If you’ve ever felt clogged up or had a grumbling stomach after eating dairy products, you may be wondering if milk, cheese, cream, and the like are for you. You might think you can get away with it from time to time, but what are the real consequences if you’re actually lactose intolerant? Do you have to give up on eating dairy products forever, or are some dairy products better than others?
Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, and cream, are nutrient-dense foods and good sources of fat, protein, and calcium. But for 65% of the world’s adult population who cannot break down lactose, dairy has been shown to cause inflammation, which may promote the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria linked to some chronic diseases or conditions.
If you’re among that 65%, you may want to eliminate dairy products from your diet. But not all milk-based foods come from cows. Other dairy products from goat’s milk, with a more easily-digestible protein profile, could offer a reasonable solution.
What Should I Consider When Thinking About Dairy Products?
How do you feel after eating a meal that includes cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, or other such foods? I find that my body lets me know pretty quickly whether a food agrees with me or not. So, that’s the first clue you might want to pay attention to. If you don’t experience any negative side effects or symptoms following a dairy-heavy meal, then you might be fine eating those foods.
Another factor worth considering is your ancestry. To digest lactose, all human babies produce a digestive enzyme called lactase, which breaks down lactose from breastmilk. But, many people lose that ability when they become adults. People of Northern European heritage tend to produce lactase into adulthood. That ability may give them an evolutionary advantage when it comes to consuming milk products from dairy cattle. But, according to this article at Children’s Hospital, “80 percent of all African-Americans and Native Americans are lactose intolerant. Over 90 percent of Asian-Americans are lactose intolerant.” So, your ancestry seems to have a direct influence on whether or not you can digest dairy products.
Why Might You Not Want To Eat Dairy Products?
If you experience negative symptoms in your body after consuming a dairy-rich meal, you might want to think about giving up cow’s milk. Or at least looking for some tasty alternatives. Here are some common symptoms of lactose intolerance:
- abdominal cramps
- difficulty breathing
- increased mucus production
- sinus congestion
When Should Someone Choose Not To Eat Dairy Products?
According to Consumer Reports, “Dairy foods are a big part of many older Americans’ diets. According to a 2021 International Food Information Council survey, almost 80 percent of men and women age 55-plus eat it in one form or another several days a week.”
But there are some instances where a person might want to avoid dairy products, aside from ancestry or even symptoms. According to this article on Healthline.com, “Dairy stimulates the release of the protein insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which is associated with an increased risk of certain cancers — particularly prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers. But the research is still inconclusive. The article goes on to say that “yogurt and other fermented dairy products are associated with a reduced cancer risk.” So it’s really about personal choice.
Who Can And Can Not Safely Eat Dairy Products?
If your family heritage originates in a Northern European country, then odds are in your favor when it comes to consuming dairy products. However, that doesn’t mean you are immune to lactose intolerance. For instance, my ancestors are 100% Northern European; my mother’s parents came from Scandinavia, and my dad’s family is from England and Ireland. So, you can’t get much more Northern European than that. Yet, I’m still somewhat lactose intolerant. I know that my body does fine (maybe even thrives?) when I consume high-fat dairy products. Foods like butter, heavy cream and even some hard cheeses are fine. These foods have most of the lactose removed during the manufacturing process. But if I try adding in products like sour cream and soft cheeses such as cream cheese, Ricotta, or cottage cheese, I immediately have problems. I feel clogged up, have sinus problems, bloating, and have stomach cramps. So, it really depends on how your body reacts.
How Do I Know Whether Dairy Products Are Healthy For My Body?
According to this article from the NIH, “The most recent evidence suggested that intake of milk and dairy products was associated with reduced risk of childhood obesity. In adults, intake of dairy products was shown to improve body composition and facilitate weight loss during energy restriction. In addition, intake of milk and dairy products was associated with a neutral or reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly stroke. Furthermore, the evidence suggested a beneficial effect of milk and dairy intake on bone mineral density but no association with risk of bone fracture. Among cancers, milk and dairy intake was inversely associated with colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, gastric cancer, and breast cancer, and not associated with risk of pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, or lung cancer, while the evidence for prostate cancer risk was inconsistent.”
If you experience a negative reaction in your body, such as difficulty breathing, increased mucus production, sinus congestion, stomach cramping, and digestive distress, constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, or other discomforts following a dairy-rich meal, then you might want to eliminate cow’s milk products from your diet. In addition, if you have known ailments or diseases such as certain cancers, asthma, or known lactose intolerance, you may want to reconsider including dairy products in your diet.
Many dairy products are low-carbohydrate, keto-friendly sources of high-quality, nutrient-dense fats and proteins. Adding them to your keto diet can enhance your low-carb lifestyle and increase the diversity of foods in your diet. The decision to include them, or omit them, depends heavily on how well your own body responds to these foods.
I Found This Video by Dr. Shawn Baker to be Helpful and Informative
If you’re interested in my decision to return to a Ketovore diet after a year and a half following a low-fat, plant-based diet, then you’re going to love this post!