What is it: Dairy-free is a more thorough restriction than simply going casein-free as it removes both milk proteins (casein and whey). As it is hard to remove casein without removing dairy, it is not far removed from a casein-free diet, but there are more added benefits to completely removing dairy (including milk, cream, butter, cheese, cream cheese, ice cream and yogurt). Remember: there is no animal in nature that drinks milk after it’s a child and there is no animal in nature that drinks another animal’s milk – yet humans think they can do both with no consequences.
Benefits: There are many benefits to going dairy-free. First, not everyone can process milk sugar (lactose), as they lack the enzyme lactase that is necessary to metabolize lactose. Lactose intolerance can cause abdominal cramping and distress, bloating, gas,nausea and diarrhea. Second, the proteins in milk are very large and can be very hard on digestion and both can be reactive, although casein is the worst of the two proteins in this regard. Third, dairy is very acidic, especially cheeses, specifically hard cheeses and light cheeses which can be some of the most acidifying foods one can eat. This disrupts the normal pH balance of the body which in turn imbalances the immune system, allows cancers to thrive, and can promote loss in bone density. Fourth, cows in this country are not allowed to roam free and eat grass as they are meant to. Instead, they are fed corn (usually GMO-corn) and kept tightly penned up, fattening them up more quickly (typically corn-fed beef can, in as little as six months, reach the size it would normally take a free-range, grass fed cow to reach in two years’ time. What’s worse, cows that eat grass will add more anti-inflammatory omega-3 oils to their bodies, while the corn-fed cows add the inflammatory, omega-6 fat that is corn oil. Corn is also inherently devoid of nutrition so the cows, while fattier, are somewhat malnourished. Also, as cows are fed genetically modified corn, they will use the protein in corn to form more protein in their bodies – so they are becoming genetically modified as well, so when you eat these cows or drink their milk you are ingesting genetically modified proteins that your own body will then use in making new cells in your body, essentially modifying our own genetics. Lastly, unless organically raised, cows are administered antibiotics, steroids and growth hormone, all of which ends up in their meat and milk, which we then ingest.
Risks: There are no inherent risks in eating a dairy-free diet. Some will say dairy is needed to keep our calcium levels sufficient in order to prevent bone loss. However, bone density is maintained by acid/base balance, not by calcium intake. Your body is constantly breaking down and laying down bone at all times. This natural turnover is governed by your pH – the more acidic you are, the more you break down than you lay down; the more alkalkine (basic) you are, the more you lay down than break down. Also, calcium, while an essential part of bone, is not the only thing that bone is made up of – bone consists of protein, fats, carbohydrates, water, vitamins and minerals (the key mineral being calcium). You wouldn’t construct a building of nothing but glass, just as you wouldn’t build bone from nothing but calcium – you need other things to maintain this structure. Lastly, calcium and phosphorus are absorbed together. Humans need to absorb calcium in a 2:1 ratio to phosphorus (as it is in human breast milk), however cows’ milk has calcium and phosphorus in a 1:2 ratio, which limits calciums absorption from milk. What does this all add up to? That dairy, while high in calcium, acidifies the body, forcing the body to lose bone instead of maintaining bone and the calcium that is there isn’t even absorbed properly as it is in the in improper ratio. There are better sources of calcium – specifically leafy green vegetables (such as spinach, kale, okra and collard greens) which will not only supply calcium, but also alkalize the body.
Overall tips: There are many milk alternatives – coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk and hemp milk – yet they are not all made alike and are also not truly milks. These are beverages that are made from these sources to mimic milk in look, taste and consistency. Unfortunately, they do not contain the same levels (if any) protein and are usually higher in sugar and carbohydrates, especially the sweetened versions of these. Also, most of these products contain carrageenan which is used to thicken these types of beverages and foods, but is very inflammatory in its own right. Many people avoid dairy products except yogurt, but the reactogenic proteins still remain even though it is a fermented food. The healthy bacteria (probiotics) in yogurt is also a reason some will maintain yogurt in their diets, however, the body needs a variety of strains (where dairy has only 1-2 strains) and there needs to be billions of what are called colony forming units (CFUs) in order to properly colonize the gut, but yogurt only has a few million CFUs at best. Also the pasteurization and homogenization processes will kill off all of the live bacteria anyway. It’s best to get your probiotics from a reputable (preferably GMP-certified) supplement company, where the product is made, shipped and kept cold to avoid the probiotics dying off.