If your family is like my family, then you’ve probably heard on numerous occasions that drinking milk is good for your bones. Hey, we’ve even been taught this in school, and you can hear it in commercials – Got milk?, all those bars that are either aimed at children or at adults – chocolate bars with milk, breakfast cereal bars, etc.
The fact is that many people simply cannot digest milk or other dairy products. This is because they are lactose intolerant. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and in dairy products (but to a lesser extent). As with everything else you eat, your body needs to digest lactose to be able to use it for fuel. The small intestine normally makes a special substance called lactase, an enzyme that breaks lactose down into simpler sugars called glucose and galactose. These sugars are easy for your body to absorb and turn into energy.
People with lactose intolerance do not make enough lactase in their small intestine. Without lactase, the body can’t properly digest food that has lactose in it. In most cases consuming products with lactose causes symptoms which may include abdominal bloating and cramps, flatulence, diarrhea, nausea, rumbling stomach, or vomiting (after consuming significant amounts of lactose). These appear thirty minutes to two hours after consumption. One way to avoid them is to stop eating dairy products. This can, however, also be tricky because some non-dairy foods, such as breads, cereals, snacks, salad dressings, and cake mixes, also contain lactose. Therefore, it is important to carefully read the ingredients on food labels. Besides lactose itself, look for milk, milk solids, whey (milk liquid), and casein (milk protein), which all contain lactose to some degree.
I know that quite many with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease as well as irritable bowel syndrome need to stay away from milk and dairy products especially during flares. Browsing the internet, I see that it is also advised to stay away from milk and dairy if you have Celiac disease, heartburn, multiple sclerosis, and I remember that one of my friends also noticed that milk and dairy caused her acne.
Why milk is not good
a) Looking at it from an ethical point of view
Cows, like humans, produce milk to nourish their babies, so no babies means no milk. In order to force the animals to continue giving milk, they are often impregnated using artificial insemination every year – if you have a baby every year, you have milk every year. But if they have babies, don’t the babies drink that milk? Nope. The calves are generally taken from their mothers within a day of being born, and the mother cows are hooked up to milking machines several times a day. They are also genetically manipulated, pumped with antibiotics and hormones, and often drugged to force them to produce about four and a half times as much milk as they normally would to feed their calves.
In addition, they usually spend most of their time in barns, not seeing the light of day. I don’t know about you, but I need daylight, in fact I yearn for it in the short autumn and winter months.
b) Looking at it from a health viewpoint
If cows are pumped with antibiotics and hormones, doesn’t that affect their milk? Yup, it does. And while some hormones are allowed in the USA, they are prohibited in Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and in the European Union. In addition, the grains the cows are fed are often sprayed with pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides – a few more toxins to cause havoc in your body.
But what about osteoporosis? We’ve all been told that we need to drink milk to have stronger bones and to prevent osteoporosis when being old. The fact is that our bodies need calcium to maintain strong bones and to carry out many important functions, we also need it for muscles to move, for nerves to carry messages between the brain and every body part, and to help blood vessels move blood throughout the body. But a funny thing is that there is a study showing that dairy may increase fractures, and that countries with low dairy intake have the lowest rates when it comes to osteoporosis.
Luckily, there are numerous ways to get enough calcium that do not involve milk or dairy products. Calcium is found in kale, broccoli, Chinese cabbage, spinach, dark and leafy green vegetables, fish with soft bones, black-eyed peas, baked beans, nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts), tofu, and oranges. Make sure you reduce your sodium (salt) intake because increased sodium intake can cause your body to compensate by pulling more calcium from your bones to maintain the balance. Also get enough of vitamin D because it helps improve calcium absorption. You can get vitamin D from food (liver oil, salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, eel, egg yolks) and sunlight.
Perhaps you should try to eliminate milk and dairy products for two weeks and see how you feel, and then add it back again to see how you feel.
There is plenty of alternative: soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, quinoa milk, hazelnut milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, and probably some more. I admit that some require time to get used to, while some are absolutely delicious.
So, are you sticking with milk and dairy products?