nutritionist who loves to cook and bake, and I’m delighted to share my creations with you.
So do you think dairy-free is the way to go? For more reasons why you might want to say good-bye to dairy products, check out the video below.