Holistic Nutrition & Prevention

Ditch the dairy

Mercedes Kay Gold, CNP, CPT

Many couples dream of becoming parents. When the initial excitement calms down, the road ahead becomes clear. Parenting is a windy rollercoaster ride paved with responsibilities, obligations, and choices to navigate. After all, this tiny trusting human believes in you. Their wellbeing relies on weighing the pros and cons to ensure their long-term health holistically. The decision to serve dairy or not is a hot topic.

According to 2019 published research, milk may have been consumed for the last 6,000 years. Scientists discovered plaque on the teeth of skeletons from British farmers containing traces of beta-lacto globulin, a fancy word for the protein found in sheep, cow, and goat milk. Until recent years, dairy was considered award winning, and essential to drink in order to reach the daily requirement of calcium. Dairy does provide carbohydrates, protein and fat. Dairy also provides vast amounts of vitamins and minerals, but hyped for its calcium and vitamin D. Milk maintains strong bones and teeth, according to the industry that spent a fortune on the hip ads with countless celebrities touting a milk moustache. Yes, dairy looks good on paper, but might be better left for the babies of the mothers’ producing the milk. Animals transition off their mother’s milk and never go back. Humans breast feed or rely on formula, and after a mother decides to wean, many children still transition to cow’s milk. Humans are the only species that consume milk in adulthood and the milk is from another mammal. The nourishment in cow’s milk is for calves. Mother Nature has a top-notch plan. Human mothers produce their own milk for their babies. Weaning shouldn’t equal transitioning. Dairy milk is not a game changer. There are so many options to achieve health goals. Milk shouldn’t be the confirmed go-to. Let’s rethink milk for a few reasons.

Dairy is an irritant, creating an inflammatory response in the body. The body must protect itself, and creates mucus. Allergies are common and the cow’s milk allergy is the most frequent food allergy in children.

Milk or milk products contain whey and casein – two proteins. It’s possible to be allergic to one or both proteins. Ingesting can induce symptoms ranging from hives, vomiting, eczema, and excess phlegm, diarrheal to respiratory problems, ear infections and in extreme cases, life-threatening anaphylaxis. Kids with a cow’s milk allergy are prone to suffering from ongoing eczema and asthma. Allergies make avoidance a simpler choice.

Sensitivities are also the main attraction, but often glossed over, mistaken, and discounted as a troubled tummy thanks to overindulgence. Belly bloating, gas and belching are customary clues. Over time, a sip, a bite or a nibble can all lead to a leaky gut. Unfortunately, the leaky gut carries into adulthood, opening a new can of worms. Healing the gut is a job that requires diligence and patience following an enhanced diet and supplement protocol.

Living in a lactose-free world is not easy. Lactose is the main carbohydrate in milk and contains two simple sugars – glucose and galactose. Over time many people lose the ability to breakdown lactose. Lactose intolerance is the absence of the enzyme lactase, essential in digesting milk containing lactose. Digestive distress symptoms include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. It’s time to ditch dairy and say no to lactose-free products.

Parenting is tough and being creative in the kitchen can be a chore. Kids can be picky eaters and sometimes stuck on one food. Milk ads are targeted at parents, and tout heaps of health benefits. Out of desperation, parents may agree to a never-ending menu featuring cheese, chocolate milk, ice cream, or sugar-laden yogurt for instance. Cheese is caloric dense; 70 per cent of calories are from fat – saturated fat. It’s also high in flavour-enhancing sodium, also used to stop the growth of bacteria. Since cheese contains zero fibre, overeating can result in constipation. Milk proteins, fat, sugar, salt, and saturated fat promote obesity, diabetes, and lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Plant foods are cholesterol free and contain fibre, not found in dairy products. Fibre is your friend, encouraging fullness and an often forgotten link to maintaining a healthy digestive process.

Picky eaters consuming excess dairy may lead to addiction. Yes, addiction! It can start early and last a lifetime. Newly weaned babies may rely on milk for nourishment. Milk supplies the bulk of calories, through carbohydrates, protein, and fats, known as macros. Babies need macros to grow, plus milk hydrates, and important if a youngster pushes away water. The calories in cow’s milk override the need for other sources, starting a cycle of dairy dependence. It’s not atypical throughout the toddler years. Many children refuse to consume anything but milk. They dislike textures, tastes and may have chewing issues. There is comfort in the bottle and the self-soothing action of sucking. Children may also be too attached to liquid meals as they grow; now favouring milk in their favourite Sippy cup.

Children with a dairy dependence lead us back to discussing casein, the protein in milk.

Undigested casein can enter the bloodstream in a form called casomorphine, the same class as opiates. Unruly behaviour, sleep issues and concerns of growth are a red flag.

