What's the Deal with Dairy? Is It Good or Bad?

I just don't know about it! Sometimes I think it's good and sometimes I disapprove! But lately, I think I've got it nailed down to this nutritionist's crystallized opinion as to what it means for humans. 

We're talking about products made from cow's milk: butter, cheese, cream, yogurt, and milk itself. We focus on the milk since that is the basis of all dairy products. 

There are two factors to consider when it comes to consuming dairy: 

1. Who you are (your body type, sensitivities, what's going on in your life, etc.) and 2. how your dairy is produced. 

1. Who you are: 

75% of the world is lactose-intolerant! 75%! This means they cannot tolerate the sugar in milk: lactose. Yes, I know that's obvious, but I had to say it. Here's the deal with this: we produce something called lactase, which is the enzyme used to break down lactose, the main sugar in milk. 

Most people lose that enzyme, but apparently, some people don't. This is according to who you are and it seems, a little bit according to where you live. A lot of people in Africa, South America, and Asia seem to have more of a chance of being lactose intolerant. 

So there's that, and then there's also the problem with casein, the protein in milk. Being allergic to the protein in cow's milk is an allergy that causes blood in the poop, stomach issues, other allergic reactions like eczema, and green diarrhea. 

Being allergic to casein is most common in really young people, like babies and toddlers. Just ask me and my kids about it. Or yet, ask me because they were really little. That's rough because kids are the ones that need milk. They are in a growing stage, which is what cow's milk is for. And that brings me to my next point:

It depends on what stage of life you're in. Milk is especially wonderful for people who are in the midst of a building diet. A building diet is exactly what it sounds like: for people who are growing, pregnant (growing someone else), nursing, or underweight (building fat and muscle mass). 

Yes, it's not normal that we drink another mammal's milk. We're the only species that does it. But what's even weirder is that we drink it when we don't need it, when we're fully grown adults who have outgrown the need (and lost the lactase enzyme) for milk. I don't know about this, but for the most part, in terms of the body, I think it's okay because the cells, muscles and organs of a bovine are similar enough to our own.

It's not like we're drinking lizard pee.  

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But one day, I told someone the argument that it was weird that we drink another mammal's milk. And immediately, I added, "But we're doing all right, aren't we?" Yes, the agricultural revolution brought milk, but it's not like we started doing poorly as a species after that. It's not like we died off: on the contrary, we have have advanced a lot since then. 

Maybe it's the B2 and B12, which are good for the brain. Maybe it's the fatty acids that have built up the neurons in our brains, who knows. 

And sometimes milk can be just as good for people toward the end of their lives as for people at the beginning of their lives. Some elder people lose too much weight and need to get back into the building diet, building back their bones with the calcium abundant in milk and the wonderful fat there too.

Everyone knows about calcium and osteoporosis. We all know about bones and milk, yes yes yes. But know this: it's not just the calcium. It's the vitamin K2, vitamin D, protein and phosphorous. It would truly benefit the oldest of the world population in terms of reducing bone fractures. 

When it comes to building up bones, make sure magnesium is involved. I think calcium gets too much attention when it comes to osteoporosis. That calcium has to have a good amount of magnesium too so either supplement or eat things with a bunch of mag (nuts, plants, fruits, etc.). 

Then there's the saturated fat content: saturated fat is not bad for your heart at all. In fact, some studies have shown that whole milk from grass-fed cows has been shown to reduce heart disease. This is probably due to the fact that grass-fed cows get more Omega-3 fatty acids and also more vitamin K2. 

Some studies have even showed that whole milk might reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes and obesity. Interesting. 

There's also the fact that dairy is very mucus-producing so it might not be the best thing to have during a cold, sinus infection or other mucus-related issue when there's really just too much mucus going on in the system, which, in turn, affects digestion. 

Still not sure whether you should be drinking it? If it causes any kind of brain fog, fatigue, constipation or other digestive issue, or perhaps even some kind of mood swing - even if you notice puffiness in your face, it might not be for you. 

Pay attention to your body after the consumption of any dairy products. It might optimize your diet during specific parts of your life, while holding you back during other parts of your life. Or maybe it's not for you at all. What it takes to know this is self-awareness and a little bit of intuition. 

I do know that cheese does not work for me. Very sadly. It does not optimize digestion and sometimes causes a blemish on my face to pop up out of nowhere. 

I do better without it as of now: I have more energy, more radiant skin and better digestion without it. But my kids drink it, but they are growing, and their digestion is just fine with it. They seem to be thriving. 

To each, his or her own. 

