The big break up | Why I’ve cut dairy out.
I’ve decided to write about a topic which is fairly controversial… the debate behind dairy and why I don't eat or drink it. With nutrition being an ever evolving science, with literally thousands of dietary theories out there that all contradict each other, I know this topic in particular will stir the pot a little. In this blog post I talk about hormones, chemicals, antibiotics, genetically modified produce, calcium, osteoporosis, raw milk, organic milk, farming, cancer, bacterias and lactose intolerance.
I just want to make it clear that I haven't intended to write this blog to try and change minds or convert people to a non-dairy life, because we are all biologically different and thrive off different foods, and what works for me may not necessarily work for you and visa versa, however, I have intended to write this blog to educate those who are interested on the topic and tell you what I have personally learned through my studies and published studies from around the world. My goal here is to help people make the decision to decrease their dairy intake, for the same reason we try to decrease our sugar, alcohol and tobacco intake. Its taken me two years to phase it out of my life, phasing out being the key word here, not going ‘cold turkey’ - because cutting something out aggressively has never worked for anyone. I am constantly being asked why I steer clear of dairy so I thought this would be a perfect platform to share my thoughts.
Its fascinating to me when I look back to my childhood how milk was an every day staple. I would have milk in my cereal, a glass with my cheese and tomato sandwich at school, yoghurt as an afternoon snack and a big glass of milo at night before bed. I even recall back to my primary school having a program where milk was delivered to our classrooms everyday. Its crazy, we were told milk was an important food in our house hold and we were told that we needed to drink it for healthy bones and to increase our calcium, it was a complete source of protein with healthy fats and of course it quenched your thirst and hunger at the same time. Just like white bread being up there on the food pyramid (thats a topic for another day), milk, cheese and yoghurt was up there too telling us it was ‘fundamental nutrition’.
When people ask me why I don’t eat or drink dairy, I try not to go into too much detail because it can be a long and winded conversation. The short of the long is that, we are the only mammals existing on earth that still drink milk into our adolescence and adult life. We drink milk as babies because we cant eat solid food right? Our mothers breast milk is full of protein, fat, immune fighting and building properties, enzymes, minerals and all the rest of the good and vital aspects for our nourishment as new borns, and all mammals on earth do the same thing. But what animal (other than humans) actually continue to drink milk after their brief period of growth, and the weirdest part of it all, what animal drinks milk from another animal? I cant think of any!
Baby cows drink milk to become a full grown cow in a really short space of time, 300kg in a space of 9 months to be exact, and this is from drinking mums milk. Thankfully due to all the post pregnancy hormones and natural growth factors in the mothers milk, this is easily achievable for baby cows… but we are not baby cows. Personally, I feel as though we don't shouldn't be ingesting it, especially when even cows stop showing interest and stop drinking it.
When we start to delve into conversational topics such as farming of cows and genetically modified milk, this is where I start to feel a little queazy. Milk was first genetically modified in 1994, cows were pumped with growth hormone (better known as rBGH) to make them grow bigger to therefore produce more milk to make more money. The problem with this was not only did we begin ingesting growth hormones but it elevated our natural IGF-1 (insulin growth factor - 1), a hormone which helps cancer grow. This lead to a public outcry and in came ‘raw milk’ where milk was made organically and unpasteurized. This was highly documented in the media as carrying massive risks and still is today with children and adults dying from dangerous microorganisms and bacteria, causing things like salmonella, e.coli and listeria. Its illegal to buy and sell raw milk in Australia however its readily available in loads of health food stores because its labelled as ‘bath milk’, for topical use only (but people drink it). Luckily for us Aussies, the use of rBGH is disallowed but the problem still lies in IGF-1, which is still naturally elevated in our bodies from drinking the sugars and protein from milk, not as much as drinking genetically modified milk, but still enough to be a carcinogenic.
Then of course, the topic on ethics. I personally know where all my produce comes from, I buy my fruit and veggies from an organic farmer who picks my food out of the ground in front of me, I also buy organic meat from a farmer where I can see how the animals are treated, fed and brought up. But that $1 carton of milk you pick up on the way home from work, do you know how that milk was produced? Well sadly, the cheaper, the more ethically wrong.
Conventionally farmed dairy cows are cramped up into tiny spaces and fed cheap grain based diets to save money so your milk only costs you $1 (also makes them fatter than grass fed), images of this are readily available online or in multiple documentaries. Some people may not really care about that because funds are more important in this expensive day and age, and thats cool - each to their own but these cows are constantly pregnant so they can produce mass amounts of milk (hello high levels of oestrogen and progesterone in your food) and stand in their own feces all day with other sick animals, which leads to multiple health issues. So its only natural for these cows to be pumped with antibiotics to avoid disease evolving and spreading. And we wonder why humans are constantly getting sick and then tolerant to antibiotics! Its funny because on our dairy labels we see these lovely pictures with happy cows in big green fields and big barns in the background, but unless you physically go to a dairy farm to buy your products, how will you ever know the real story?
So many people ask me “but what about calcium!?". “CALCIUM IS EVERYWHERE” I say back! Its not just in milk. Try dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, veggies etc. How do you think cows get their calcium in adult life? They eat grass, green stuff… you should try it, it has an abundance of good minerals for you. There are multiple studies that actually show the incidence of osteoporosis in countries that consume milk vs. countries that don't touch it. Funnily enough, statistics show fractures are higher in countries that drink milk! Why… because contrary to belief dairy does not prevent osteoporosis, in fact the over consumption of calcium is detrimental to our bones and is doing more harm then good. Don't take my word for it, do your own research and you'll find out, a good one to read is “Cross-Cultral Association Between Dietary Animal Protein and Hip Fractures: A Hypothesis” by B.J.Abelow + co. in the Journal of Calcified Tissue International.
A number of my clients who come to me have a lactose intolerance and 8/10 don’t even know they have it, and the other 2/10 still eat and drink it because sadly they think that feeling bloated, cloudy minded, having skin breakouts, dealing with digestive issues, mood swings, joint pain, and having an upper airway full of mucous is normal. Not only is this immensely hindering their weight loss goals and deeply affecting their lives but its creating a snowball effect of other health issues, and ultimately wasting a huge amount of their money from buying various medications and seeing specialists, instead of addressing the underlying issue.
Like I mentioned before, Im not saying you need to cut it out completely, but its worth acknowledging that dairy is not an essential part of the human diet and is doing some harm to us. With studies from The Harvard School of Public Health citing increased risk of prostate, breast and ovarian cancer in those who consume an average of three cups a day, I suggest people to try alternative products or at least take care and be mindful of the quality of the dairy they're eating (organic: hormone, antibiotic and chemical free), and the quantity.
When I point out the hazards of dairy, most people adamantly refuse to give it up. “What do you have for breakfast?”, “What about coffee?”, “How do you bake?”, “What do you eat then?”, “Are you crazy?”, are some of the first reactions and questions I get. I do understand though, its hard to let go of something you were brought up to eat and drink your whole life, that was me 2 years ago when I was first introduced to this topic. I am here to tell you, ever since I’ve made the decision to remove it from my diet, Ive seen drastic and positive changes, and you would be surprised at how easy it actually is to live a dairy free life.
If you’re interested in how you can decrease your dairy intake and would like to know whats available as an alternative, check out this weeks newsletter where I go into more detail about how I eat and drink dairy free breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and even chocolate. If you haven't joined up to the Healthy Peach newsletter, go to www.healthypeach.net and pop your details in.