It’s worth taking a longer look. Weak digestion and an unhealthy gut flora allow too-big peptides to pass through from the gut, causing recirculation and even relocating to a child’s brain, mimicking opiates. If your child demands dairy daily, it’s time to draw blood and see whether their body produces enough of the essential enzyme to effectively break down milk. Dependence can last a lifetime.

Milk is not a wealth of health when we consider the concept of factory farming. The need for speed and less expensive food has almost but eliminated the farm-to-table concept. Health is losing the battle as profits are the bottom line. Chemicals are sprayed on fields to ensure a higher yield. Conventional farming now douses pesticides and herbicides on genetically modified corn, soy and the grains that are fed to livestock in the dairy industry. Carnivores face a double dose of danger. Depleted minerals in the chemical-covered soil affect the immune, reproductive, and central nervous system of animals and end up inside us, beginning in the womb. Antibiotics are pumped into cattle, translating into antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans. Concerns are well founded, as with growing concerns over the growth hormones in dairy farming as well.

The argument for consuming organic and grass-fed dairy is prevalent. Grass-fed milk has a better nutrient profile and the healthier option on paper. There are more omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and vital K2. Goat milk is also easier to digest for some. Water buffalo milk is now available in healthy markets, too. Grass-fed milk is costly, not widely available and nowhere to be found on-the-go or in restaurants. Most establishments serve conventional 2% or full fat cream – both a health nightmare.

The teen years are hard enough, and dairy is linked to increased severity in acne; another check mark in the pro column for not serving dairy.

Setting a milk-free table is smart. Studies are emerging that each glass of milk consumed leaches calcium from our bones and, the more milk in your diet, a higher risk of fractures.

Dairy-free alternatives

Milk is not magical. There are loads of ways to ensure kids grow healthy and strong without dairy. One cup of conventional milk contains 300 milligrams of calcium. Soy milk is the closest plant-based alternative to the real thing. It may not be the top pick poured by the glass, but literally untraceable in recipes. Soy milk, certified non-GMO, is a powerful protein source in lieu of milk. Start with it in smoothies or instead of water in cinnamon oatmeal. Soy milk is perfect in any baking and soup recipe. For decadent desserts, try chocolate soy milk. Keep in mind that dairy-free alternatives are fortified with essential vitamins. Children aged one and up require about 700 milligrams of calcium a day and increases with age. By the time a child is a teen at 18 years old, the requirement reaches 1,300 milligrams daily. Plant-based diets are a healthy way to feed growing children. Eating a wide variety of plant-powered favourites will help kids maintain healthy strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D is another argument for maintaining milk on the menu, but D can be found in fortified favourites such as wholegrain breads, rice and soy milk. The best option is to step outside and enjoy sunlight upon your skin, sans sunscreen. For premium plus absorption, K2 is a key accompaniment. Kick up the K2 with kimchi and fermented tofu, referred to as tempeh. Top plant-based foods for swapping dairy include tofu, tahini, broccoli, kale, almonds, whole grain breads, chickpeas, and dried figs. Think out of the box; introduce kelp and wakame young. These two sea vegetables are off the calcium charts. Wakame is effortless to hide in miso soup. Host a Japanese-inspired meal and serve a seaweed salad. Kids will go crazy for kelp.

It’s easier to start off life without normalizing dairy. Plant-based is becoming more than a trend. It’s here to stay with all the healthy benefits. A wide variety of plant-based options provide adequate protein, carbohydrates, and fruit supplies natural sugar. The plant kingdom is stocked with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and water for hydration. It’s never too late or too early to ditch dairy for a healthier lifestyle. Dairy can be swapped for soy, rice, hemp, coconut, quinoa, oat, chickpea, or any nut beverage. Look for fortified options! Chickpea is off the charts with 10 grams of protein to boot! A healthy diet solves the dairy dilemma, but skip the added sugar added in funky flavours on a day-to-day diet. Yogurt and ice creams are a snap to substitute with nut and coconut versions. Vegan cheese is more than a craze. Roasted chickpeas with olive oil or cinnamon are an easy high protein and calcium school safe snack. Be open to the possibility that milk or any form of dairy may not be the best answer going into 2022. Pass on the phlegm, bloating, mood swings, diarrhoea, pesticides, antibiotics, and the dairy footprint left behind on earth. Power up with plants!

Photo credit: ©[NYS444] via Canva

Mercedes Kay Gold is a Certified Holistic Practitioner and Certified Mobile Personal Trainer living and working in Toronto. Her writing has been featured in various publications and has appeared on Daytime with Jacqueline Betterton. She spends her spare time blogging about all things healthy and enjoying time with her sons. She can be reached at mercedeskaygoldfitness@gmail.com or visit www.mercedeskaygold.com

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