Growing up in a Italian family, milk was seen as a great addition to coffee in drinks such as cappuccinos, used to dunk your morning cookies (also known as ‘zuppa di latte e biscotti’ for any itals reading) and great for baking. The use was moderate and quite limited. When we moved to Canada, I must say I was quite shocked going to my friend’s house for dinner and being offered a glass of milk. The idea that you had milk with dinner was quite out there and not something that I was quite sold on. However, as the years past I must say milk become more of staple in my daily diet, including it in my breakfast cereals and enjoying 1-2 glasses a day. I was the rare child that never really cared for pop or juice but more so for water and milk, so I had my fair share of milk up until second year university when I noticed I had built up an intolerance to it. At that point I continued to drink milk on occasion, but being careful not to overdo it, as to avoid a stomach upset. Since then cow milk has been removed from my diet on the exception of when I treat myself to a little ice cream. Now I turn to alternative animal milks and nut mylks to quinch my milk monster. This change has made noticeable differences to my health, I explain all the benefits below:
Dairy has an inflammatory reaction in the body. The components that can cause issues are, the lactose (sugar), and/or the casein(protein). If you are part of the lucky few that are not affected by lactose or casein, then there are other not so optimal factors in milk to consider.
Say goodbye to IBS like symptoms
Lactose is a concern for most adults, as they do not produce the enzyme, lactase, to breakdown this milk sugar. There are two view points of why this happens
1. On a evolutionary stand point, adults don’t need milk therefore as we age our body produces less lactase. (Sit tight I will explain why adults don’t need milk below)
2. On a usage standpoint, we maybe over consuming milk. Meaning our body can’t maintain production for the amount of enzymes needed.
Over working our enzyme production stems partially from how milk is prepared and treated in Canada. In Canada (except for Quebec), milk by law must be pasteurized, meaning it is heated to kill the bad bacteria, but in turn removing good bacteria and the lactase enzyme used to breakdown this sugar, lactose. So in fairness to milk, it provides the aids for digestion however we kill them off!! For people that do not have a lactose intolerance the issue lies in the casein. Casein’s molecular structure is very similar to gluten, which many people find hard to digest. If someone has a gluten intolerance (even slight) the reactions will be amplified when consuming both diary and grains.
You may think this is all great information but milk sits just fine with me so, can I continue to drink it? My answer is: listen to your body, and do what feels right while considering all sides!
GROW GROW GROW
I want you to consider the next question: what is milk’s function in nature? Glad you ask, as I have an answer for you: Milk is used as nutrients for babies. Babies grow quite quickly, and more specifically since we are drinking cow’s milk we have to consider that calves grow to be about 440lbs in about 8 months or growing about 70-80 lbs per month!! To achieve this growth, calves are drinking about 18 cups (or 9 litres) of milk daily. Which is a lot less than we drink in a day but the growth effect is the primary function of milk. Milk is the perfect growth cocktail of protein, fat, vitamins, growth factor IGF-1, and hormones. The first three seem okay, but let’s look at IGF-1 and hormones. IGF-1 is great for growth in children as it assists with development of organs. This also makes sense because the time in life when we drink milk naturally is when we are babies and drinking our mama’s milk. The concern for adults is there is no need for this fast paced growth, and the only time that this exponential growth is seen, is in cancer cells. Based on stats Canada, each Canadian on average for the year will consume 31kg of diary products (like cheese, and ice cream) and 79 litres of milk and cream. These numbers help us safely conclude that milk and diary products are vastly over consumed, and the our bodies are overly exposed to these growth properties of this drink
Better hormone health
In addition, milk will be produced by a cow after she has given birth. During pregnancy a cow will be full of hormones, mainly active estrogen. To extent lactation a cow will be given additional hormones, or impregnated again to continue the cycle. This active estrogen will be present in our bodies after we drink milk. This is problematic for anyone but if you have a hormonal imbalance this can be a recipe for disaster.
Increase bone health
Why do you drink milk?
Like most of us we were told milk is necessary for strong, healthy bones. Milk was given its super food status for it high calcium content. But ironically enough milk does quite the opposite in the body, and can be quite detrimental to the bones. Milk contains the animal protein, casein, which is acidifying to the body. The body works very hard to maintain pH balance, so when introducing an acidifying element to the system it is called into action to alkalinize. Minerals are the body’s defence to acidity. The body will store minerals and use them when in need. Calcium is an abundant mineral in bones, and is leeched for the bones when ph balancing is necessary. In additional, milk contains a high amount of phosphorus which is a competing element to calcium, meaning even less calcium is absorbed than original thought.
How to make a change
Milk is by far a staple in our diets so replacing it can be a daunting tasks. Small changes by replacing cow’s milk with goat’s milk or sheep’s milk is a great step in the right direction. Milk from goats and sheeps are a slight chemical make up that don’t have the same negative side effects as cow’s milk however, the hormonal effects persist
An even better alternative is to make the switch to nut mylks. Nut mylks are so easy to make, nutrient dense and very delicious. When you start exploring nut mylks you will release the ample flavours that you have been missing! I will rotate my nut mylks from almond, Brazil nut, cashew, coconut, hempseed and even oat mylk (yes, Oat mylk is a thing- I promise). Rotating these mylks will not only allow me to enjoy various flavours but also absorb various nutrients and minerals that I would have missed out prior.
Good luck on the mylk exploration and let me know the health benefits you experience from making the switch!