“Why am I training this hard and I feel like sh*t?!?!” I will never forget the morning run when I said this to myself. I felt this horrible sour stomach I was getting when I was completing hard efforts and I was at the point of extreme frustration as I had just found triathlon as a sport, began training really hard and my body wasn’t reacting well to the efforts I was putting in. I reflected on the prior day, recognized the high amount of milk I consumed and pondered if that was a cause as having high quantities of milk previously made me feel bloated and/or nauseous but I knew nothing about nutrition at the time.
I decided to ditch milk and see if it would make a difference. It was a game changer. I could not believe the immediate impact of eliminating milk. The sour stomachs went away and I learned about the horrific effects of dairy on the human body. Here I will share what I learned along the way and dairy’s connection with chronic illnesses.
It’s fascinating when you take a step back and think about the intent of cow’s milk. Dr. Michael Klapper does a nice job explaining in an interview at the 2016 – The Real Truth About Health Conference. He shares the sole purpose is to blow up a 65 pound calf into a cow (1,000+ pounds) as quickly as possible. Dr. Michael Greger cites, “the weight gain of baby calves in the first year of feeding is nearly 40 times greater than that of breast-fed human infants.”
We are the only species to drink the milk of another and the only to drink milk as an adult. Here I will share the negative effects dairy has on humans and what alternatives we have.
Let’s start with America’s number one killer, heart disease. Last year, 647,457 Americans died of cardiovascular disease as reported by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and it is 17.9 million people globally reported by the World Health Organization. The Harvard School of Public Health states the number one source of saturated fat in the U.S. is dairy. The first food listed was pizza (cheese). Cheese is a concentrated form of dairy so it even multiplies the negative qualities – more fat, calories, sodium, hormones, antibiotics, etc. I cover this in great detail in the blog, Cheese Really Sucks.
Dr. Michael Greger cites by being plant-based (no animal consumption), we can not only prevent heart disease, but we can stop and reverse it. Prevent, stop and reverse our number one killer? I experienced this personally when I went plant-based and dropped my cholesterol in half. Better yet I just felt great!
I lost my dad to prostate cancer at age 58. He grew up on a farm and our family consumed a lot of dairy and animal products throughout our lives. Dairy contains insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-1), a cancer promoting hormone. When you avoid animal products and eat plant-based men show significantly less levels of Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). How much so? Dr. Greger shares that our own blood stream, eating plant-based, will work eight times more effective at suppressing the growth of cancer cells.
The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) cites from another study, “those who followed a vegan diet experienced a 35 percent lower prostate cancer risk than those following a nonvegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, pesco-vegetarian, or semi-vegetarian diet.” Dr. Greger also cites, “men consuming more three or more servings a day of dairy had a 76% higher risk of total mortality and a 141% higher risk of prostate cancer-specific mortality compared to men who consumed less than one dairy product a day.” It is estimated in 2020 that over 33,000 men in the U.S. will die from prostate cancer.
Why didn’t my dad and I know these things and why is dairy on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines? In 2019, Canada dropped dairy as a food group stating it’s not optimal for overall health and chocolate milk being “a culprit in the growing childhood obesity crisis.”
For women, breast cancer took the lives of 41,760 American women in 2019 according to the American Cancer Society. I’ve had several friends die of breast cancer and more battle it and still fighting the fight. Why do I know so many? According to a study referenced (Adventist Health Study-2 cohort) by PCRM, they found “that women who consumed 1/4 to 1/3 cup of cow’s milk per day had a 30 percent increased chance for breast cancer. One cup per day increased the risk by 50 percent, and 2-3 cups were associated with an 80 percent increased chance of breast cancer.” The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommendation is three cups per day for adults. How is this possible? The research finally states that, “replacing dairy milk with soy milk was associated with a 32 percent reduced risk of breast cancer.”
These are just three of various prominent chronic illnesses we face. Here are some other startling facts:
- Overweight/obesity – 71.6% of American adults are either overweight or obese (39.8% obese) per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Those on a plant-based diet are the only ones considered in the ideal weight category based on Body Mass Index (BMI). Even vegetarians are not within range with the difference – dairy. The important aspect here is being overweight or obese is tied to chronic illnesses…it’s a package deal.
- Diabetes (type 2) – you would think by what we hear that sugar is the underlying cause. Dr. Greger shares his thoughts to what causes diabetes. “The consumption of too many calories rich in saturated fats. Now just like everyone who smokes doesn’t develop lung cancer; everyone who eats a lot of saturated fat doesn’t develop diabetes—there’s a genetic component. But just like smoking can be said to cause lung cancer, high-calorie diets rich in saturated fats are currently considered the cause of type 2 diabetes.” And what foods lead the way in saturated fats – dairy.
- Bone Health – Switch4Good cites research that is contrary to what most believe – “Don’t be fooled by advertisements claiming that cows’ milk helps strengthen bones—the research tells a different story. A 2018 meta-analysis involving over 250,000 male and female subjects found no link between drinking cows’ milk and a reduced risk of bone fractures. In fact, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal, those getting the USDA “recommended” 3+ glasses per day had a whopping 60% greater hip fracture rate.” There are several studies showing the same correlation and it’s the side effects of dairy causing the damage.
- Lactose Intolerance – PCRM reports, “Infants and children produce enzymes that break down lactose, the sugar found in breast milk and cow’s milk, but as we grow up, many of us lose this capacity. Lactose intolerance is common, affecting about 95 percent of Asian Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, 53 percent of Mexican Americans, and 15 percent of Caucasians. Symptoms include upset stomach, diarrhea, and gas.”
- Hormones – it’s crazy what we can put in our bodies and not realize what’s in it. Switch4Good does a great job explaining hormones in dairy – Cows’ milk, even ‘no hormone added,’ ‘grass-fed,’ and ‘locally produced,’ contains 15 different sex hormones, including estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. That does not even include the other 60 natural hormones found in cows’ milk and the synthetic hormones many dairy cows are given to boost milk production. Consuming these large amount of hormones can lead to a wide array of unwanted side effects and even cancer.”
There are so many other aspects to share but in the interest of length I will stop here. I recommend the following resources to research more on your own:
- Switch4Good – switch4good.org
- Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine – pcrm.org
- Nutrition Facts – nutrtionfacts.org
- What the Dairy Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know (Dr. Neal Barnard video)
- The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy (book)
- This Cheese is Nuts!: Delicious Vegan Cheese at Home (book)
I also love these two short videos via Switch4Good about the effects of dairy:
- Dairy Myths Debunked by Critical Care Physician – Dr. Milton Mills
- Why Olympic Athletes Are Ditching Dairy (And You Should Too)
There are many milk alternatives including almond, soy, oat and coconut. Cheese alternatives are also now flooding grocery stores so options are now more available than ever. Most cream recipes I make are made with nut and nutritional yeast combinations that are spectacular. Lastly, you may think we need dairy for calcium. Cows don’t produce calcium. They get calcium from plants. Cut out the middle man and go for those green leafy vegetables.
By ditching dairy it helped me cut my cholesterol in half, lose 65 pounds, eliminate weekly migraines, reduce my blood pressure, cut inflammation in my body, and perform at a high level athletically. Best of all I feel fantastic!
Special request – I am supporting, Switch4Good, an organization educating and influencing why and how to ditch dairy, in the attempt to influence the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to remove dairy as a food group from the 2020-2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Dairy harms us, animals and the planet so getting it off of a food group checks off all the boxes. If you are interested in supporting, please use this link to submit your comments so they can be seen on June 1. It takes less than a minute and they are pre-filled if you choose that route.
– Add Health to Your Life