How Healthy is Dairy? - McDowell's Herbal Treatments

Is dairy really good for us and an essential food group? 99 percent of your body's calcium is stored in your bones and teeth but 

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There is no human requirement for milk from a cow," says Suzanne Havala, RD, author of the American Dietetic Association's "Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets" and several books on nutrition. "The use of milk and its products in our country is strictly a cultural tradition," she notes. "There are millions of people around the world who never consume cow's milk and are none the worse for it."

While doctors recommend increasing the intake of calcium in order to prevent ostreoporosis and maintain good health, most calcium supplements are insoluble in the distal small intestine where absorption of calcium occurs. In fact calcium, like all minerals and vitamins have a selection of ideal partners to enable optimal absorption and utilisation by the human body. Silica is one of these critical partners.

Vitamin D also plays a critical role in maintaining bone health. When blood levels of calcium begin to drop, the body responds in several ways. It promotes the conversion of vitamin D into its active form, which then travels to the intestines (to encourage greater calcium absorption into the blood) and to the kidneys (to minimize calcium loss in the urine).

For bone health, an adequate intake of vitamin D is no less important than calcium. Vitamin D is found in milk and vitamin supplements, and it can be made by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight in the summertime.

Vitamin K, which is found mainly in green, leafy vegetables, likely plays one or more important roles in calcium regulation and bone formation.

Calcium is calcium, however, whether it's from broccoli or cottage cheese. "There's no best source of calcium," explains Robert Heaney, a professor with the Osteoporosis Research Center at Creighton University School of Medicine. "The sheer quantity of calcium in dairy products certainly makes them attractive sources, but they have no monopoly on calcium. There's no reason in the world why you couldn't get an adequate intake from a vegetable source."

Indeed, researchers have found that nations with the greatest calcium intake have the highest rates of osteoporosis and hip fracture, and that there are relatively few fractures among populations where calcium levels are not so high. After studying bone fracture rates worldwide, researcher JA Kanis concluded that the differences in fracture rates, "cannot be accounted for by differences in dietary intake of calcium but may relate more to physical activity [which promotes strong bones."

Another worrying piece of information according to gynecologist Christiane Northrup, MD, author of "Women's Bodies Women's Wisdom", other health problems associated with the consumption of dairy foods include benign breast conditions, recurrent vaginitis, acne, menstrual cramps, fibroids, chronic intestinal upset and increased pain from endometriosis. These health problems could be occurring due to some farmers artificially increasing a growth hormone in cows in an attempt to increase yield.

Milk can also be associated with the conditions below:

  • Allergies - Milk is the most common cause of food allergy. A recent study found that one way to reduce the number of allergies in infants is for the breastfeeding mother to avoid consuming, or make very limited use of cow's milk.
  • Anemia - Overreliance on milk in children can lead to anemia, as milk is very low in iron, and drinking large quantities of it can crowd iron-rich foods from the diet. In young infants, protein from cow's milk can cause intestinal bleeding, another possible cause of anemia.
  • Colic - Sensitivity to cow's milk can cause colic, a digestive ailment in infants. Colic can cause problems even in infants who aren't drinking cow's milk but whose mothers are.

Food with more absorbable calcium than dairy products

  • Firm tofu - 1 cup: 850 mg
  • Dry plain oats - 1/2 cup: 200 mg
  • Chia seeds - 1 tablespoon: 90 mg
  • Sesame seeds - 1 tablespoon: 90 mg
  • Sardines or samon
  • Almonds - 1/4 cup: 94 mg
  • Spinach - 1 cup: 250 mg
  • Kale - 1 cup: 179 mg
  • Broccoli - 1 cup: 178 mg

Fermented dairy products are a much better option compared to straight dairy products such as fermented milks and yoghurts containing 'probiotic' cultures such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. These are currently among the best known examples of functional foods. They are simpler for our body to absorb due to the fact that they are already partially digested due to the fermentation process.

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McDowell's staff Herbalists can not diagnose your disease or illness. What they can do is offer a herbal program to assist with healing, after you have had advice from your doctor or specialist. If you have unexplained pain or symptoms, seek medical advice.

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