Is eating dairy affecting your health?? Are you eating the right foods for your body and your mind to thrive? The right foods full of nutrients provide a powerful kick to your body’s systems. The wrong foods, on the other hand, can just as powerfully cause harm to your mind and body. That’s why knowing what not to eat is just as important as knowing what to eat.
Sometimes, we have to learn to listen to our bodies instead of others to help us determine what is best for us to feel happy and healthy. This is particularly true when it comes to dairy products. Milk, often heralded as part of a complete breakfast and essential for healthy bones, could be causing chronic inflammation and unpleasant symptoms.
- Eating Dairy?
In simplest terms, dairy refers to products made from animal milk. This includes, but is not limited to, cheese, yogurt, butter, ice cream, buttermilk, and cream most commonly made from cow, goat & sheep milk. That dash in your morning coffee, the whey powder in your post-workout smoothie, the gorgeous cheese board with a glass of wine and that delish piece of milk chocolate or decadent cream dessert are all products which contain dairy.
It can be important to understand just how common dairy is in a typical diet. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends that we eat the equivalent of three cups of calcium-rich dairy products a day.
However, before you load up your shopping cart with yogurt and milk, you should know that consumption of dairy could be leading to health issues in your body, specifically chronic inflammation, and that you can eat a delicious, fulfilling and fueling dairy-free diet.
- Dairy and Inflammation
Inflammation isn’t necessarily harmful; it’s how your body’s immune system responds to injury. Usually, this type of inflammation isn’t chronic, though, because as soon as your body fights off whatever has harmed it, the inflammation subsides. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can lead to serious health problems and is often accompanied by unpleasant symptoms like:
- skin rashes and irritations
- joint and muscle pain
- digestive system problems
- and much more......we are all different
For many people, dairy can cause an inflammatory response in the body. Eczema, acne, digestive issues such as bloating and diarrhea, even asthma and arthritis symptoms could be the result of a dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is an allergy to lactose, the sugar found in dairy, and it’s incredibly common, affecting as much as 75% of the world’s population. Its severity varies, to the extent that a person may not be able to eat any lactose-containing food without experiencing digestive distress.
Sometimes, though, if you don’t have severe lactose intolerance, you may not realize that you do have a dairy sensitivity contributing to constant inflammation in your body. You might attribute acne, fatigue, and joint pain to genetics or a stressful lifestyle when for some people going dairy-free could be the answer to clearer skin and an energized mind and body.
- Living Dairy-Free
Some anti-inflammatory diets suggest that low-fat or fat-free dairy may not cause as much of an inflammatory response.....dairy is dairy is dairy! If you are eating dairy because of vitamin D know this; Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so eating it without the fat naturally found in dairy products means your body won’t be able to absorb the vitamin as efficiently. In fact, we are rarely able to get enough vitamin D from the food we eat, anyway. To get the vitamin D your body needs, you should expose your skin to safe levels of sunlight or take a supplement.
If you know you need to cut dairy from your diet, or if you want to see how dairy could be impacting your health, try simple substitutions and a focus on whole foods. You can learn how to enjoy dairy-free foods and make sure to get the nutrients still your body needs.
Instead of milk, yogurt, and creams from dairy, look for versions made from coconut milk, nut milk, or pea milk. You can also find non-dairy cheeses, usually made from soy. A word of caution, though: try to avoid replacement products that contain a lot of additives and sugars.
For a full dairy-free experience, you should also forego all foods that might have dairy, like milk, whey, or butter, in the ingredients. Always read labels and look for allergen statements that will let you know if a product has any dairy in it.
Always listen to your body. When you learn how certain foods make you feel, you increase your likelihood of following a way of eating that optimizes your health. Food can be powerful, we are what we eat, listen to your body and eat to thrive!
***This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult a healthcare professional if you suspect you are ill.
Images by Karina Hines