Dairy is believed to be one of the healthiest foods. It makes you stronger, helps you grow and a numerous list of benefits which every kid is made to swear by since their childhood.
When I was young my mother fed me at least two glasses of milk daily. We would be stuck in this constant banter hoping it would somehow let me escape that one morning glass before school. Drinking that one glass made me feel the weirdest things in my stomach. My mother always thought I was making excuses to avoid milk (I was but not for the reasons she thought), she even added those flavor enhancers to make it taste better but none of it worked, I still felt horrible after drinking it. While other kids would reach school in joy, I reached with a pukey, bloated and heavy feeling stomach.
How was something that was making me feel so sick going to make me strong and healthy? The math just did not add up for me ever.
While I could never convince my mother to escape that milk, I was able to reduce my dairy consumption when I moved away for further studies, it was during those years I noticed the results of lesser dairy consumption which eventually led to the realization, I have lactose intolerance.
Have you ever wondered why after having a fatty milk drink or having that paneer ki sabji you start to feel weird in your stomach? We generally assume the oil or the masalas in our food are causing these issues but turns out it could have been that dairy all along because you could be somewhat Lactose Intolerant.
So, what is Lactose Intolerance?
Lactose intolerance occurs when our body fails to produce enough enzymes called lactase which is needed to digest animal milk. Since the milk sugar known as lactose cannot be broken down, it moves through the gut undigested causing digestive problems including bloating, nausea, diarrhea, gas, and abdominal cramps. This can happen immediately after, or up to a few hours after, ingesting lactose products. You can also have some degree of lactose intolerance and still be able to digest by products of dairy such a cheese, butter, yogurt. The making process reduces the lactose content in them so it is easier to digest.
We all have grown up drinking breast milk. So, how can one suddenly become lactose intolerant?
The answer lies in our evolution.
While humans are born with Lactase to digest breast milk, it ceases to exist as we grow older because no mammals consumed milk after infancy. Humans only started consuming dairy about 8000 years ago. When humans first started drinking milk, they suffered from a lot of flatulence because their body did not have enough lactase to digest the milk easily. But with regular consumption and mutation of our genes & DNA we developed Lactase Persistence which then eventually allowed humans to digest dairy. However not everyone is blessed with these genes, for these people their bodies fail to produce lactase as they grow older resulting in some degree of lactose intolerance.
Humans are the only mammals that drink milk as adults from other mammals. About 70% of the global population is lactose intolerant, most aren’t even aware of their intolerance. There are tests your doctor can order for you to take to help you figure out about your intolerance. The tests require you to drink liquid containing lactose. I did not go through any tests because the thought of drinking lactose (that makes me feel sick) was more worrisome to me than finding out what I perhaps already knew . Here’s how you can also figure out if you may also have lactose intolerance:
- The easiest way is to avoid consuming Lactose rich foods for a few weeks, opt for Lactose free milk for example. This process will help you understand how your body reacts after drinking milk without the lactose sugar. If you notice some good difference, then you my friend have lactose intolerance.
- If you do not want to cut the dairy lactose out for the process, you can aid by consuming Lactose enzyme supplements for a couple of weeks. These supplements simply help in breaking down lactose in your stomach. When consumed with a lactose diet, the supplement helps in reducing or preventing lactose intolerance symptoms. If these added enzymes succeed, you may have lactose intolerance.
If these steps do not help you figure out your problem, you should check with your doctor to find out the real cause of your sickness. Would also like to mention that milk allergy is very different from lactose intolerance.
Whether you are lactose intolerant or not, anybody can get their nutrients from various healthy sources. Below I list down the reasons why you can do without dairy in life:
- Why do you want to go to the middleman when you can go to the main source?
Have you ever seen cows drinking milk to get their source of nutrition? Cows are mostly seen eating grass. Some of the largest and strongest animals on earth are herbivores who do not have dairy after infancy. Elephants, Gorillas, Rhinoceros, Bison to name a few, are all animals who get their nutrients from plant sources. If they can, so can you. Plant based foods are full of nutrition to meet all our daily doses of micro and macro nutrients.
Not to forget that when we let our cattle roam around for free on roads, they end up consuming plastics and other harmful substances that then go into their bodies and into ours when we try to consume dairy.
