The issue of milk is a typical example of the contradiction of nutrition. During my recent appearance on the BBC 1 Breakfast show I gave an account of the two sides of the argument. Like every aspect of nutrition or health there is only one thing that counts, that is, how does it affect your body and getting the results you want?
My view on milk is that all in all it is one of the worst foods you can have regularly within your diet. It is a real big puncher in the "fattening foods" categories even though it is low in fat. Milk has such a negative effect on the body because:
1) Food Sensitivities -
Milk is one of the strongest and most common food sensitivities on the planet. Dairy found in our shops has been pasteurized. This means that it has been heated up to kill everything in it, therefore "protecting" us against bugs and conveniently extending the shelf life by many days. The dead milk puts a large stress on the digestive system as it is devoid of enzymes.
Over time, through excessive consumption damage occurs to the gut wall which more often than not results in developing a sensitivities towards milk and other dairy products. At this point the immune system will be engaged by the body each time you have dairy. Like any food sensitivity it can be a major cause of body fat gains.
Milk (dairy) can also create a negative spiral by compromising gut function further so that you become sensitive towards other foods. This is common place with my clients, who often appear to be sensitive to almost every food. This is more the cascade effect of a poor gut than the actual foods themselves. Through removal of the offending foods for a period of time while following a gut repair protocol you can usually removes most of these sensitivities.
2) Protein-Carb-fat content -
The macro nutrient ratios of milk are another reason you may do well to avoid it. With the advent of skimmed and semi skimmed milk in the name of "healthy low fat" you now have a food which will make you hungrier from drinking it rather than satisfied! The variance in nutritional requirements from person to person (Read more about Metabolic Typing) means for a large percentage of people milk is giving both the wrong types of protein, carbs and fat as well as in the wrong amounts! When your ideal fuel mix is wrong you will find yourself craving sugar, being hungry soon after eating and suffering poor energy and concentration.
3) Toxins -
Though this claim can be labelled at almost any food these days certain toxins can be found in milk which is transferred over from the cow which will negatively affect the body. Usually our bodies are amazing at detoxifying any sort of toxins that enter the system. However, if the body is stressed from general life or from an immune reaction towards the foods you are eating then it is difficult for the body to detoxify optimally and thus the toxins in some foods are more problematic because of the inability to clear them when they enter the system.
But I thought dairy was healthy? What about calcium?
The issue of dairy being healthy all comes back to who is telling you this? After years of conditioning about how healthy it is and the calcium content of it I am not too surprised that people have trouble believing it. There key always though is individual research. How do you respond to being off it versus on it?
The beliefs you have about dairy come as much from clever marketing and influencing of policy makers at governmental level than nutritional facts. As for calcium, milk is not that high compared to other foods. The big issue though is digestion, how much calcium do you absorb if you are sensitive towards the food you consume? Fish, green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds are just some of many calcium sources.
My experience of milk with hundreds of clients and my own body
Personally, I used to LOVE milk. During my whole 20 year of liking milk I suffered asthma, strong allergies and various health complaints. During five years of being milk free these have all resolved. Though other factors certainly were at play and like any individual health story, it hardly counts as evidence but my experience with hundreds of clients shows me that to get into shape the vast majority want to limit all milk and view other dairy sources in similar vein.
As with all issues of health there will certainly be some people who respond just fine to milk. A greater number will respond better to raw dairy than pasteurized (raw dairy has live enzymes in it). Milk does have calcium in it. Certain metabolic types need calcium much more than others so they would respond well assuming the above factors have been accounted for.
What to do?
The issue of milk always develops a bit of passion on both sides of the fence. The fact that humans are the only animal species on the planet to consume milk after their infantile period, let alone that of another animal, is certainly interesting. However, I always tell people not to get caught up in this "he says, she says" debate. As you are in possession of your own body you can simply run an experiment to see how it affects you by taking it (ideally all dairy) out of the diet for 1-2 weeks and comparing the difference. Let your body tell you what is going on.
The key question though is whether you are prepared to listen to what the body has to say. Overcoming our years of conditioning and personal tastes is not an easy task, your body may tell you an answer you do not want to hear. I urge you to drop your "knowledge" or "desires" to prove something right or wrong and just run a good old fashioned neutral experiment and see what happens.