If you'd like to get away from dairy for a bit to see how you do, this free detox program has no dairy in it:

 

2. How it is produced:

Some people swear by raw milk, and I have used it a little bit (little to no problems), and I tried to give some raw cheese to my children. The little one immediately had diarrhea. This is not to say that pasteurization is the only way to go. 

I agree with people about keeping the bacteria rolling, not over-cleaning stuff so we have to live in a flora-free world, which would be bad because need all the bacteria - it's a delicate ecosystem. We need good flora, as long as we are watchful about how it affects us.

In the same sense that we need the good bacteria, we also don't want to overdo it because as I said, it's a delicate ecosystem. We don't want the good guys to become the bad guys because they have power now. No. We don't want to be over-florafied (made up that word).

I recently put one of my children on antibiotics (bad Mommy) so I gave him probiotic yogurt every day naturally. I really don't know that this helped. I think it caused more problems than it helped (help!), but I'm aware now of overdoing the probiotic thing. They are still studying and working on the microbiome. We don't know everything yet so use raw dairy products with caution.

Pasteurization of milk came about because the cows were getting infected by the machine or the human that was milking the cows. They (whoever they are) also wanted to increase the shelf life of milk so killing bacteria and pathogens was the best way to accomplish this.

Pasteurization is a good thing, and still is. Again, use raw dairy with caution. But do aim to get good flora, but not too much. Easy, right? (I just feel like there are other ways to get desirable microbes). 

It sounds like this whole article is a bunch of hemming and hawing. You're right. Because I don't know the inside of your body, but I can tell you two things with certainty. The first one:

  • Whole milk is better than reduced fat milk, and especially skim milk:

Whole milk gives you good fat which is why anyone drinks milk in the first place (well, besides for the calcium and protein). The fact of the matter is that study after study has shown that it is the whole milk that reduces risk of diabetes and heart disease. It is the whole milk that reduces the risk of osteoporosis. 

This is because the fat-soluble vitamins like K2 and D2 available in milk cannot be absorbed without the abundance of fat that comes with it. These two fat-soluble vitamins (there is also vitamin A in milk) especially affect health in positive ways, including and especially bone mass. 

And most of the time, milk manufacturers have put sugar in the skim and reduced fat milks to make up for lack of taste, which could be responsible for the rise of diabetes and heart disease after the fat scare (back when everyone was talking low fat this and low fat that, fat free this and fat free that).

It's a bad compensation and truly affects the nutrient makeup of milk in a poor way. Say no to sugar and yes to fat more often. Watch the sugar in your milks, is it too high? Read labels, research companies. 

Saturated fat, in moderation, is not bad for you. Repeat it to yourself if you need to. Whole milk is a good thing. Repeat it to yourself if you need to. 

(It's weird that everything from all kinds of carbs to all kinds of fat has been blamed for the world's health problems, but sugar [who actually is causing most of the problems] is the bad guy who's just expected to be bad - causing all the problems while everyone turns a blind eye).

Whole foods, no matter dairy, grains or other foods, are always going to be better. The word whole is a wonderful word in nutrition, if it's been used truthfully and not just out of marketing. 

  • Grass-fed, organic, hormone-free and antibiotic-free is best:

Grass-fed milk has fat-soluble vitamins, definitely more K2 and omega-3 fatty acids. It also has more conjugated linoleic acid (like 500% more). More fatty acids are good!

If we are going to pasteurize our milk, then let's just leave those cows alone, right? Let's leave some bacteria in there for the cow and for us! Unless they get a bad bacterial infection then it makes sense. It's just like with us (if we're going to drink their mother's milk then we must try to commiserate with them), we take an antibiotic when there is an issue with a bacterial infection. We don't just shoot everybody up, just in case. 

Let's do this for them and their digestive systems and also for ours! Especially if there's pasteurization happening!

As for growth hormones, why do we need them to grow fast? Just let the cows be. What's the slogan? Happy cows produce happy milk? Let them be free, let them be happy, let them eat grass and have normal lives. Plus, those growth hormones will affect us somehow. Let's all just grow normally, including the cows. 

Then we get the benefit of drinking that blissful milk (if it's right for us). 

Watch how your food is made, not just your dairy. Read the packaging. Investigate as much as your time will allow. The world is getting so much better at monitoring the food world. But it's really up to us to go as local and as humane as we can get, in terms of our shopping (unless you have a cow out back and now we are best friends!). 

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Comment below about your experience with DAIRY. Kid has the casein allergy? Someone you know is lactose-intolerant? Let's talk about it. Need and want your opinion here.

Related: What's the Deal with Grains? How to Know Which Ones to Eat

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