God bless the dairy farmers.
I mean that. There is nobody that works harder than a farmer and I want them to make a good living.
But O.M.G, have you noticed how our culture is so dairy obsessed?
I told a patient the other day that I needed her to abstain from dairy for three days and I thought she was going to cry, poor thing.
Milk. Cheese. Ice cream. Oh, my!
Now before you think I’m off my rocker, let me say I am not saying that dairy is inherently bad. I never label foods good or bad. You just can’t be that black and white about it.
But I do want you to know your body, be informed about the pros and cons of what you feed it, and make decisions based on solid knowledge (not habit or misconceptions).
Let me share some reasons why we may want to rethink our society’s soul connection to dairy:
The composition of cow’s milk is perfectly designed to make baby cows grow and develop quickly. I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking to grow. I’m an adult. And I am not a cow.
Everything in moderation of course, but do keep in mind that although dairy is a decent source of protein, it also is very lactose heavy (sugar, technically). Not to mention many sources are generally high in calories, fat, added sugars and other additives.
2. Designed for Cows, Not Humans
We are the only species that regularly drink the milk of another species. I’m not going to expound on the pluses or minuses of that, but it does make you think a little, doesn’t it? Is milk really designed to serve us well?
3. Emotion and Habit (Not Health)
Our connection to dairy has strong emotional influences. Think about it. How many positive childhood memories have milk involved...babies’ bottles, milk and warm cookies, our favorite sugary cereal and milk for breakfast, mamma pleased after you ”drink your milk sweetie.”
Now that we are grown-ups, let’s make food choices based on current knowledge, not just emotion and habit.
4. Influential Marketing
Our connection to dairy has strong promotional influences. Yes, God bless the dairy farmers, they are really good at promoting their trade. How many of your favorite celebs have you seen with the famous milk moustache? Got ___? Yep. You know the marketing.
Again, let’s make decisions that are based on what’s good for our bodies and not influenced by trends.
5. We Do NOT Need Milk for Vitamin D
When I talk to people about Vitamin D, they often get this guilt-ridden look on their face and sheepishly admit “Well I don’t drink enough milk.” Meanwhile, I’m thinking “Thank goodness!” Milk is NOT a natural source of vitamin D! Manufacturers ADD vitamin D to milk because deficiency is common. Beef, egg yolks, liver and fatty fish, are good sources of Vitamin D, but we’re meant to get Vitamin D naturally from responsible sun exposure anyway. (I do recommend a supplement of vitamin D to most people, but we might as well buy that in a separate zero calorie form.)
6. Not the Only Calcium Source
Dairy isn’t the end-all-be-all when it comes to calcium either. It’s true that milk, cheese, and yogurt are good sources of calcium, but there are many other sources too! White beans, kale, spinach and other green leafies, broccoli, sardines, salmon, figs, almonds, and oranges are all good sources. Oatmeal, cereals, tofu and soy milk are common fortified sources as well.
7. Bloating, cramping, and bathroom runs!
Probably the most important reason to consider rethinking your connection to dairy is it just plain doesn’t agree with you!
Lactose intolerance (from lack of the enzyme to digest the lactose sugar in dairy) is very common! Studies show that about one-third of Americans lose that enzyme sometime after the age of weaning, but this skyrockets to 75-90% for Asian and African Americans. That cramping, bloating, gurgling and urgency to get to the bathroom after you eat dairy is your body telling you it’s having a tough time with digestion. Be nice to your belly by avoiding dairy or taking a digestive enzyme supplement prior to eating in these cases.
We don’t do ourselves any good by thinking about foods as inherently good or bad, but so many times we tolerate feeling “bleh” after eating. Instead, let’s challenge ourselves to fuel our bodies with foods that make us feel energetic and comfortable after a meal!
To Your Best Health,
What’s your level of dairy intake? How does it make you feel afterwards?
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Dr. Paige Gutheil is a board-certified osteopathic family medicine physician and advocate for a Whole Health approach to your wellness. She is on a mission to help people thrive by looking at all the influences on health...body, mind and spirit. Dr. Paige is the founder of an innovative team-based direct primary care practice, Signature Primary Care and Wellness in Hilliard, Ohio. She and her colleagues provide comprehensive primary care, counseling, coaching, nutrition education and yoga to help people all over central Ohio and beyond make fun, achievable changes towards their healthiest and happiest life possible!