Many people are concerned about visiting a Naturopath because they are scared that they will be instructed to give up the foods that they love: wheat, dairy and eggs (pretty much the staples of North American grocery lists). While I regularly encourage patient’s to give up potentially offending foods after assessing their health concerns and their regular diet, I also find it important to educate them about why I believe food may be contributing to their concerns. One of the more challenging foods to convince people to give up, even temporarily to determine if it is aggravating their health concerns, is dairy.
The media and Canada’s Food Guide have created a belief that milk is necessary for health and that it “does a body good”. Celebrities are used to endorse milk; Taylor Swift, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Rihanna and Heidi Klum have all donned the milk moustache. Even gyms are promoting the “health” benefits of chocolate milk as the perfect post-workout recovery tool. We are led to believe that dairy is nature’s perfect food with the ideal complement of fat, protein and essential nutrients but there is a great deal of research documenting the ill-effects of dairy.
Milk does not build stronger bones:
Contrary to popular belief, research does not support the claim that milk reduces the risk of bone fracture by building stronger bones(Feskanich D, 1997). Also, epidemiological studies have found that the cultures and regions with the lowest milk consumption, like Africa and Asia, also have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. The reason that milk does not build stronger bones is due to its acidity. Milk is acid forming within the body so in order for the body to neutralize the acid, minerals are needed and these minerals (calcium and magnesium) come from bones.
Dairy is mucus forming:
Milk consumption has been associated with increased production of mucus in the respiratory tract, thus promoting symptoms of asthma, other respiratory tract infections and allergies(Bartley J, 2010). Casein, a protein found in milk, irritates the immune system and thickens mucus secretions. For this reason, I encourage any patients suffering from allergies, post-nasal drip, bronchitis, asthma and autoimmune conditions to eliminate dairy completely for a trial period. I also encourage parents of children with ear infections to eliminate milk from their child’s diet because dairy sensitivity and the excessive mucus production is often a contributing factor in chronic ear infections.
Dairy has been associated with acne:
The national Nurses Health Study II conducted by Harvard University, reported that dairy products, particularly skim milk, may play a role in acne breakouts (Adebamowo CA, 2005)(Adebamowo C, 2008). Not only do I recommend that individuals suffering from acne avoid cow’s milk, I encourage those with other dermatological concerns such as eczema and psoriasis to also temporarily eliminate diary from their diet while monitoring their symptoms.
Adebamowo C, S. D. (2008). Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. J Am Acad Dermatol , 787–793.
Adebamowo CA, S. D. (2005). High school dietary intake and teenage acne. J Am Acad Dermatol , 207–211.
Bartley J, M. S. (2010, April). Does milk increase mucus production? Med Hypotheses , 732-4.
Feskanich D, W. W. (1997, June). Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health , 992-7.