Hi, Healthy Females! With all the alternative milk options in all the land (big cashew milk fan over here!) it's sometimes hard to know why people are dairy-free in the first place. Marketing strategies can often convince us that a certain product or lifestyle is absolutely made for us. But what about dairy? Today we are breaking it down for you.
Sifting through information on why or why not you might try a dairy-free lifestyle can be challenging. We've done the work for you! Constantly diving into the newest scientific research and reading books written by credible authors is one of the reasons we are nutrition professionals in the first place! So, here's some of the reasons why we might recommend trying a dairy-free lifestyle to positively impact your health in the New Year:
You don't feel great after eating dairy (cheese, milk, ice cream, etc).
You have acne.
You don't have regular bowel movements or suffer from other digestive issues/IBS.
You want to balance your hormones.
You feel addicted to dairy.
Let's do some debunking of the popular things you've heard before about dairy. Among the most popular is that you need dairy for healthy bones! Do you all remember that kid in high school who constantly had broken bones and everyone said "he needs to drink more milk!" well - research shows that dairy doesn't help increase the risk of fractures and doesn't protect our bones. Studies show that Vitamin D actually prevents more fractures, but that's for another topic.
Yes, we know, dairy does contain calcium. We need calcium. However, studies show that non-dairy calcium is more beneficial in preventing certain cancers! Luckily there are a lot of plant-based foods that contain calcium and consuming plant foods are beneficial in countless ways. Calcium is found in abundance in many food sources such as dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, collard greens), sardines, chia seeds, almonds, beans, sunflower seeds and many more.
A lot of our dairy is very highly processed and far from the natural state of milking a cow on the farm. Think about the process it takes just to get the yogurt on the shelf at the grocery store! While there are cleaner options for dairy, a lot of dairy products have additives that we don't want in our bodies. The good news is we have an abundance of dairy-free options such as nut milks, plant-based yogurts and cheeses (and ice cream too!). Many alternative milk options are much more accessible today and many can even easily be made from home!
A large population of the world (studies show up to 75%) cannot even process dairy due to lactose intolerance. Lactose (the sugar that's found in dairy) is broken down by an enzyme that your body produces called lactase. This enzyme is produced within the lining of your small intestine. Some people have lower levels of lactase and cannot properly digest dairy - that might begin at birth or later in life. Symptoms of being lactose intolerant can vary from mild to extreme and be associated with diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas or other digestive discomfort.
So, when we don't properly digest dairy, that wreaks havoc on our gut. Did you know that gut health is vital for overall health? Skin issues such as acne, hormonal imbalance and period pain can all be related to poor gut health and digestion. Whenever we are eating something that doesn't agree with our body we are causing inflammation. Our bodies are amazing and it knows how to deal with inflammation, but what if we can reduce overall inflammation and allow our bodies to heal?
Trying a dairy-free lifestyle for 4-6 weeks and keeping an active food journal on how you feel can be a great place to start! This gives you a chance to identify if you are someone who might be negatively impacted by consuming dairy products so you can make long-term changes in your diet if necessary!
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Sources & Citations :
Hills, Ronald D Jr et al. “Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease.” Nutrients vol. 11,7 1613. 16 Jul. 2019, doi:10.3390/nu11071613
Huncharek, Michael et al. “Colorectal cancer risk and dietary intake of calcium, vitamin D, and dairy products: a meta-analysis of 26,335 cases from 60 observational studies.” Nutrition and cancer vol. 61,1 (2009): 47-69. doi:10.1080/01635580802395733
Feskanich, Diane et al. “Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women.” The American journal of clinical nutrition vol. 77,2 (2003): 504-11. doi:10.1093/ajcn/77.2.504