Is Dairy Healthy?

Is Dairy Healthy?
Heather Nicholds, C.H.N.


Personally, I have a really bad relationship with dairy. If someone asks me “is dairy healthy?”, I’m tempted to bash dairy to bits. I’ve been allergic to it since I was born, and it gives me ear infections. If you’ve never had an ear infection, let me tell you – they are not fun.

Maybe it’s the way I was raised, but I always feel compelled to give things the benefit of the doubt and not completely dismiss them as bad until I’ve looked at both sides of the story. So let’s look at a few aspects of dairy from both sides.

Is Dairy Healthy For Getting Calcium?

Dairy does have a lot of calcium, as we are always reminded by the dairy industry. The trouble is, it has no vitamin D unless it is added, and very little magnesium.

These three nutrients work together in your body, and none of them will be properly utilized unless they are in the right balance. Unless you get vitamin D and magnesium from other sources, the calcium in dairy won’t get fully used and often causes other problems.

Developed countries have high rates of osteoporosis, and they drink the most milk. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. There’s nothing conclusive about cause and effect for some of the theories on why that is.

Luckily for me – and for you – there are a ton of amazing plant sources of calcium. Broccoli, sesame seeds, chickpeas, almonds, quinoa, and lots more vegan foods will give you calcium plus the magnesium you need to use it.

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You will need to supplement for the vitamin D, but at least you can choose a really high quality source instead of taking whatever the dairy manufacturer chooses to add (which is usually a cheap form).

Is Dairy Healthy For Getting Probiotics?

Yogurt – when made properly – is a source of healthy bacteria, that can help repopulate our own colon bacteria. When you take antibiotics, they kill all bacteria, not just the ones making you sick. After taking antibiotics, it is really important to repopulate the bacterial cultures in your colon before it is taken over by bad bacteria. Yogurt is one way to do this, but there are also really excellent vegan sources of probiotics so that you don’t need yogurt if you don’t want to have it. My favorites are SCD Essential Probiotics and Renew Life’s Ultimate Flora.

Is Dairy Healthy When So Many People Are Allergic Or Intolerant?

Dairy is one of the most common allergens in the US and other developed countries. It’s mainly dairy from cows that causes problems, because of the protein lactose. Humans, like most mammals, evolved to drink milk in infancy but not any longer than that. Infants have the enzymes necessary to digest breast milk, which contains a small amount of lactose.

As we grow up and start eating foods, our bodies typically don’t figure that we’re going to keep drinking milk so most humans stop producing the enzymes that break down milk. Lactase in particular is the one necessary to break down lactose.

If lactose isn’t broken down as it passes through the digestive system, it causes digestive problems and we call that intolerance. If the lactose gets through the bowel into the blood system, it can cause an allergic reaction as our immune systems treat it as a foreign invader. The reaction can present itself in whatever way it likes. I react to lactose with ear infections, which aren’t too fun.

Some people have no trouble digesting dairy, since their bodies have realized that they need to keep producing lactase. Yogurt is a fermented dairy product that is more easily digested than milk when it is fermented naturally, and is probably the best choice among the types of dairy products. You can even make your own at home to get a really fresh product.

Is Dairy Healthy When It Comes From An Industrial Operation?

Dairy cows, like feedlot animals raised for meat, are pumped with hormones to keep them producing milk and antibiotics to keep them from getting sick while packed in with hundreds or thousands of other animals, and eat chemical fertilizers and pesticides on their food. These chemicals get passed on through their milk, and are concentrated in the fat cells of dairy.

They are much more heavily concentrated in animal cells than in plant cells, and since animals are higher up the food chain they’re getting chemicals from both the plants they eat and those given directly.

If you do choose to have dairy, it’s really important to buy from an organic source to avoid pesticides, hormones, fertilizers and other chemicals used in industrial agriculture.

What do you think? Do you have any dairy, or do you get the benefits from vegan sources?? Let me know by leaving a comment below.


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