Picture this, you just got in from a 10 hour work day, you can feel your rumbling stomach begging for food but only have half an hour before you have to pick the kids of from soccer practice. Should you: make a sandwich or take the easy way out and finish that loaf of lemon cake on the counter? The choice may seem obvious on what you should choose but what if the choice were between a sandwich and a bowl of cereal with milk? It’s harder to see the obvious difference isn’t it? Well after these next few topics I’m sure it won’t be.
Believe it or not, milk and dairy products were not always a part of our diet. If fact the first dairy evidence for human kind is thought to be some time in the New Stone Age, approximately 10,000 - 5,500 years ago. It appears in our current generation unless you have an allergy or intolerance to milk and or dairy products or follow the paleo diet, it is thought that dairy is a staple in our western diet. It appears 10.6% of the total calories consumed by the average diet in the United States comes from dairy products including but not limited to: whole milk, low fat milk, cheese, and butter (and ice cream).
Milk has been portrayed as the miracle drink for health and growth -- advertisements highlight elite athletes and movie stars consuming milk through the radio, in magazines, and on television. The advertisements state milk is healthy and good for you, but the reality is science is not yet certain on this topic. Scientists are in fact unsure if milk prevents or can actually cause diseases.
Young animals rely on their mother’s milk to grow at a rapid pace in order to survive the wild life. Hormones and other substances in milk allow young animals to build an immune system and prevent diseases in their first few weeks of life.
Milk is designed to provide for the animal’s own offspring but we the humans have developed a want for their milk and even classified it as a main food group, when actually 65% of our population cannot consume it without digestive distress. This is due to lactose, lactose is the natural sugar found in milk and is one of the most common intolerances world wide. Symptoms occur when the body lacks the digestion enzyme lactase as lactase breaks down lactose. Without lactase, there are several painful side effects such as abdominal pain, cramping, gas, bloating, and sometimes diarrhea.
Milk causes an outstanding number of people digestive distress and is also found to be the most common allergy found in children. Reactions to milk can vary from stomach pain to anaphylactic shock, which can be life threatening situations.
Lack of Nutrition
According to the abundance of milk ads we know cow milk is high in calcium, vitamin D, and several other nutrients, right? I hate to break it to you, but your favorite milk mustache ad has stretched the truth on this one.
It turns out dairy products contain low sources of vitamins and minerals that we need in our diet. In 2010, scientists suggested the average diet should include 600 IU per day of vitamin D. An eight oz glass of milk contains a very low level of 3.6 IU of vitamin D. Okay, so now let’s do the math -- to meet the recommended serving of vitamin D per day you would need 167 glasses of milk. That’s a lot of milk! Now truth be told, most of our milk sold these days is strengthened with added vitamin D containing up to 100 IU. Now this would still require approximately six glasses of milk a day -- now picture being one of the 65% with an intolerance to dairy, not the ideal situation. If this is your case it’s better off stepping outside to get some natural vitamin D from the sun or consuming other rich in vitamin D foods.
Milk and Hormones
We’ve talked about the healthy substances milk lacks now on the flip side let’s talk about the negative substances milk contains.
You guessed it! This white beverage thought to be a “must” in your diet is in fact filled with hormones and bioactive peptides. These include growth hormones, steroid hormones, and bioactive proteins and peptides (protein building blocks).
Luckily, these substances go through a heating process known as pasteurization in an attempt to destroy the microorganisms and then face a second battle in the human gut with enzymes built to destroy the hormones again. The only way these substances can harm the human body is if they enter the bloodstream fully intact -- unfortunately it is not as uncommon as we would like it to be.
Without going over too much detail, here are a select few substances that have been studied directly in human experiments and have been found to be unsafe in milk: insulin, insulin like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), and betacellulin. It is hormones such as these that unfortunately make there way unharmed to the bloodstream to harm our healthy bodies.
Insulin is a hormone that finds its way to the bloodstream intact but is recognized as a foreign substance and may lead to chronic diseases. If exposed to a child under the age of three, this response could be lethal.
Unfortunately, with a spike of insulin there is also a spike in IGF-1 which results in the enhanced possibility of growth for unhealthy cells in the body. Similarly, betacellulin also results in the growth of unhealthy cells but this hormone is even more sneaky as it doesn’t need to get through the gut to get the the bloodstream as the previous hormones do, this hormone binds to the gut lining and unfolds right there again causing autoimmune disorders.
Dairy Foods and The Effect on Insulin Levels
If we notice a spike in blood sugar we will also see our blood insulin concentrations will rise too. So if we have foods that are low in sugar we should have low concentrations of insulin -- yet this is not the case with dairy foods. Oddly, it is low glycemic dairy foods that actually result in an alarming rise of blood insulin concentration levels.
To be clear, insulin is essential, we need insulin to shuttle many different nutrients into cells but unfortunately insulin does have a bad reputation as a rise of blood insulin concentration levels from low glycemic dairy foods can result in minor to severe metabolic disorders.
The Bottom Line
With a majority of our population not responding well to milk, it’s time we listen to our bodies and drink milk with caution. We are all biochemically unique, one person’s food can be another person’s poison.
This overwhelming percent of our population living with an intolerance or allergy to dairy products are unfortunately not all aware of their intolerance or allergy. Therefore, it is important to monitor your own diet and look out for these symptoms to ensure you are consuming the right food for your body.
It is also always recommended to contact your healthcare practitioner with any and all questions.