Disclaimer - This is an opinion piece supported by peer-reviewed studies and scientific/historical evidence. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
I was in downtown Philadelphia the other day with my person. We were running some errands on South St., and on the way back we stopped in a bagel shop to grab a quick bite. I ordered a whole wheat everything bagel with tofu cream cheese. The woman behind the counter informed me that they were out of tofu cream cheese. Prodded by my growling stomach, I quickly chose regular cream cheese, and then received a delicious, handmade bagel that was covered in a pound of thick, spreadable cheese - I promptly scarfed.
My partner and I have been cutting out animal products for about a year now, so what happened next felt like vital information provided by my body. No more than a few minutes later we were waiting for the train to head back to West Philly. Suddenly, I felt my throat and sinuses start to fill with mucus. It happened so fast. Without being too graphic, I quickly found myself having to “rid my sinuses" of all the mucus build-up that hadn't been there only minutes earlier. The last time I felt my throat being this obstructed with mucus was back in college, a time period in which my diet consisted mostly of quesadillas, whisky, and bacon, egg and cheeses.
“Damn.” I said to my person, “Dairy really doesn’t f*** around when it comes to messing with your body.”
Since entering the fitness and health industry, I’ve been consistently happening upon information that has led me to conclude that the United States has it completely twisted when it comes to the narrative we’ve been fed concerning dairy. Most of us remember being kids and being scolded at the dinner table for not finishing a large glass of milk because it was “good for our bones.” The dairy industry has our nation so brainwashed that we’re (perhaps for the most part unknowingly) putting ourselves at risk for indigestion, faulty immune systems, heart disease, and cancer - not to mention the havoc the dairy industry is wreaking on our planet; and all for what? Cheese? Butter? Grandma’s cookie recipe that’s filled with lard? We have to make better, more informed choices about what we put into our bodies.
A Quick (and Particularly Dirty) History of Milk…
The origins of cow milking can be traced back to 8000 B.C.. Human’s ability to digest milk is due to a genetic mutation that arose between 5000-4000 B.C.E.. The first cattle to arrive to the Americas landed in Vera Cruz, Mexico in 1525 A.D. Cattle finally made their way to the New England colonists in 1624 about a hundred years later. Pasteurization was invented by Louis Pasteur in the mid 1800’s, as people became aware that harmful microbes in milk and wine were making people sick. The harmful microbes were being contracted by the cows through low quality cow feed. In the late 1800’s, distillery milk was causing a public health crisis, accredited with spreading diseases such as typhoid and tuberculosis. After which a Medical Milk Commission was created to oversee the production of milk for cleanliness. In 1917, mandatory pasteurization was implemented across the U.S., only tuberculosis free cow milk did not have to be pasteurized. In most cities, over 50% of milk sold was pasteurized. Milk cartons began inhabiting the shelves of markets in the 1950’s and 1960’s - it was much cheaper for the consumer, and the square shaped cartons allowed for more milk to be stored on shelves. The Dairy Production Stabilization Act of 1983 allowed for a giant uptick in national dairy product promotion, research, and therefore consumption, in an effort to eliminate a dairy production surplus. In 1993, the “Got Milk?” campaign was launched to increase milk consumption. It became one of the most successful campaigns in history, with the milk industry spending $150 million annually to support it. On November 5th, 1993, the FDA approved the Artificial Bovine Growth Hormone for commercial use in the United States. Before it was approved, the FDA advisory committee confirmed it posed no health risks to consumers. In October, 2005, the Physicians Committee of Responsible Medicine filed a lawsuit against several dairy companies on behalf of Washington D.C residents, demanding that lactose intolerance labels be placed on nutrition labels. Two years later, the case was still pending. Since 2015, there has been a significant rise in consumer’s preference of non-dairy milk to dairy products. The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a quick decline in milk demand due to the restaurant and school closures.
