Sorry, dairy. I love you, truly, but this just might not work out.

Pasteurized cow’s milk is the #1 allergen in the US. Why? The allergy is an autoimmune disorder that causes you to produce antibodies against the proteins in the milk. Since similar compounds can be found in your body, the antibodies can get confused and start to attack the body’s own tissues. Yikes!

At birth, your body produces and enzyme called lactase that helps digest lactose – about 75% of people stop producing lactase after the ages of 3-5, which contributes to the lactose intolerance. However, dairy consumption affects many more of us than just those that show obvious symptoms of lactose intolerance. The allergy can manifest in many ways including mild digestive stress – like when you’ve had an extra large portion of alfredo sauce and it just runs through your body. It’s important to know that this is more than just a one time case of explosive pants. The dairy is actually doing harm to your body. A dairy allergy can also show up as acne, eczema, or other skin conditions, therefore one of the first things I do for my clients with excessive acne is pull out dairy. It can also increase mucus production and can contribute to respiration problems such as asthma.

If you think about it, it makes sense that dairy can contribute to weight gain, since the main purpose is for dairy to increase the size of a baby calf rapidly. Additionallly, it’s a high source of carbs, especially low-fat milk. Dairy also can increase inflammation as a response to antibodies attacking body tissues. Inflammation is your body holding on to fluid, which can look like excess weight on the body. When it made huge headlines that Khloe Kardashian ditched dairy and lost 11 lbs almost immediately – it’s a pretty good guess the decrease in inflammation was a big factor.

Our Dairy Is a Processed Food

What’s interesting is that humans have been consuming milk for around 10,000 years, but the milk we consume today is radically different from the original. When you see pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized on the carton in the store – beware. Pasteurization involves heating the milk to 145 -155 degrees and keeping it at that temperature for a half hour for the purpose of killing harmful bacteria, but it also changes the chemical composition of the milk proteins and it’s far from what our bodies recognize as milk. The notable Dr. Frank Lipman says the process of pasteurization even eliminates many of the beneficial components of milk.

Homogenization is when it’s pumped at high pressures through narrow tubes, which breaks up the fat globules so that the milk doesn’t separate when placed on the shelves. No real purpose other than so it doesn’t look gross when you go to buy it! But again, changing the structure of the milk so it does not resemble how nature intended it to be. Homogenization transforms the fat so that it is foreign to most human digestive systems.

You may have been cautioned against hormones or rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormones) in your milk. However, the real concern is that proteins in milk may increase another hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF) in humans, which could mimic the effects of human growth hormone (HGH) in harmful ways and has been associated with an increased risk of breast, prostate, and other cancers in humans.

Consider Experimenting with Cutting Dairy

All foods affect each individual differently. You may not notice many obvious signs of a dairy allergy, but my advice would be to cut dairy out for a month or so and see if you feel any noticeable changes. This is always the most compelling evidence, even when the science doesn’t match up, as it often doesn’t in the world of health and nutrition. You might notice decreased sinus congestion, better digestion, or improved skin. You might see a decrease in inflammation which would present itself as almost instant weight loss, since your body is able to shed fluids fairly quickly. Many of the benefits of dairy that you’ve come to know are largely just a great marketing effort by the dairy industry. These benefits can be achieved through eating other foods. A great and more bioavailable source of calcium can be found in kale or other green, leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds like sesame seeds. Otherwise, try to make dairy an occasional treat rather than an every day staple.

Butter or ghee (clarified butter) would be an exception. Many of the proteins that cause allergic reactions are not found in butter, so a high quality, grass fed butter or ghee is acceptable (rejoice!) and even preferable to cooking with oils.

For those that don’t seem to have a reaction to dairy, even after cutting it out for a period of time and reintroducing, could look into raw milk. Something I always emphasize is just getting the highest quality of foods.

About Jenn Haralson

Jenn is a design nerd and food enthusiast who is obsessed with ultimate health. She hates diet food and putting on pants. She lives just outside of Austin with her husband and two dogs, Cosmo and Dot.