We started delving into the dirty world of dairy after reading about its connection to joint inflammation (source). This perked our interest (arthritis is one of the hereditary curveballs Mary is trying to dodge), but it wasn't until we started making the connection between dairy and so many other diseases and ailments (including, but certainly not limited to, "tummy troubles") that it became apparent that it was time to make a change.
Even if you're not interested in giving dairy up entirely - this is about progress, not perfection - it is certainly worth considering cutting back. Here's why.
While only about 10% of adults are lactose intolerant, that doesn't mean that the rest of us have and easy time with dairy. If you suffer from gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation (yup, we went there), it might behove you (and those around you!) to go dairy-free (source).
BONE + JOINT HEALTH
We've been told since we were kids that the calcium in milk gives us strong bones. And it's true - adequate calcium curbs osteoperosis (source). But it's also readily found in other foods, like leafy greens and dried beans. Studies have shown that getting enough Vitamin D, Vitamin K, and - no surprise - exercise might play just as important a role as calcium in bone health (source). Dairy products have also been linked to joint inflammation and arthritis (source).
A Harvard-affiliated study concluded that women who consumed an excess of low-fat dairy foods were more likely to experience anovulatory infertility (source). It's important to note, however, that the same study revealed that women who consume at least one daily serving of whole milk are 50% less likely to experience infertility than women consuming less than one serving per week. Apparently full-fat dairy is better than low-fat; it's also shown to be just as healthy for cardiovascular health (source). But, for us, this is rendered irrelevant, given all the other factors listed.
Mary loves to tell the story of the time she milked a happy, healthy cow in a tiny village in the French Alps. "The experience was humbling and the milk was delicious." Sadly, most American cows are not so lucky. In the conventional milk production world, cows are kept pregnant and hooked up to machines about 300 days a year. It's not pretty. Google "factory dairy farming" if you're feeling bold. These animals are machines, attached to machines, standing for hours on end in horrible crowded, filthy conditions. No bueno.
Because their living conditions are so poor, cows are prone to infections on their utters and hooves, which means they need antibiotics. More than 40% of all antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to farm animals. This widespread use of antibiotics is a growing concern for the effectiveness of antibiotics in humans (source).
You may be thinking, "I only buy organic! Those cows are healthy and happy, like the French cows!" And you're right to an extent - cows on organic dairy farms spend 120 days a year at pasture and are not administered antibiotics or growth hormones. However, the reality is that dairy cows are worked (and therefore kept pregnant) for much of their lives and studies show (source) that the older cows get and the more times they've been pregnant, the more hormones (natural estrogens) are found in their milk. What's more, even if your cow is raised humanely and on an organic farm, there is no such thing as hormone-free milk. "Dairy accounts for 60 percent to 80 percent of estrogens consumed," according to a Harvard study. In fact, the average glass of milk contains 60 hormones (source), including progesterone and testosterone. What's the big deal? Well...
Any woman who has experienced monthly breakouts can attest to the connection between hormones and acne. Dr. Hyman took it one step further and concluded "hormonal imbalances caused by our diet trigger acne." It makes sense. Testosterone remains consistent throughout a menstrual cycle, while the female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) cycle up and down. At certain times of the month, this means we actually have more testosterone in our bodies than estrogen and progesterone, which in turn causes acne flare-ups (here's more on that from Web MD). You don't have to be a doctor to infer that hormonal imbalances - whether natural or induced by diet - are rough on our skin. Why add to the problem with more hormones?
If all these other factors weren't convincing enough: according to a study published in the Harvard University Gazette, consuming the excess of hormones found in dairy products has increased our chances of hormone-dependent cancers like testes, prostate and breast (source). The study's lead scientist stated, "Butter, meat, eggs, milk, and cheese are implicated in higher rates of hormone-dependent cancers in general. Breast cancer has been linked particularly to consumption of milk and cheese."
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