Lactose Intolerance and Malabsorption -
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, lactose intolerance is the common culprit amongst adult GI tracks that accounts for symptoms such as gassiness, bloating, and diarrhea. Many people consider lactose intolerance to be a “disorder,” however only a fraction of the world’s population harbors the genetic mutation that allows for comfortable lactose absorption. It has been suggested that long ago, food scarcity in European regions may be the reason for evolutionary shifts in human’s ability to digest milk. According to DB Vogelslang M.D., of the Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center at Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Areas with a warmer climate such as around the Mediterranean and Africa have much higher rates of lactose intolerance, presumably because there was greater availability of different food sources, hence, less evolutionary pressure for the gene to spread. Isolated populations such as the Australian Aborigines, the Japanese, and Native Americans also have extremely high rates of lactose intolerance.”
Only people with showing symptoms of lactose malabsorption will be labeled as lactose intolerant, meaning it is likely that there is a much higher percentage of us with symptoms of lactose malabsorption, our intestines just haven’t made it known to us in the common form of unwanted gassiness. It is estimated that around 68% percent of the world’s population suffers from lactose malabsorption. That number is statistically higher if you are of African American, Native American, Asian, Mediterranean, or Hispanic/Latinx descent.
Diary Product Components -
Since I can remember, I’ve been fed the narrative of “drink your milk so your bones can be strong and healthy,” but what exactly ARE the components that make up dairy products? I wish I could tell 7 y/o Emily that it was safe to call “bulls***” on the calcium claim.
Fat- According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, fat makes up about 3-4 percent of the solid contents of milk.
Cholesterol - Whole milk, cheese, and butter contain high levels of saturated fat. High levels of LDL cholesterol found in saturated fat promotes cardiovascular disease and clogged arteries. So if you must dairy…low fat yogurt and skim milk would be the way to go.
Lactose - The sugar found in dairy products that is indigestible for most of the world’s population.
Calcium - According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, consuming more than 600 milligrams per day of calcium does not help bones get stronger. The required daily dose of calcium can be easily consumed in leafy greens such as kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.
Vitamin D* - Vitamin D has an asterisk because milk does not naturally contain vitamin D. Milk is fortified to contain vitamin D. A better source of vitamin D is literally going outside and standing in the sunlight for 5 minutes.
Water - According to the International Dairy Foods Association, milk contains about 87% water.
Hormones - According to the Iranian Journal of Public Health, “During the last couple of years, increasing body of evidence are indicating another property of hormones in dairy products as possible impact on human health including the role of some estrogens and insulin-like growth factor-1 in initiation and provoking of breast, prostate and endometrial tumors.”
Pesticides - Pesticide levels in dairy products depend on the process by which they are made and the level of fat content.
Protein - Whey and Casein make up the protein content in dairy products. Whey is digested more quickly, while casein is absorbed more slowly, and is more abundant in dairy products than whey.
Milk also contains trace amounts of essential vitamins and minerals including magnesium and riboflavin, some of which are fortified and some of which come directly from cow feed.
HERE’S WHY CASEIN (can) SUCKS-
Casein is the main protein in dairy products. According to an article published by the Mind Foundation, certain variants of casein have been linked to several dangerous health defects in humans. When digested, casein releases peptides called casomorphins. Casomorphins trigger the brain the same way that opiates do, which is the reason some people feel “addicted” to cheese - a dairy product that has a super high ratio of casein to whey. Casomorphins are also known to raise histamine in the body, which excites the bodies’ inflammatory response systems.
Certain variants of caisson have also been linked to;
Increased mucus production due to inflammatory responses
Increased risk of diabetes
Elevated LDL cholesterol
Increase in sleep apnea
In Conclusion -
It is important to note that humans have different reactions to the various components found within dairy products. Some develop rashes due to lactose intolerance. Others may be at a higher risk of breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer due to the hormone IGF- 1. Some may have faulty immune systems due to an inflammatory response to casein. Some may have an increased risk of heart disease due to an overconsumption of saturated fats. Others may have no reaction at all. If you feel as if you are at risk for any of these dis (eases), it is highly worth looking into. In my opinion, it is better to do a little research now than pay for a heart transplant later. Take a couple weeks off of consuming dairy and see how you feel. And please, feel free to prove me wrong!
To your self discovery and well being,
All my love!
“Health Concerns About Dairy” - Physicians Committee For Responsible Medicine. 5100 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Suite 400 | Washington, DC 20016202.686.2210 | email@example.com | PhysiciansCommittee.org