Dairy is one Paleo area I've been thinking about a lot recently. A lot of people follow a strict Paleo diet, and include dairy, known as a lacto-Paleo diet. Dairy is also the main difference between a Primal and a Paleo diet (Primal includes modest amounts of high quality dairy).
Prior to my trip to the AHS in August, my diet was a lot closer to Primal than it was Paleo. Pedro Bastos gave an excellent lecture at the AHS on Dairy, Hormones & Human Health, which was quite an eye opener for me.
When I got back, I started the Whole30 which meant excluding dairy for 30 days. I used to drink lots of tea everyday, with milk (I am English after all) – but luckily I got over this in America, as tea just didn't seem to be as common place over there. I also used to have a fair amount of yoghurt and cheese, which I also gave up. I expected to be counting down the days when I could resume my dairy habit, but it just didn't happen.
Since August I haven’t had any milk, but I have had cheese a couple of times and yoghurt once. And the strangest thing? I just don’t miss it at all. I now enjoy drinking lots of different types of tea without milk, or hot water with a slice of lime. I'm not really sure how I’d include milk again now! I do like the taste of cheese and yoghurt, but I just don’t feel the need to include them in my diet. Since I've gone stricter Paleo, I've been feeling fantastic. My skin, sleep, mood, focus and general well being– everything has improved. I should probably reintroduce dairy to identify exactly the effect it has on me – but given that I don’t miss it, I’d rather just continue to avoid it.
I'm often asked how I can possibly get enough calcium without dairy. I eat a good amount of dark green leafy vegetables, which are a great source of calcium. From what I have read calcium balance is far more important than calcium intake. When eating a diet high in acid-producing foods, such as the standard western diet, the kidney balances the acid load using the alkaline calcium salts from the bones. As I don’t eat any processed food or grains and have a good balance of alkaline and acid foods in my diet, I have a good calcium balance – and therefore a lower calcium intake is not a problem.
Taking an evolutionary standpoint, obviously milk would not have been drunk until relatively recently, as ruminants weren't domesticated, so certainly wouldn't have been milked. The purpose of milk is to nourish the offspring of the mother and enable it to grow – when you consider we are the only animal to eat another animals milk, it does seem a little odd?
One of the main arguments against dairy is IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor 1). IGF-1 is increased by the cow’s growth hormones, which cause the cow to produce more milk. IGF-1 is believed to promote cancer by increasing cell division and multiplying of cancer cells. Commercial dairy cows are kept in gestation (by being artificially inseminated) almost constantly to ensure they produce milk. They are milked ten out of 12 months – whereas a more natural milking pattern would involve only milking during early pregnancy. It’s obviously in the interests of the dairy producers to do this, as they want to produce as much milk as possible. The further into the pregnancy the more growth hormones are contained in the milk (as clearly the purpose of the milk is to support a growing calf).
For me, the jury is still out. However, if I do decide to consume dairy again, I’ll go out of my way to find raw milk – I don’t think I could ever be happy with any commercial, pasteurised milk as I feel far to removed from the process and will never really know what is in it – and the condition of the cow(s) it came from.
What do you think about dairy? Do you feel better of worse including dairy in your diet, or leaving it out? I'd love to hear your views!