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This is a long overdue post. I have posted about the evils of grains, the benefits of the right fats, the wrongs of fast and processed foods, and much more, but dairy is one that I have shied away from, because I am conflicted on my stance here.

From a theoretical point of view only, dairy doesn’t really quality as a Paleolithic food source. Dairy herding didn’t really start until about 8500 years ago, making it a relatively new addition to the human diet.  Without being able to domesticate dairy animals, it is doubtful dairy was a meaningful part of the Paleolithic diet with the exception of human mothers milk during infancy.  The fact that we are the only animal that still drinks milk past infancy years as well as the only animal that drinks the milk of another animal gives me a bit of pause.  When you add in the fact that Lactose intolerance, Casein intolerance and heightened insulin response can cause real problems for so many of us, it just makes me wonder if it is even worth consuming. For some, the answer is no and for others it is yes. Let’s take a closer look at some of these issues.

Lactose Intolerance:

Lactose is a sugar found in dairy. Most of us around the world just are not adapted to digesting lactose after the age of 4. Lactose intolerance usually manifests itself digestively in the form of a rumbling gut, gas, bloating, cramps, and diarrhea. There are some (particularly those whose ancestry dates back to herding tribes) who have adapted genetically to digesting lactose and have no real problems with it.

Casein Intolerance:

Casein is one of the proteins in dairy. It has some structural similarities to gluten. In fact gluten intolerance and casein intolerance often go hand in hand. (This would be my case) Similar to gluten, casein can cause an inflammatory response in the gut and can negatively affect not only how well you absorb any nutrients in dairy but also other foods. It has been linked to leaky gut syndrome as well. Many people never know they have this issue until dairy is eliminated for a time (usually 30 days). Many also have to eliminate grains, particularly gluten as well in order to determine how casein affects them.

Heightened Insulin Response:

Milk is highly insulinogenic, more so than many other carbohydrates actually. I have posted about the dangers of insulin in the past. When the food we eat promotes a high insulin response, that’s when the blood sugar roller coaster ride begins and all the good work we have done to keep blood sugar levels stable goes for naught! Some exceptions can be butter or ghee and heavy cream. Butter and ghee are the only 2 dairy sources I can tolerate since there is no lactose, no real casein and no blood sugar problems, it is basically all fat and we all know how much Laura loves her good fats! Some people can tolerate yogurt and/or kefir because most of the sugars get eaten up in the fermenting process. Yet some others can tolerate full fat heavy cream as well since there is very little sugar and it is mostly fat.

There are some health benefits to dairy IF YOU ARE TOLERANT. It is a great source of saturated fat and protein. It also offers calcium, potassium and well as vitamins A, D, and K. I highly recommend you check out the Weston A. Price Foundation for their research and insights on raw full fat dairy. I wish I could tolerate it because they make a very good case for consuming it. There are some who say due to the inflammatory nature of casein in the gut your body doesn’t really absorb all that calcium. Also, unless your dairy is full fat then absorbing the vitamins A, D, and K can be difficult since they are all fat-soluble vitamins.

The fact is you can get all the calcium you need in non-dairy sources. Some options are:

  • Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, collards, and broccoli
  • Sea vegetables like nori, Kombu and wakame.
  • Oily fish like salmon, sardines and rainbow trout but also shrimp and oysters.
  • Certain nuts and seeds as well like almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.

There are lots of options here and more and none of them come with the toxic effects of lactose and casein.

However, if you are tolerant, I have a few recommendations to make sure you are reducing inflammatory issues and increasing the possible health benefits.

 

  • Stick with full fat dairy, low-fat is useless. Might as well get the fat to help your body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins. Forget the grande skim latte, go full fat baby.
  • Fermented dairy is best like yogurt, and kefir. The fermentation process gets rid of most of the lactose.
  • Raw is best if you can get it. The pasteurization and homogenization processes kills off much of the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Some people who have dairy issues can handle raw dairy because the enzymes that aid digestion are still intact.
  • If raw is not available, organic, hormone and antibiotic free is next best.
  • Avoid standard low-fat dairy. It does not do the body good!!!!

Look, no one is sadder than I that dairy is not a Paleo food, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, cheese, yogurt and ice cream!! Just because it’s highly unlikely cavemen consumed it does not mean it can’t be nutritious if sourced from a healthy place and consumed intelligently, assuming of course you are tolerant. Is it Paleo? In my opinion, no, but I also encourage the 80/20 rule. If 100 compliance just isn’t practical for you and if adding some really wonderful yogurt to your breakfast from time to time or a delicious hard cheese to go with some apples or grapes or some decadent heavy cream in your coffee makes you a happy mostly-Paleo eater and you can tolerate it, then I won’t be the one to say no. It’s your gut, your life, and your choice! My decision was made over a year ago, me and dairy just don’t work well.

If it helps at all, I have found some yummy alternatives for milk, yogurt, and ice cream and have posted several of those recipes. Unfortunately, I just cannot find a good alternative for cheese. Stinks, I know, but it is what it is! Check out my recipes for almond milk, coconut milk, macadamia nut milk, coconut milk yogurt and coconut milk ice creams.

So, there it is. I’ve tackled it and am moving on. Clearly, the next logical step is a yummy chocolate coconut milk ice cream recipe! I’ll get to work, Stay tuned!!!

 

Until Next time,

~ Laura, MGP

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3 Responses to “What’s the Deal with Dairy??”

  1. Chris says:

    Laura!!!! It’s Chris from jersey! I miss you! It was great to hang out and get to know you a little. Tom and I had a great time! It was so funny cause I took alot of what you had to say about all this and was in target and wanted to know if soy milk was a good optio. So I take out my phone and go to text u and I’m like yeah I don’t have her number! You either have to email me or something cause if you are willing to help me try this. I am willing to try. I can do everything but the bread to start an then maybe I will ease into it. Get back to me! This whole milk thing intrigues me cause I need a solution to my once a week treat caramel frapp! Lol talk to you soon!

    Chris

    • Momgonepaleo says:

      Hi Chris!!! So good to hear from you! I had a great time hanging out with you guys too. I am excited you want to give this a try and am happy to help. I’ll email you my number. But Soy Milk is horrible. Its way to processed and contains phytoestrogens that can cause health problems including cancer. I write a post for the blog about it. You can type soy into the search field and it should pop up. Stick with almond milk or coconut milk. Thanks for reaching out! Look for my email. 🙂

      ~ Laura

  2. […] Is dairy free – eliminates lactose and casein, which tend to be problematic for a large portion of us whether we realize it or not. Dairy intolerance isn’t always a lactose intolerance problem. For me it wasn’t lactose causing digestive issues. Dairy was causing most of my sinus problems. You won’t know if dairy is an issue for you unless you eliminate it and see what happens. For more info see this post.  […]

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