Dairy is one of those really sensitive food topics that many people feel passionately about. There is passion on both sides- those for and those against. I work with women who are building up their bodies for pregnancy and I am very careful to provide education on both sides of the argument and let my client make up her mind.
The pro-milk argument is that dairy is a nutritious “whole food.” Whole-fat organic dairy provides many crucial vitamins and minerals, and it provides lots of fats- something that you need to have plenty of in your diet when trying to conceive or are pregnant.
Unfortunately, for many people, dairy can be bad for their hormones – it can be a root cause of PMS, PCOS, acne, endometriosis, and infertility issues. We can live a healthy life without dairy and we can get all of the nutrients – including calcium – perfectly well from other foods. Dairy can actually hurt your fertility because of the fertility harming toxins it contains, and for people who have lactose intolerance, or a casein (milk) allergy or sensitivity, it can actually cause infertility.
I know this is not popular information for many cheese and ice-cream loving woman. I know, I love pizza and ice cream too!
So let’s look at ways dairy can affect your hormones:
- Dairy containing antibiotics will negatively impact your microbiome which can prevent proper estrogen metabolism.
- Dairy can create inflammation in the intestinal tract which can hinder your fertility.
- Dairy can throw off your body’s own estrogen production by introducing artificial growth hormones.
- Dairy can deplete your magnesium stores which throws off your pituitary and the rest of the adrenal glands.
My Dairy Story
In tears, I wrapped my coat around me, ran to the bathroom and cleaned up the best I could and bought a new pair of jeans. I went to see my doctor and he noticed that I had fibroids and told me that it was common for women. I didn’t think an experience like that should be common for any woman and I was determined to do something about it myself. I stopped consuming all dairy and from that day on my periods were back to normal and I had an added bonus; no more asthma attacks ever again!!! When I went back to the doctor. the fibroids had shrunk considerably. Years later I tried dairy again and I was quickly reminded of the severity of the side affects. Let me just say it was another unpleasant story. I once again gave up dairy.
About 15 years ago I started having random asthma attacks which terrified me and I would often get them in the middle of the night and would sit in the dark with my inhaler questioning whether I should wake up my husband in case I needed to go to the hospital. A couple of years later, I noticed that my periods were getting very heavy. This continued to worsen and one day when I drove to a mall two hours away from my home and stood up out of the car, my menstrual flow rushed out of me so quickly that I did not have time to go to the bathroom and even with a pad on at the time, the blood soaked the crotch and the legs of my of my jeans right down to my knees.
Fibroid growth is connected to hormonal balance, specifically the problem of estrogen dominance. Your diet has the power to change your hormone balance and reverse an estrogen overload.
Unfortunately this health issue is most often resolved with a prescription of the birth control pill or hysterectomy. The birth control pill may manage symptoms BUT it will not prevent fibroids from returning once you decide to go off the pill and the estrogen dominance symptoms may be even worse. A hysterectomy also has side effects booth short and long term.
To have an impact on fibroid growth, shrink fibroids, or prevent fibroids in your future you need to focus on supporting your body in processing, eliminating, and detoxing excess estrogen. You can do this by supporting your liver function, boosting gut health, and decreasing inflammation in the body. Contact me here for a free 30 minute consultation to discuss how we can work together to help you with this.
The first step is to remove the foods that trigger fibroid growth and symptoms.
Should I Give Up Dairy?
If you are not having any health issues, hormonal or otherwise, and if you are not having difficulty getting pregnant then don’t worry, enjoy your dairy products. Having said that, you may want to try ditching the dairy temporarily to see how you would feel without it. You’ll be able to tell fairly quickly (in a month or two) if you have a lactose or casein issue because you will feel better.
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant or have repeated early losses or problems with egg health, then you might want to consider eliminating dairy from your diet and see if it helps. BUT if you don’t have an intolerance or sensitivity issue, and you are very thin, need to gain weight, and aren’t ovulating, then you should probably keep high-fat, non-sugar, dairy in your diet, and reduce phthalate exposure as much as possible in other areas of your life. However, you won’t feel a difference from lowered phthalate levels. Since phthalates are linked to egg health and early loss, if you have those problems, consider removing dairy from your diet completely.
How About My Bones?
traces of antibiotics, and other problems that lead many doctors to suggest that we avoid them and get calcium from healthier sources.” Dr Barnard goes on to say,“ The healthiest calcium sources are greens and beans. One cup of broccoli has 178 milligrams of calcium. What’s more, the calcium in broccoli and most other green leafy vegetables is more absorbable than the calcium in milk. An exception is spinach, that has a form of calcium that is not well absorbed.
