Many years ago I decided to go to an Oriental Medicine Doctor (OMD). One of the first things my OMD told me to do was to stop consuming dairy, which he said was linked to a number of health conditions. Reluctantly, I complied. After about two days without it, I noticed something miraculous: I could actually breathe when I woke up in the morning for the first time in my life. And that was it. I cut out dairy for good and have never looked back.
Since I had such good results, I decided to take a closer look at the research related to dairy. And occasionally, I would tell patients to try cutting it out to see what benefits they might receive. In particular, I told people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and sinus problems. One patient I saw had IBS. He told me he was committed to cutting out dairy for one month. I never saw him again but I did run into his doctor who said, "I don't know that you did, but my patient is cured!"
So how could something we grew up thinking was "nature's perfect food," actually turn out to be not so perfect? As a dietitian, I have been inundated with information and propaganda about dairy for years. However, as I started to read more independent research, I quickly realized dairy caused problems for a lot of people and may not be necessary for anyone at all.
So what are the issues with dairy?
- Lactose intolerance: Some people do not have the enzyme to break down milk sugar, so they get gas, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea. Certain ethnic groups such as Asians, blacks, and Native Americans have high rates of lactose intolerance.
Mark Bittman, a food writer for the New York Times, cut out dairy and his heartburn disappeared in just 24 hours. He wrote about his experience and received 1,300 responses with people reporting that eliminating dairy got rid of migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, eczema, heartburn, acne, hives, asthma, gall bladder issues, body aches, ear infections, colic, seasonal allergies, rhinitis, chronic sinus infections and canker sores.
So what does dairy have to offer?
- Calcium? You can get the equivalent amount of bioavailable calcium found in one glass of milk from 1ￂﾾ cups of kale, 1ￂﾽ cups of bok choy, 2ￂﾽ cups of broccoli, 1 cup of turnip greens, or just over ￂﾽ cup of calcium-set tofu. And there are a lot of alternative milks such as almond or soy that are fortified with calcium.
The good news is that you can easily replace cow's milk with almond, soy, rice, hemp, or coconut milk instead. I love Trader Joe's Vanilla Almond Milk. Cheese is a bit harder to replace in terms of taste, but there are options out there. I really like cashew cheese. I make it by soaking cashews overnight and then blending them with a little water, salt, and lemon juice. There are soy cheeses and cheeses made with tapioca starch, rice, and almonds as well. Nutritional yeast is a nice option to have in place of Parmesan cheese.
Why not try cutting dairy out for 30 days and see what happens for you? If you derive any benefit, please post a comment and let us know what happened!
This post was originally published in LA Progressive.
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