- When you consume dairy that’s adulterated with hormones and steroids, you lead your body to experience its effects as well
Dairy animals are injected with Steroids and Oxytocin hormone to induce higher production of milk while they still lactate. Oxytocin is banned by the central government because of health safety reasons yet it is found to have been used illegally. There are studies that also believe one of the causes of early puberty could be because of the hormones present in milk.
Do you really want to drink growth hormones or antibiotics? Would you want your children to grow consuming them?
While I was reading up about adulterated milk, I also came to know that the milk we get may actually be adulterated with glucose, detergent, urea, white paint, and refined oil to mention a few. According to WHO, 87% citizens in India would be suffering from serious diseases like cancer by the year 2025 if adulteration of milk and milk products is not checked immediately.
- Dairy Animals have to be artificial inseminated for them to reproduce and continuously produce milk.
Artificial insemination involves inserting sperm into the female cow or buffalo’s cervix resulting in the animal getting pregnant. These animals can only produce milk once they give birth. Once they begin lactating, they are again artificially inseminated after a few months so that they are able to give birth before their milk dries up and the process of milk production doesn’t stop because of the new birth.
The lack of knowledge and understanding of the process being performed leads to animals getting sick. In normal scenarios calves are separated from their mothers after birth and not allowed to feed on its milk. The fact that milk isn’t produced as naturally should be reason enough to consider about what we are putting into our body.
- India is one of largest exporter of beef
When we say the milk we drink is pure without any cruelty behind it, we become a blind eye to the cruelty caused by the dairy industry overall. When a female gives birth to a male calf, the calf is separated from its mother. It is nurtured till it is old enough only to be sold for veal and leather. Since male calves do not help in milk production, they are not as valuable. Unfortunately, the case is same for dairy animals that have grown old and are unable to produce milk, they are also sold off for beef. Livestock farming requires obscene amount of water, land, it is one of the causes for deforestation. Animals are fed, taken care of so that they can be later killed for meat. How sensible is this?!
- Cows produce methane which is one of the main contributors to global warming and climate change.
Livestock farming is known to have a high carbon foot print with high global warming chances. Cows release methane while burping through their digestive process which is known as enteric fermentation. Methane gas is roughly 30 times more harmful than carbon dioxide, therefore has higher warming potential. Vast growth in number of dairy animals is a contributor to the increase in production of methane. Excessive cow’s manure is also known to be degrading water quality. The manure when enters waters releases its nutrients in the water creating microorganism such as algae blooms, degrading the quality of water.
- If your milk comes in plastic packaging, you might want to reconsider the plastic, not just for the environmental waste it creates.
Plastics contain phthalates, they are hormonal disruptors that enter the blood. When plastic milk bottles/packets were tested in India, it was found to contain significant amount of heavy metal and phthalates leaching. Plastics also contain BPA (Bisphenol A is a xenoestrogen, exhibiting estrogen-mimicking, hormone-like properties), it has been directly linked to be one of the causes of having fertility issue.
- Milk protein, Casein is a carcinogen
If you have ever come across renowned biochemist Dr. T. Colin Campbell, you must have also come across his book The China Study (if not, please get your hands on it), it is the most comprehensive study on nutrition ever conducted. In this book doctor Campbell talks about his extensive research that led to the discovery that Casein in milk is a carcinogen, it causes cancer.
I am aware that every reason I put here will have people bringing out studies debunking them and not wanting to believe it. For years we have been fooled by the dairy industry into believing we need them. But think about this – Why would someone want you to stop consuming dairy? Nobody has any ulterior motive behind it because nobody benefits from your quitting dairy but YOU. If the dairy industry tells you, you need them to grow stronger and healthier. Let me remind you, you need calcium for your bones. Kale has 250g calcium per 100g which is higher than milk. Most leafy green vegetable have more calcium than milk. Our dals have more protein than milk (milk has 3.3g of protein per 100 grams and lentil has 9g of protein).
Whether the listed reasons convince you to avoid dairy or not, I hope they help you understand the dairy industry, the impact of it on us, our environment better. If you are looking for alternative to dairy, there are numerous plant-based milk and milk products available for you to try. Lactose intolerance can occur to anyone at any age, we weren’t historically born with the ability to digest dairy and we shouldn’t neglect our health trying to consume something our body doesn’t appreciate.
Embrace the world of plant-based food and see the difference yourself!
Please find below the list of sources I referred to while writing this piece: