Life-Changing Facts About Dairy

What Is Dairy?

Dairy is any milk product that comes from a mammal – it can be sheep, goat, but most commonly cow. Dairy products include milk, cheese, butter, yogurt and cottage cheese to name a few things. Dairy contains what most people are familiar with, lactose. You’ve heard it I’m sure “I’m lactose-intolerant” which means they lack the lactase enzyme; or if you haven’t eaten dairy in a long time and consume it your body is not producing the lactase enzyme so your body cannot break it down right away so most people will find issues when they cut out dairy and add it back in. Dairy also contains the protein called casein which there are two types of casein, A1 & A2. The A2 casein is the most well-tolerated milk protein while A1 produces the most gastrointestinal and inflammatory symptoms. Not all milk is just A2 milk, a lot of it has mixed A1 and A2 casein proteins. 

What Happens When You Drink Milk? 

Even with individuals who drink milk without feeling any effects of it, milk affects everyone who consumes it. Milk contains hormones including progesterone, prolactin, estrogen, and glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids are produced by the adrenal glands. You may recognize cortisol – the stress hormone AKA fight or flight hormone, which is the body’s major glucocorticoid. Constant cortisol circulating through the body causes chronic inflammation in the body which leads to headaches, joint breakdown, leaky gut syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and increases cardiovascular disease risk. Increasing the amount of exogenous hormones (meaning hormones your body does not create) will interfere with your body’s normal hormones, it can lead to weight gain, throw off menstrual cycles, increase risk of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), can affect fertility, and increase breast cancer risk to name a few. 

What Happened When I Stopped Eating Dairy

In January 2020 I was on a clinic shift with a doctor who on the first day of shift asked us what we wanted to work towards that quarter. Some decided to focus more on working out in the morning before class, others wanted to do more meditation, or practice more of their cold plunges. I decided I wanted to cut out dairy. I didn’t eat a lot of dairy to begin with, however I still consumed it on a weekly basis. I can tell you cutting out dairy was not hard for me other than my love for macaroni and cheese, so I started to learn how to make cashew nut “cheese” which helped curb my craving for that dish. I also found non-dairy cheese alternatives were not bad either, and you actually eat less of them, so even though they are processed they help give you the “cheesy” feel you’re looking for, but you eat less of it. At the end of the quarter our attending physician asked us how we did with our promises we made to ourselves at the beginning of the quarter. I had lost 20lbs, I had increased energy, my POTS symptoms improved and I experienced less bloating. I decided to continue on the path of dairy free. Another quarter goes by and I had lost 40lbs, my fibrocystic breasts became less painful and decreased in size, my menstrual cycles became more regular and my energy continued to improve.

I Tried Dairy For a Week

After my great success I wanted to see if it was ONLY the dairy that had changed my body so dramatically…my scientific mind can’t help but experiment on myself! I added in dairy for 7 days. By day 5 I was feeling really tired. Day 6 I was feeling really bloated, and by day 7 my fibrocystic breasts returned, and I gained 5lbs. Again, this was the only change I made to my diet, just added back in dairy. The results proved what I already knew intuitively about my body – dairy was the cause of my hormonal dysregulation. I have since returned to removing dairy from my diet and I’m beginning to feel more like myself again.

Then How Do I Get Calcium?

There are many non-dairy alternatives with MORE calcium than dairy products such as:

  • Tempeh
  • Spinach
  • Legumes
  • Salmon
  • Collard Greens
  • Kale
  • Edamame

These are just a few non-dairy forms of calcium rich foods. 

Milk Alternatives

I alternate between coconut milk and homemade oat milk to put in my coffee or to make “milk” shakes. My oat milk recipe is a 1:4 ratio of oats to good drinking water. I blend it for a minute, I strain the milk from the rest of the oats and keep in the fridge for up to 10 days. I use the left-over oats for breakfast that morning!