Everybody has an opinion about what you should eat. Your
parents may try to convince you that you'll wither away unless you eat meat and drink milk. Herbert Shelton, founder of the Hygienists, says any mucus-forming food, dairy being at the top of his list, is poison. The Diamonds, of Fit for Life fame, proclaim emphatically that cow's milk is not fit for human consumption. Paavo Airola, a respected naturopathic doctor and nutritionist, suggested that many long-lived Europeans, particularly Swedes, Bulgarians, and Russians, thrived on large quantities of milk, but advised his readers to drink raw, unpasteurized milk or none at all. The popular McDougall Plan vigorously
promotes a vegan (non dairy) diet. John Robbins, in his shocking expose of the
cattle and dairy industry, Diet for a New America, describes dairy cows
as "four-legged milk pumps". The dairy industry spends several billion dollars
each year trying to convince you that you can't live without your two glasses
of pasteurized, homogenized milk each day. Who's right?
So, what's the big deal about dairy? What could be so bad about a
cheeseburger and a milk shake anyway? It's the American way. (And may soon
become the Soviet way given the tremendous popularity of the new McDonald's in
downtown Moscow.) Dairy is close to many of our hearts...maybe in the wrong
way, as you'll see later when we discuss dairy and heart disease. Most of us
grew up believing that dinner wasn't dinner without a big, healthy glass of
milk. But dairy has more than its share of drawbacks.
Allergies. Many of us are allergic to milk. The problem often
begins during infancy. A newborn's digestive system is not fully developed and
not well-equipped to handle milk protein. When dairy products of any kind,
including infant formulas, are introduced too early, an allergy often develops.
We see many infants and children with rashes, eczema, ear infections, runny
noses, asthma, or dark circles under their eyes which began after milk was
introduced into their diets. We advise waiting at least a year to give an
infant cow's milk products. If breast milk is not sufficient, goat's milk is a
much better alternative.
This premature introduction of dairy may set up a lifelong sensitivity.
Dairy allergy has been linked to a number of chronic conditions ranging from
migraine headaches to rheumatoid arthritis. A l98l study in the British Medical
Journal reported a dramatic improvement in arthritis after the patients
eliminated dairy from their diets.
Ayurvedic medicine believes that dairy products are contraindicated for
some people, butfine for others. Those who have a Kapha (water and earth)
imbalance tendency towards being overweight with a slow metabolism, are chilly
and lethargic, and may suffer from excess mucus production, and water
retention.These individuals do best to avoid dairy products. People with an
excess of Pitta (fire) can handle some dairy. Those with a Vata (air) imbalance
benefit from more fat in the diet and can often benefit from some dairy in
Lactose intolerance. Many people confuse milk allergy and lactose
intolerance, but they are two different conditions. Most of the world's
population, excluding Northern Europeans and isolated groups in Northern India
and Africa, are deficient in lactase, the enzyme needed to digeste lactose, or
milk sugar. These people, most notably African Americans, Latin Americans, and
those of Mediterranean descent, develop gas, bloating, and intestinal cramping
after eating dairy products. In the past few years there are lactase products
on the market, which these people take prior to eating dairy products to
relieve their intestinal discomfort.
Degenerative disease. There is a considerable amount of scientific
data linking heart disease, arthritis, obesity, and cancer, particularly breast
cancer, to a dairy-containing high fat diet. Finland, which is among the
highest consumers of diary worldwide, has one and a half times the mortality
rate from heart disease of the United States. Many Americans have switched to
low-fat or skim milk products out of fear of atherosclerosis (hardening of the
arteries). Just to give you an idea of how widespread arterial plaque is in
this country, an autopsy examinatin of American battle victims of the Korean
war, having an average age of 22, were found to have a 77 percent incidence of
atherosclerosis of the coronary artery. As shown by Nathan Pritikin, reducing
dietary fat and increasing aerobic exercise can have a dramatically positive
effect on reducing your chance of dying of heart disease.
Osteoporosis. Many women drink milk in order to prevent bone loss
after menopause. The fact is that animal protein inhibits the absorption of
calcium. Women from third world countries who have a very low calcium intake
combined with a low intake of animal protein, including dairy, have much less
of an incidence of osteoporosis. A study to determine the effects of milk
consumption on the calcium metabolism of healthy postmenopausal women funded by
the National Dairy Council showed that drinking three 8-ounce glasses of low
fat milk a day for one year failed to create a positive calcium balance in
these women. It is much better to supplement with calcium magnesium citrate and
eat minimal animal protein after menopause.
Additives, preservatives, pasteurization, homogenization, hormones,
steroids, etc. These are all additional reasons that lead many people to
give up dairy products. Chloramphenicol, a dangerous antibiotic, is used
routinely to treat fevers in cows during their transport. Even minute amounts
can can aplastic anemia, a severe and sometimes fatal blood disease, in some
susceptible individuals. Steroids are frequently administered to cattle, then
passed through their milk. A procedure called back-hauling, in which truck
drivers would haul huge tankers filled with gasoline cross-country, then fill
them with milk on the return trip, was made illegal only within the past year.
Who needs high octane milk? Yuk!
Moral considerations. As John Robbins so poignantly describes,
dairy cows are literally milk machines, "bred, fed, medicated, inseminated, and
manipulated to a single purpose-
maximum milk production at minimum cost". These poor creatures are kept
pregnant all the time, are confined to inhumanely small stalls, given
tranquilizers to combat their nervousness and hyperactivity, and are lucky (or
unlucky) to live to the age of four.
The choice is yours. There are no easy answers. But these facts are
certainly food for thought. Maybe it's time for you to re-evaluate whether or
not dairy is a sacred cow for you.
Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and
homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic
Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of The Patient's Guide to
Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD
and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206)