By Meghan Telpner – I never really had anything against milk, and up until I was struck down with a dreaded bug while in Africa, milk and I got along just fine. I was never one to sit down and drink a whole big glass of milk as the idea was always a bit icky. We generally have aversions to foods that do not work with our bodies.
It shocks me that doctors, particularly gastroenterolgists, do not warn their patients about the dangers of milk. Milk can wreak havoc on the intestines of the healthiest individuals. It frustrates me to no end that when I go on the Crohns Forum or IBD/IBS forums that patients of these diseases, patients who have been operated on, who have been medicated and who have suffered for years, are only realizing through trial and error that eliminating milk eliminates a lot of their symptoms and suffering. They should have been told by their doctors- but that is a whole other topic.
Marketing efforts have lead the public to believe that milk is good for us. That we need it. And an image of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy with their cute little milk moustaches asking “Got Milk?” makes us think it is a healthful beverage to consume as an excellent source of calcium.
Though I had a hunch for some time, there is now no doubt in my mind that milk most certainly is the devil in a white dress.
Is milk really good for us? This is the first question.
We assume that because a mother’s milk is considered the most complete food a newborn can consumer, that as we grow older, a cow’s milk can naturally take over as a nourishing wholesome food choice. The fact is however, that a mother’s milk is very high in fat and designed by nature to help a baby grow big and strong. Were we to drink the substance as adults, we would not be getting the correct balance of nutrients. We would actually get really fat.
Cow’s milk on the other hand, is practically a different substance all together, with much higher proportions of carbohydrates and proteins, as well as calcium and sodium. And like human milk is ideal for newborn babies, a cow’s milk is designed for the needs of newborn calves. People are not cows. In fact, we are not sheep, we are not camels, we are not goats. Why do we keep trying to drink their milk? Why do we think we need this milk in order to grow up big and strong. Unless the goal is to grow up to be a big strong cow or goat, there is really no need.
Milk is the number one allergen. And not only do milk and cheese cause allergic reactions on their own, the reactions we have to dairy products can also cause our bodies to react to other foods that would normally not be a problem.
Milk is a greater allergen in North America then elsewhere in the world, as our milk is far more highly processed, pasteurized and refined. Whole foods contain the majority of enzymes and nutrients required by the body to best use the energy and nutrients supplied by the food itself. When milk becomes pasteurized and processed, it is no longer a whole food and therefore requires our bodies’ stores of enzymes to digest it.
I have mentioned the term lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance refers to the body’s inability to breakdown and digest lactose, the sugar found in milk. The enzyme lactase is required in order to break this down. 25% of the American Caucasian population stop producing this enzyme after being weened off their mother’s milk. 70-90% of Chinese, Japanese, Ashkenazi Jews, and Mediterraneans lose the ability to digest lactose as children. The only known group of people to continue producing that enzyme into adulthood are those who’s ancestry relied on the milk of animals for desert life, or living conditions where food supply was limited.
In addition to the infamous sugar lactose, there are over 25 proteins in milk that can cause allergic reactions. Allergic reactions to milk include symptoms like gas, bloating, nausea, cramping and diarrhea. Lesser acknowledged reactions to milk are mental disturbances. Studies have shown that Milk is the most common food to trigger mental reactions like depression, weepiness, feelings of being overwhelmed and an inability to cope with life. In children however, these reactions may be very different from the reactions seen in adults. Documented studies point to lactose intolerance as the cause for many childhood ailments including bed-wetting, chronic ear infections, persistent coughs, asthma, and nose bleeds. So as I said, milk is the devil.
Now back to the question of calcium, as this is the reason many people believe milk to be a necessary part of our diets. The first thing to acknowledge is that pasteurized and processed milk is not a whole food. When this incomplete food is then further processed to be ‘low-fat’ or ’skim’ , the calcium in these substances become even less available to the body. The calcium requires the naturally occurring milk fat for transport through our bodies to the tissues.
Further, when you are lactose intolerant, calcium is most likely not making it’s way to your bones for other reasons as well. Chances are good that milk may actually drain calcium from your body. Milk can cause a calcium deficiency and can contribute to osteoporosis.
When a person is unable to digest lactose, meaning they are deficient in the enzyme lactase, the lactose begins to ferment in the body and creates lactic acid. This is then absorbed into the blood stream and binds with calcium and magnesium, thus making these minerals unavailable to the tissues that need them.
We need calcium. It is an essential nutrient and beyond making our bones strong, it helps protect us against the toxins we subject ourselves to. Calcium is highly alkaline which means it acts as a buffer against the acidic affects of sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
A 100 gram serving of milk contains 118 milligrams of calcium, most of which is not being utilized by your body. Per 100 gram serving, parsley (203mg), kale (187mg), broccoli (130mg), almonds (254mg), sesame seeds (1,160 mg), and canned salmon with bones (200-250 mg) are just some of the foods that have greater concentrations of calcium than milk.
Removing milk from my diet was easy and I don’t miss it one bit. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t love a little Oreo and milk indulgence now and again, but I’d also prefer not to be bent over in excruciating cramping pain as well. Sometimes you can take the good with the bad, but often it is better to leave both behind.
There are several products on the market that are very smart milk alternatives. The best way to go about avoiding milk is to accept the new substances into your life for what they are, not for what they are not. They are not creamy smooth milk. Soy cheese is never going to be as good as real cheese. Rice Dream Ice Cream is not going to be Hagen Daz. It is what it is. But there are several varieties available of soy milk (best to go with organic), rice milk (I recommend Vanilla Rice Dream), and almond milk (Almond Breeze is the best but it does contain cane sugar).
Having been consuming rice milk for years, this morning I decided to make my own milk. My own almond/sesame/flax milk and it was amazingly delicious. Rich, creamy, thick and nutty. I warmed some to put in my cereal and then added a drop to my morning tea. It is delicious and I highly recommend it. Not only is it an excellent source of calcium that can be easily used by the body, it is also an excellent source of the Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acid that works wonders on internal inflammation (joints, intestines etc.) and is also highly recommended as a natural treatment for cancer patients.
If you do chose to stick it out with milk, check your local market for the availability of raw milk. But when you look at the facts, there really is no need to continue dancing with the devil.
Meghan Telpner is on a mission to defeat her recently diagnosed Chrohn’s Disease. She shares her stories and favorite recipes (all dairy, sugar, wheat, yeast, gluten, vinegar, and tomato free) on her blog “Healthy Cookie.” With an undergraduate degree in fashion and three years working in advertising, Meghan now plans to go back to school to study holistic nutrition.