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Should Your Diet Be Dairy Free?

January 2, 2013

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Dairy is one of the most polarizing food groups today. There are those who feel it is a health food, while some believe it contributes to a host of poor health issues.

Consider the information in this article and then decide for yourself if you’ve “Got Milk”.

Milk is baby cow food and is highly concentrated. It helps a calf go from about 40 lbs at birth to a whopping 1,800 lbs. This growth period only takes about six months, so you can see just how packed with nutrients it is. Its main purpose is to grow cells fast. Cheese is even more highly-concentrated dairy.

Dairy’s primary nutrients are calcium, and vitamins D, K and A. Many of the nutrients in dairy have a much better absorption rate when fat is present. When fat-free dairy is consumed, it is often times more challenging for the body to fully absorb all of the fat-soluble vitamins, so the body has all of these excess vitamins and minerals not getting absorbed, just kind of “hanging out” in the body. Subsequently, the body will “throw out” the excess vitamins in the form of bone spurs, bunions and in worst-case scenarios, calcification of the soft tissue of the breast or brain. Other signs of mal-absorbed dairy include skin tags and raised moles.

Humans are actually born with an enzyme that helps break down all forms of dairy.  After the age of about 3 years old, the human body stops manufacturing this enzyme, leaving some people lactose intolerant.  Raw cow, goat and sheep milk have a built in enzyme that aids the body in digestion, but when the milk is pasteurized that enzyme gets killed. Many people who believe themselves to be lactose intolerant would do fine on raw milk and fermented dairy products such as kefir and yogurt. Unfortunately, raw dairy is illegal in most states despite the fact that raw dairy farms have much stricter codes and rules, and are often considerably cleaner than conventional dairies.

You will see the term “homogenized” on most commercial dairy. When the milkman used to make deliveries, milk was in glass bottles and the cream would rise to the top, creating a treat for children everywhere.  Parents would have to shake or stir the cream to incorporate it each time they poured milk. In our convenient and modern world, homogenization has become the norm. The problem with this process is the process itself. When commercial dairies homogenize milk, they run it through small tubes. Some of these tubes are as small as the diameter of a strand of hair. This breaks down the fat so much so that it will not settle. It is uniform – the fat and proteins are all “mixed” in. Some experts believe that this is the main cause of allergies to dairy, heart disease and even cancer. *see resources below

Conventional dairies use recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH). This hormone encourages the cow to produce considerably more milk than she normally would.  To understand the effects of rBGH, let’s look at a normal grass-fed cow. She makes enough milk for her own babies, or the equivalent of about a family of 5. When dairy is factory farmed, farmers add rBGH to stimulate the cow’s mammary gland, so now that cow produces enough milk for about 30 people! The result is horrific. As we ingest whatever that cow ingests, the final outcome can be children as young as 6 years old developing breasts and pubic hair. Some men who ingest too much dairy develop “man boobs.” An overall “baby fat” body is to be expected when there is too much dairy in the diet.

As for the cow, there are ramifications from hormones as well. The cow’s udders become engorged with milk (7 times the amount that they are meant to hold). The udders drop down to the ground and rub against the floor of the pen. Often the pen floor in a factory farm is a metal grate, which scrapes the udders. The udders then become inflamed and infected. In order for the farmers to continue to make their money they inject the milk cows with strong antibiotics to make the infection go away. Remember, if the cow ingests it, so will you. Typical results when humans ingest the antibiotics administered to cows include weakened digestion, diminished immune system and Candida, among many other problems.

Conventional dairy cows receive poor treatment. Their lives are spent in a tiny pen with no room, no fresh air, and no sunshine. Normal pastured cows live 15-20 years, whereas cows on hormones and antibiotics in a factory farm sometimes live only 3 years. What a difference!

