Dairy has been one of the main staples of the human diet for thousands of years. It is rich in necessary nutrients such as calcium, fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin D, and protein. So it can be a healthy addition to our diet.
However, everywhere we look, we see dairy-free items and dairy substitutes, which can make us assume dairy must be bad.
This is partially due to the growing concern about the inflammatory effects of dairy products. Many people believe that consuming dairy products can cause inflammation in the body, leading to a range of health problems.
This blog will discuss why people link inflammation and digestive issues with milk and what the real source may be.
Why the Controversy Around Dairy?
Everyone’s body is different, and the digestive issues they experience generally do not have a “one-size-fits-all” solution. So we need to try to determine what circumstances, unique to our own body, may be causing our issues. This blog may help point you in the right direction.
We will talk about four factors that contribute to the misconception that dairy is terrible for you:
- Fillers in fortified milk
- Polyunsaturated fats
- Nutritional deficiencies
It is important to understand the role pasteurization plays in the production of dairy products.
The pasteurization process, which involves heating milk to a specific temperature to kill harmful bacteria, was developed to ensure the safety of milk and dairy products. However, this process also eliminates the lactase enzyme, which is essential for lactose digestion.
Lactose is the sugar found in milk. People with lactose intolerance lack the lactase enzyme needed to break it down, leading many to experience symptoms such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea after consuming pasteurized milk.
Another enzyme in raw milk, phosphatase, is essential for calcium absorption. The enzyme helps break down the calcium-phosphorus complex in milk, making calcium more accessible to the body. However, this enzyme is also destroyed during pasteurization, potentially reducing the bioavailability of calcium in pasteurized milk.
Unrelated to pasteurization or the absence of lactase and phosphatase enzymes, some may find they react badly to fortified milk.
Some fortified milk products contain fillers, such as carrageenan, that can cause gastrointestinal distress for some individuals.
In some studies, carrageenan, a common food additive derived from seaweed, has been linked to inflammation and digestive issues.
Synthetic vitamins added to fortified milk may also be a culprit.
If you experience adverse reactions to fortified milk products, check the ingredients list and consider switching to a brand that does not contain fillers or additives.
Another factor that can make it difficult to digest milk is the excessive intake of polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) in the diet.
Polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats found in foods such as nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. But when consumed in excess amounts, PUFAs can interfere with the digestive process by slowing down the emptying of the stomach. This can cause food to sit in the stomach longer, leading to discomfort and bloating.
Additionally, high levels of polyunsaturated fats can contribute to gut inflammation, making it harder to digest lactose and other nutrients in milk. Individuals who consume high amounts of polyunsaturated fats should consider reducing their PUFA intake or limiting their dairy consumption to avoid digestive discomfort.
Nutritional deficiencies can also make it difficult to digest milk.
For example, copper is an essential mineral that produces digestive enzymes, including lactase. A copper deficiency can impair the body’s ability to produce enough lactase, leading to lactose intolerance symptoms.
Additionally, a deficiency in vitamin A can affect the lining of the digestive tract, making it more difficult for the body to absorb and utilize nutrients from food, including milk.
What Can You Do to Help Digestion and Avoid Inflammation?
I have gone through many trial-and-error runs myself trying to get to the root of some chronic health issues. I like to help others go step by step to get to the bottom of their inflammatory or digestion issues.
Hey, if you don’t have to give up dairy, why should you?
Rebalancing Our Gut Microbiome
Rebalancing our gut microbiome is crucial for supporting healthy digestion, including the digestion of dairy products.
The gut microbiome consists of trillions of microorganisms – including bacteria, fungi, and viruses – that reside in the gastrointestinal tract. These microorganisms play an essential role in breaking down and absorbing nutrients from food, including milk.
Imbalances in our gut microbiome, such as a lack of good bacteria or an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, can lead to digestive issues, making it difficult to digest milk and other foods.
Check Your Diet
Take a look at your eating habits, and check to see if you’re consuming a lot of the following foods:
- Nuts and seeds
- Vegetable Oils
- Conventionally raised chicken or turkey
- A lot of alcohol
- A lot of leafy greens and cruciferous veggies
Foods high in PUFAs (nuts and seeds, conventionally raised poultry, vegetable oils) oxidize in the body quickly and can cause inflammation.
Uncooked grains and vegetables can irritate the gut and are hard to digest.
Incorporating the right food is just as important as avoiding the wrong ones. Some foods that should be added are:
- Saturated fats- These can be found in well-sourced animal protein or coconut products.
- Quality carbs- Including honey and fruit, maple syrup, and root veggies(try eating a raw carrot salad daily!).
- Nose-to-tail eating- This is a way of saying that you utilize the whole animal. This includes bone broth, collagen, gelatin, and liver.
Bringing your body back into balance by limiting or adding some of these foods to your diet will significantly help digestion.
Finding the Right Milk
Some of those dairy substitutes may actually be harmful to you, so finding the right kind of dairy milk may be more beneficial than cutting it out altogether.
Some types of milk I highly recommend testing out are:
- Local raw milk
- Sheep and goat milk
- Organic, grass-fed, low-temp pasteurized milk
It would also be wise to incorporate any of these kinds of milk into your diet slowly to ensure your body can handle it.
I would love to help you find the source of your inflammatory issues to get you back to feeling your best. Please feel free to get in touch, and in the meantime, check out my latest podcast episode, “Is Dairy Inflammatory or Is it Healthy?”
Hey there, I’m Kari!
As a Pharmacist and Integrative Health Practitioner, I get the privilege of working with women who are struggling with fatigue, poor sleep, painful cycles, digestive issues, and irritability- all of which have become their norm. And they are struggling just to keep up, simply wanting their health back.
I know what it’s like to feel frustrated and left with the same issues, even after spending time, energy & money thinking I’d found the answer.
With the right support, a proven method, and the Lord as our guide, let’s get your health back so you can run the race set before you with perseverance and joy.
So thankful you found your way here!