Too moo or not too moo?
Does milk really do a body good?
Some people can digest lactose, the sugar in dairy products, no problem. Dairy food are made from milk; typically cows, goats and sheep, however I have worked with people who have camels and yaks, so they are also an option. Besides milk, dairy foods include cheese, kefir, ice cream and yoghurt. Animal milk, like human milk, is food for babies. That was nature's intention and it helps a small critter grow. When an animal or baby is weaned, surely that's the end of consuming milk, right? A cow or goat or sheep goes on to eat grass and grains if domesticated, and yet, we humans keep drinking milk and eating dairy, which is pretty bizarre when you stop to really think about it.
The Genetics Home Reference from the U.S. National Library of Medicine estimates that approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest milk after infancy. If you're of East Asian descent, there is a 90 percent chance you can't digest milk. People from Northern Europe, who have a long history of dependence on milk for survival, have barely any problems at all. For two-thirds of us, eating dairy leads to cramps, bloating, terrible gas, sinus troubles, breathing difficulties and skin issues among other complaints. For some people, dairy causes systemic or body-wide inflammation - think arthritis, eczema, and acne. So even if your dairy is organic, and I'll explain why that's critical in a minute, it may be the root, or one of the roots, of your health complaints.
When I removed dairy from my diet, not only did my eczema improve, but so also did the strange rash in my armpits, the bumps on my face and the sticky eruption on my scalp. My digestion improved and I had more energy. I suggested dairy elimination for all of my eczema patients, as a starting point, and for most of them, it made a huge difference. One woman tested it over and over (she was highly resistant to quitting cheese) and sure enough, every time she ate cheese she would get a patch of hot, itchy eczema. She finally accepted that cheese = eczema. A man with cystic acne finally agreed to go dairy free for two weeks. He had been drinking two to three lattes a day, which is a lot of milk. He switched to black coffee and his acne cleared up. To test the theory, I told him to drink his lattes and have a cheese sandwich, and he broke out the next day in angry spots. Now, after many years off of dairy, his skin is clear, unless he goes on a cheese bender.
Now, onto the topic of organic vs. commercially raised animals. Unless they are raised organically, the animals get antibiotic treatment regularly. Approximately 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in animal farming to promote animal growth and prevent infection. The problem is that antibiotics used in food-producing animals kills their good bacteria, which allows antibiotic-resistant bacteria to thrive in the animal. We then consume the antibiotic-resistant bacteria when we eat the meat or drink the milk. This can lead to a bacterial upset in us, read infection, that will not respond to antibiotic treatment when we need it.
Many esteemed medical and scientific groups have called out against agricultural and animal antibiotic use because of the dire health implications to humanity. In 2017 the US FDA initiated a strategy on Microbial Resistance. They call for a more judicious use of antibiotics in animals; use less of the drugs that are important for treating human disease, stop using it in feed or drinking water of food-producing animals and stop them being sold over-the-counter by restricting them to veterinarian use only. focuses on drugs that are important for treating human disease.
The key aspect of FDA’s strategy is the request that animal drug sponsors (those who own the right to market the product) voluntarily work with FDA to revise the approved use conditions for their medically important antimicrobial drug products to remove production uses (such as growth enhancement or feed efficiency), and bring the remaining therapeutic uses under veterinary oversight. Once manufacturers voluntarily make these changes, products can no longer be used for production purposes and therapeutic use of these products would require veterinary oversight.
FDA also believes strongly that sick animals need treatment, and that these antimicrobial drugs should remain available for the purposes of treating, controlling or preventing disease in food-producing animals. We consider this approach to be the most effective way to implement such changes in a way that is protective of both public and animal health.
Thirty-five years ago scientists were noticing that farmers and farm animals were showing signs of antibiotic resistance . The antibiotics used in agriculture may be significantly contributing to the spread of antibiotic-resistant superbugs that cause infections in patients in hospitals. Scientists looked for a connection and found that low levels of beta-lactam antibiotics, a drug class commonly used in both clinical and agricultural settings, accelerated the growth and spread of the (bad) bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. The effect was most noticeable among multidrug-resistant strains of bacteria known as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. MRSA spread rapidly when exposed to low levels of antibiotics, such as used with animals. The MRSA wasn’t killed by the antibiotics—it actually thrived. Staphylococcus aureus and particularly MRSA continues to be a major cause of infections in medical settings such as health clinics and hospitals .
When researching for Love Your Scar, my holistic guide to healing well after surgery, I was greatly influenced by the writings of Jane Plant, PhD, author of Your Life in Your Hands. Plant is adamant about excluding all dairy products during cancer treatment—and beyond—based on her research and repeated incidences with breast cancer. She got me thinking and I read other anti-dairy books to see what I could discover. T. Colin Campbell's experiment, The China Study is a classic, and recently updated. There is also Joseph Keon's excellent book Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth About Cow's Milk and Your Health. And finally, I've just finished reading The Cheese Trap by Neal Barnard. See, I haven't drunk milk in yonks, but cheese, oh cheese. I don't have it often, and I suffer whenever I do, so why do I do it? (I'm looking at you gluten-free cheesy pizza).
Barnard suggests that cheese is addictive. Casein, the protein that is concentrated in cheese, has a morphine-like effect. When you think about it, it makes sense. You want a calf to bond to its mother to be fed her milk. These proteins have an effect on us too. They can attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and other narcotics latch on to. So does cheese act like crack? Maybe not as violently, but many cheese lovers can attest that it is a hard food to quit.
It's your choice. If you suffer any skin or digestive complaints, I'd strongly suggest you quit dairy for three weeks and see if your health improves. If it does, keep going! Once you are clear of your problem, have a glass of milk or a block of cheese and see what happens. If your symptoms return, or you feel a decrease in your well-being, it might be time to wipe off your milk mustache for good. And because I am not a sadist, here is what I suggest you do if you cannot or will not give up cheese.
*Absolutely buy organic dairy to reduce your exposure to the antibiotics and hormone enhancers given to conventional dairy cows.
*Swap to goat and sheep dairy products as these have been found to be more easily digested than cow products.
*Reduce the amount of cheese you eat by grating it on foods for flavor.