Conventional and factory farmed dairy cows eat a poor diet that goes against nature completely. If a cow were left to her own devices, she would want nothing more than a lush, grassy field.But a conventional dairy farmer plies his Elsies and Bessies with grain products and even stale bakery waste – you read correctly, old nasty donuts! This senseless diet is completely detrimental to their health. The repercussions often range from gastrointestinal problems, including acid reflux, and arthritis.

Cows are meant to be out in the sunshine, and when they are, the result is amazing. Grass-fed cows’ milk boasts many health benefits, such as high amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  Research on CLA suggests that this beneficial fat may also help lower bad cholesterol and prevent atherosclerosis. Vitamin D, the same vitamin D that doctors say you get from the sun, helps with immunity and decreasing depression. Vitamin A is known as the “glowing skin vitamin.” All retinol products are Vitamin A derivatives.

Milk also has Vitamin K, which helps with dark circles under the eyes. In addition, milk has a fair amount of protein, which is great for healthy hair. It also has calcium, which is good for strong teeth and bones. The best part about these vitamins, fatty acids, protein, and minerals, is that they are NOT synthetic, so your body has a much better chance of absorbing them.

Dairy has a tranquilizing effect. Mother nature made it this way so that a baby mammal would latch on to the breast and thrive. Dairy has tryptophan, among other amino acids, and phyto-chemicals that literally chill you out. Have you ever seen any mammal infant suckling their mother? The baby often looks drunk. Many humans reach for dairy to “chill out” without even realizing it. Famously indulgent dairy products includes Haagen-Dazs ice cream, cheese, and in the case of “The Golden Girls” cheesecake. Dairy is mother energy and brings a false sense of safety and comfort.

Ancestry also effects how one will handle dairy.  Westen A. Price studied the teeth and mouths of the people of indigenous cultures, and in his 1939 book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration he explains howDNA has “built in” what will work for you nutritionally. Many cultures had dairy cows. He goes on to explain that if dairy was readily available and local for your ancestors, chances are it would be tolerated well for you. African cultures didn’t have dairy cows available, nor did many Asian cultures. He explains that over thousands of years, your DNA acclimated to whatever was around.

In 1999, nutrition expert, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, Ph.D wrote the book Nourishing Traditions (New Trends Publishing 1999/2001).  Here, they explore Price’s teachings further and even throw in some wonderful recipes. Fallon and Enig have also taken the helm of the Westin A. Price Foundation. The two oversee a wonderful newsletter called “Wise Traditions” packed with information on how ancestral eating can make you healthier. Wise Traditions has a shopping index in the back that has advertisements for raw milk, cheese, bone broths and other traditional foods.

What can you do with this information?

  • Only buy grass fed, organic, no hormone/no antibiotic, non- homogenized, free range, humanely raised, and if possible in your area, raw dairy.
  • Look for fermented dairy – yogurts and kefir – and always opt for full fat versions. Fermented dairy is partially digested so it will be easier on your system.
  • Consume goat or sheep dairy. Cows grow to be about 1,800 lbs., whereas sheep and goats finish growing when they hit around 120 lbs. This is a lot closer to our size and is simply more compatible.
  • Look at dairy as more of a fun food to enjoy occasionally. If you notice you are reaching for dairy when you are down or anxious, make note of it and talk with someone about what is bothering you.
  • Find calcium where cows find it: in all dark greens such as collard greens (250mg per ½ cup serving), kale (205 mg. per ½ cup serving) and spinach (120 mg per ½ cup serving). Other calcium rich, non-dairy foods include sesame seeds (1160mg. per 3.5 oz), sardines (371 mg. per serving), and almonds (234 mg. per serving).

Dairy can be a healthy and enjoyable food if you are aware of the benefits as well as the pitfalls. Bottom line, eat it responsibly!

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Donna Sonkin is a certified Holistic Health Coach, AADP and Chef in NYC, she is a contributing editor for and she has appeared on  WCBS and VH1- she has been featured in,, The Huffington Post, the NY Post, and She loves sharing her healthy tips to get people to a healthier and happier place.