A reader asked me recently about some unsettling assertions about milk that had been getting attention in the news.
Her question was in regard to whether or not milk is bad for you. As with a lot of these questions, the answer is frequently yes and no.
The benefits of including milk in your diet include:
– Good source of calcium
– Fortified products are a good source of Vitamin D
– Healthier to drink than soft drinks
– Doesn’t stain teeth
Another benefit of the 1% and higher varieties is that in order for the body to make use of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K, one must first have proper fat stores in the body. Specialists from Pediatricians to Gerontologists stress that too little dietary fat can spell deficiency for these vitamins that are critical for health.
However, there is a large body of evidence to suggest that milk is the cause of a lot of problems for a lot of people, specifically when considering digestive health.
Milk has gotten a bad rap, as many foods will get as they fade in and out of favor with experts. But the problems with milk are not so easily outweighed by its potential nutritive benefits.
People who are lactose intolerant already know what this dietary ‘staple’ can do to a person’s gut. So do people who have an intolerance to cow’s milk that isn’t lactose-specific.
But the biggest stinger is the claim that commercially produced, non-organic cow’s milk contains high levels of synthetic hormones. Some have gone so far as to assert that the hormone overload in milk is what’s causing the younger and younger age trend for pubescent girls.
Studies don’t tend to support that organic milk and commercial milk differ in the hormone content. Both have detectable amounts of testosterone and estrogen. Some would split hairs over whether or not the hormones are synthetic. Unfortunately for the resolution of the debate, in the laboratory both milks look exactly the same.
An organic isn’t always what you think. For organic producers to be able to legally claim their product is organic, they simply have to prove their animals are not given SYNTHETIC hormones… they don’t have to show that zero hormones are given.
That doesn’t even take into consideration the pasteurization process required now just to make the milk safe to drink. This breaks down many of the hormones and destroys them- but not all of them
Back to splitting hairs, I guess.
So what is a person to do? Well, humans weren’t originally designed to drink cow’s milk at all. Our ancestors generally stopped drinking mothers’ milk in favor of other liquids found in nature- such as water- once they were weaned. Everything we think we need from milk has always been provided in a balanced diet if care is used in choosing foods.
If you are on a restricted diet because milk aggravates your Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Acid Reflux Disease, Celiac Disease or other conditions, then you will need good options for replacing nutrients that would have been found in the milk, such as calcium, iron, Vitamin D, and protein.
Foods rich in the vitamins and minerals you need that you’ll want to add to your list for the next time you go shopping:
– Broccoli (and cauliflower)
– Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah)
You may not like all these foods (or any of them) but you also may not have had them in dishes that are really tasty. Remember that your food preferences and palette will change over time, and what you may have turned your nose up at as a child might actually be quite yummy now.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with new foods, especially if you are looking for ways to work yourself away from milk.
For more information on natural methods to improve your digestive health, see my guides for Acid Reflux, Cholesterol, Arthritis, and coming soon, IBS.
by Scott Davis