As someone who grew up on endless antibiotics for ear infections, only to find out later that I was lactose intolerant, I have become very interested in why we as humans are the only mammals who continue to consume milk products after being weaned. Fascinating really! Is it because the ‘food pyramids’ we grew up being taught about showed dairy as being an important part of any balanced meal, or because it was reiterated from a young age that dairy was the most important source of calcium (if in fact not the only source!)? And so it is no wonder that so many of us moms find it next to impossible to switch off that part of our brains that still tell us that our children need dairy in order to develop properly. So let me share a few dairy facts with you which might assist…
Dairy is a good source of calcium right?
What would you say if I told you that “The countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are the ones where people drink the most milk and have the most calcium in their diets. The connection between calcium consumption and bone health is actually very weak, and the connection between dairy consumption and bone health is almost nonexistent.” Amy Lanou Ph.D. nutrition director for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C.
Dairy once consumed has an acidifying effect on the body which the body needs to neutralise. To do this it uses calcium and the best source of calcium to your body is stored in your bones. The calcium therefore leaches out of the bones and into the bloodstream. So this in fact has the opposite effect on our bodies as to what we’ve been taught.
Dairy is an important part of a well-balanced diet for any child that is not lactose intolerant right?
Amazingly enough it is not only children who are allergic to dairy who need to avoid it. The consumption of dairy has been linked to numerous diseases and ailments.
In Disease proof your child by Joel Fuhrman MD he states:
Data from a multicountry analysis of cow’s milk consumption showed a strong correlation between milk consumption in children and the incidence of childhood-onset (type 1) diabetes. As the consumption of cow’s milk increased in a country, so did the incidence of childhood-onset diabetes.
Diseases with a strong link to cow’s milk:
- Anal fissures;
- Childhood-onset diabetes;
- Chronic constipation;
- Crohn’s disease;
- Ear infections;
- Heart attacks;
- Multiple sclerosis;
- Prostate cancer;
And Patrick Holford in The Optimum Nutrition Bible states:
Milk consumption is strongly linked with the increased risk for cardiovascular disease and also breast and prostate cancer. The higher a country’s intake of milk, the higher its incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Our bodies actually produce an antibody against milk, which certainly suggests it isn’t an ideal food. On top of that 70% of people stop producing lactase, the enzyme to digest milk sugar, once they’ve been weaned. Is nature trying to tell us something?
Even more insidious than the link to heart disease is new research suggesting that dairy consumption may be the main reason that people in the west have a massive risk of breast and prostate cancer, while Asians don’t. The figure for the chances of women in China dying from breast cancer are 1 in 10,000 as opposed to close to 1 in 10 for the UK. For prostate cancer the difference is even greater. In rural China the incidence is 0.5 in 100,000, yet it is estimated that, by 2015, 1 in 4 men in the UK will have a diagnosis of prostate cancer at some point in their lives.
So what are the alternatives?
Remembering that dairy is not a good source of calcium anyway, there really is no need for ‘alternatives’ in your child’s diet. That being said what would cereal be without a good glug of milk poured over it! In my home we use organic rice milk as an alternative and from the age of 1 neither of my children consumed much dairy at all. We consider cheese to be a treat in our house and will sprinkle some onto gluten free pizzas or baked potatoes. But this is not a common occurrence. In fact it is interesting to note that when my children catch a virus it very seldom, if ever, progresses into a secondary infection requiring antibiotics. My daughter is about to turn 3 and has never been on a course of antibiotics. And I attribute this largely to the way they eat and most specifically the lack of dairy, gluten and sugar in their diets.
Good sources of calcium which should be included in any healthy diet include nuts (almonds are the best), seeds (sesame seeds), green vegetables (kale or barley/wheat grass juice) and beans (soya). That being said please remember that as many as 40% of children who are intolerant to dairy may also be intolerant to soya.
In conclusion, the time has come for dairy to be removed from the food groups and along with it from our families’ diets. And this is not just for those who are intolerant or allergic, every single person will benefit from removing dairy form their diet and replacing it with the wholesome foods that nature intended for us to consume.