Dairy Free

Perhaps you too have wondered why it is that the dairy industry advertises their products so vigorously? Could it be that there is a swing away from the consumption of dairy products?

I am going to list concerns about dairy foods that have been raised by some people. In most cases, not enough adequate scientific proof exists to secure these criticisms. But even as unsubstantiated they are, they exist as unanswered questions.

Concerns have been raised about cow's milk:

  • because some people say that in the pasteurization process (which heats the milk), the dairy protein alters shape, making it harder to digest

  • because when milk is homogenized it is passed through ultra fine sieves at super high pressures to separate the milk fat into such fine particles that they cannot recombine (and float to the top). Some people believe this process leads to damaging the lining of our arteries leading to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and is made possible by the super fine fat particles.

  • because obesity may be linked to cow's milk: cow's milk is prefect for baby cows and, as some people have observed, tends to promote excess weight gain in human babies

  • because juvenile diabetes has been thought to be linked to cow's milk consumption: a study at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto found evidence of allergic reactions, to cow's milk protein, in the blood of children who consumed cow's milk formula before the age of six months, and who later developed juvenile diabetes (although this study has been discounted by other researchers)

  • because osteoporosis is more prevalent in countries in which cow's milk and milk products, like cheese, are consumed in greater amounts (although detractors to this observation blame other factors)

  • because many people with arthritis say they have less joint pain when they reduce or stop dairy products

  • because many people with asthma, or who have problems with sinus problems, or who have excess respiratory mucus, report that they improve when they reduce or stop dairy products

  • because children with repeated ear infections seem to have fewer infections when they reduce dairy products

  • because some people with eczema say their symptoms improve when they reduce dairy products

It remains to be seen if any of these concerns will be proven to be true. You may chose to make your own experiment if you have any of these conditions. Don't look for instant results because it takes you body some time to accomplish the process of clearing dairy from your system. Most people feel this can take up to about six months. Butter seems to be good for most people in my experience. I recommend butter rather than butter alternatives for most people.

Some people claim that raw milk has benefits and that when the farming practice is excellent and the health of the cows is good, that raw milk is healthy. Some Public Health authorities have major concerns about the possibility of infections in raw milk and it is banned in some jurisdictions. Raw milk cheese is however permitted in some jurisdictions. There are some people who feel that their joint pain improves when they eat organic raw milk cheese.

Cow's Milk Protein is found in:

  • milk, buttermilk, skim milk
  • cream, sour cream, condensed milk
  • butter, margarine (unless it is labeled dairy-free), milk powder, curds, ricotta
  • whey
  • lactose, casein, caseinate, lactalbumen
  • cheese, yogurt, sour creamowl

Dairy Products are present in many foods and will require you to keep a sharp eye out:

  • meats prepared commercially
  • scalloped or creamed vegetables
  • soups or sauces - canned or dehydrated
  • gravies
  • breads, buns, muffins, crackers, cakes, cookies
  • commercial beverages i.e. coffee, liqueurs
  • salad dressings, foods sauteed in butter etc.

The information on cow's milk was obtained from Bril,H., Can Fam Physician 2008;54:1258-64

Dairy Alternatives?

Here are some alternatives to cow's milk:

  • goat milk seems to be easier to digest than cow's milk for many people (including goat cheese, yogurt etc.) and is suitable for children. Because the taste is strong, it may be helpful to transition children to it by gradually increasing the proportion of goat / cow.
  • sheep milk cheese may also be OK but generally has a strong taste
  • rice, oat, almond milk or cocconut milk (available from the health food sections in most food stores)
  • soy products, however I do not generally suggest these for many reasons

It is true that everyone needs calcium. People who have problems with dairy consumption may choose to eat more calcium rich foods: seaweeds are the grand prize winner, and in the leafy green vegetables, kale is the winner. (photo from our garden, September, 09). Remember -cows don't drink milk!

Calcium supplementation with Vitamin D may be a very good idea for many people who choose not to eat dairy products.

However it has recently been found that high circulating levels of calcium may lower vitamin D levels. The suppression of circulating 1,25(OH)2D levels by calcium intake could explain why higher calcium and milk intakes appear to increase risk of advanced prostate cancer.