According to Dr Neal Barnard, M.D., founder and president of the Physicians’ Committee of Responsible Medicine and president of the Cancer Project, “Dairy products are not the healthiest source of calcium, they do contain calcium, but only 30% of it is absorbed. Dairy products have many undesirable features, including animal proteins that contribute to some cases of arthritis, and respiratory problems, lactose sugar that is linked to cataracts, frequent
“Beans, lentils, and other legumes are loaded with calcium. We think of beans as a humble food, but they are a extraordinary source of nutrition. They have calcium, omega-3 fatty acids; the cholesterol-lowering soluble fibre that many people thought was only in oat bran, and healthy complex carbohydrates. If you make green vegetables and beans as a regular part of your diet, you’ll get two excellent sources of calcium.”
Dr Joel Fuhram agrees, “ You do not need dairy products to get sufficient calcium if you eat a healthy diet. All unprocessed natural foods are calcium rich; even a whole orange (not orange juice) has about 60mg of calcium.
In AnneMarie Colbin’s book ‘Food and our Bones: the natural way to prevent osteoporosis’ – she breaks down the mythology around dairy which we’ve all grown up with. Rather than helping us to form strong bones, dairy actually leaches calcium out of our bones, making us more susceptible to osteoporosis. Cobin does not recommend calcium supplements or pills, but instead a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and greens. Cobin discovered it was those women living in dairy-dominant cultures such as the US and northern Europe that actually had the highest incidences of osteoporosis, as well as heart disease and breast cancer.
Although it’s important to eat foods high in calcium, it is also very important to watch out for things that rob your body of calcium!
How Will I Live Without Dairy?
I love the taste of milk, cheese, and ice cream!!! Giving up dairy was not an easy task so I did a lot of research and tried lots of recipes to put the dairy taste and texture back in my life. It’s important to have a healthy diet that supports your own individual needs BUT your food has to taste good and it needs to be enjoyed as one of our pleasures in life.
The first step is to pick an unsweetened substitute milk that doesn’t have “carrageenan” in the ingredient list. It’s actually linked to high cholesterol and other heart and health problems. Also watch out for things like Oat Milk that have a naturally high sugar count. I try to avoid the prepackaged cartons sitting on the shelves because they usually have more preservatives. Instead, opt for the substitute milks in the refrigerated milk/organic section of your local grocery stores. I love So Nice Original Organic Almond Milk it foams up wonderfully in my chai tea and coffee latte.
Who doesn’t love a warm nacho cheese dip? Yes please, and it’s dairy free!! Also, if you love cheesy popcorn like I do, try sprinkling Nutritional Yeast on warm popcorn(not microwave popcorn as it has too many chemicals in it) that has been drizzled with coconut oil. Super yummy and nutritional yeast is packed with the stress-fighting B vitamins
I try to limit my use of prepackaged nut and seed milk so for my smoothies I use hemp seeds as there is no need take the extra work of straining the milk like almond milk. To make a creamy base for my smoothies, I put one or two tablespoons of hemp seeds with a little water in a blender and let it sit for 5 minutes before blending. You instantly have hemp milk which is an excellent source of essential fatty acids in the perfect balance. More digestible protein than meat, whole eggs, cheese, human milk, cows milk or any other high protein food and it’s rich in Vitamin E.
Here at the Garrod house, our favourite dessert is Black Bean Brownies with Coconut Ice Cream. My kids and husband all request it instead of a birthday cake and I often bake the brownies ahead of time and freeze them for a quick family celebration. I have purchased coconut ice-cream from the freezer section of my local grocery store but I recently bought an ice cream maker and was so surprised how easy it was to make home made coconut ice cream - less expensive, no preservatives and better taste!
As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, dairy is a food that often holds a lot of personal and nostalgic feelings for many of us. We grew up with it on our dinner tables and it is in many of our family recipes and let’s be honest, it tastes great. What we have to recognize is that it is not a healthy food for many people and we have to accept that we need to listen to our bodies and find new alternatives to dairy if it doesn’t serve our lives.
Book a free 30 minute consultation with me and we can chat about how you can use food and lifestyle to balance your hormones, menstruation difficulties, or reproductive health. I am here to help! CLICK HERE to contact me.
- Harvest Cuisine, Whole Foods Cooking, Karen Kay.
- Food and our Bones: the natural way to prevent osteoporosis, AnneMarie Colbin.