Oh boy this is a HOT topic! As a consumer and fellow grocery shopper, it’s hard not to see the increase of dairy free products consuming every isle. I mean, there are now like 12 different brands of almond milk on ONE shelf. Yikes! So what’s the deal here? Is this dairy free revolution all hype and strategic marketing? Or are these trends following the needs of us the consumers and the best options for our health? Dairy and dairy products are those made from animals’ milk. This includes milk, cream, yogurt, cheese, butter, ice cream, cream cheese, whey protein, sour cream and pretty much anything that tastes good. Milk is growth food. It literally contains fat, simple sugars, growth hormone and essential immune building properties. This is exactly what we need as an infant! Which is why mammals live strictly off mother’s milk for a year or so, and then the mother’s ability to lactate ceases. I truly believe dairy products had a place in our ancestral diets; however, certain lifestyle factors of this new age world have severely damaged our ability to process this once golden liquid.
There are really 2 reactions to dairy products. Either you’re sensitive to lactose, the primary sugar in milk products; or have a sensitivity/ allergic reaction to the proteins casein, lactalbumin, whey and other milk proteins. Or if you’re lucky you can be sensitive to both. Lucky you! I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, most people are in this third category (including myself). I’m going to walk you through some symptoms of dairy allergies and intolerances in a minute, some of these you may NEVER expect! But I think it’s important to talk about dairy and the way production impacts milk quality, which feeds into intolerances.
I’m going to be upfront here; conventional dairy found in the grocery store is disgusting. PLEASE avoid it at all costs. If the dairy isn’t certified organic and grass-fed, the cows have been shoved into dirty feed lots where they are confined in close quarters under massive amounts of stress and fed pesticide latent, GMO grains. Ew? YES. This DOES affect milk and it’s nutrient quality in several ways. Those poorly treated cows often become sick, developing digestive issues from their un-natural grain fed diet and contract bacterial infections. They are then pumped with antibiotics, and utters often bleed and leach puss. The milk that is then FORCED out of these cows can often be discolored, have traces of blood, puss and antibiotics.
So how does it look so beautiful and white? The contaminated milk is heated at crazy high heat through pasteurization, which kills any vitamin E and B vitamins that may remain. It is then diluted, possibly treated with ammonia to create that milky white color, and then homogenized. Homogenization involves putting the milk through a high pressure filtering system that breaks down large fat globules into microscopic particles. This allows milk to not separate when refrigerated. Homogenization can actually disrupt the fat molecules structure, which in turn interferes with our body’s ability to digest them. See how DISGUSTING the process of retrieving conventional milk is? Only grass-fed, organic, non-homogenized and non-pasteurized dairy will guarantee optimal nutrition.
Anyways, onto what you’re really here for! Here are 4 common symptoms to gage if dairy is right for you.
1. Digestive Discomfort
This is usually the first symptom someone with a dairy allergy/ intolerance experiences. Tummy rumbling, abdominal pain and swelling, diarrhea, nausea constipation, bloating, gas and foul smelling gas are all included. Of course they don’t all happen at once…hopefully ;) Personally I become bloated, crampy and have disrupted bowl movements. This can happen after consuming ANY dairy product. And yes, that whey protein shake has lactose in it so don’t rule it out as a culprit of stomach upset! Often, our gut has been damaged over years of consuming processed, overly sugary foods. We lack enzymes necessary to breakdown lactose, and our intestines become inflamed at the sight of milk proteins. If we want to incorporate real, grass-fed dairy back into out diet we must first make an effort to heal our damaged gut lining and feed healthy bacterial microbiome. But if you experience any digestive discomfort from dairy, remove all forms until gut health is restored.
2. Skin Issues
Funny enough, skin issues have a direct correlation to gut health and the state of our microbiome. People with compromised gut health really cannot tolerate dairy. While it may not directly show with digestive discomfort, it CAN show on your skin. Acne, eczema, skin rashes, rosacea, skin redness, flaky scalp and much more can be related to dairy consumption. Once again, if you struggle with any of these symptoms eliminate all forms of dairy and focus on gut health.
3. Joint Pain & Swelling
This can be a sign of a deeper issue. Chronic joint pain and swelling can be a signal of autoimmunity. At this point, gut health is so compromised that the proteins from certain foods are leaking through the intestinal walls and into the blood stream. The body then labels it as a foreign invader and begins to attack the food proteins. This is one of the beginning stages of autoimmune disease, and the chronic joint pain and swelling are early signs. People experiencing joint pain and swelling should also avoid dairy.
4. Allergies & Sinus Issues
Still not convinced? Surprisingly, the state of your sinuses can indicate a dairy allergy/sensitivity. Conventional dairy that has been bleached, heated and homogenized causes mucus production and thickened phlegm in the digestive track. This is often a mechanism as a reaction to the milk producing histamine in the body (aka an allergic reaction). If the inflammation does not subside and dairy use continues, allergies and respiratory issues can develop. This can be anything from a sinus infection to pneumonia.
I want to make 2 things very clear about dairy. Number 1; the SOURCE of the dairy makes the difference. If you are dairy sensitive, you’re much more likely to react to conventional dairy. However, if grass-fed, organic, un-pasteurized and raw dairy are available to you then go for it! Try it out. Conventional dairy is essentially poison to the body and over time will cause inflammation. Number 2; the state of your gut often determines if you can tolerate dairy. So if you have digestive issues to begin with, don’t even mess around with dairy products. Eliminate them completely and focus on healing the intestinal lining, increasing gut flora and HCL production in the stomach. Once I healed my digestion I could tolerate minute amounts of dairy again, but I still have a lot more work to do!
Experiment and see if dairy is right for you. As always, listen to your body and read into the signs and symptoms it’s always showing you. I spoke a lot on gut health in this post, so if you’re interested in a post regarding that leave a comment below :)