Many of us believe that dairy is a required food group, and that we must consume two to three servings a day to get sufficient calcium. Commercials in North America tell us: “Milk, it does a body good,” but does it really?
Calcium is a mineral that is important for healthy teeth and bone formation. It is also needed for muscle contraction and many other functions in the body. Calcium is contained in milk but it is also found in many other foods including dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale, nuts and seeds (especially almonds), white beans, and tofu.
In my practice I work a lot with food sensitivities. Many people are sensitive to dairy, eggs, and wheat (specifically gluten). Milk in particular can cause a lot of phlegm and mucous, which is why it can be implicated in different conditions, from sinusitis to frequent ear infections to asthma. I once had a 6-year-old patient who constantly had a runny nose, and for months on end his mother thought he had a cold. After six weeks of avoiding all dairy products his nose stopped dripping, as if a tap had been turned off. Almost a year later his nose started to run again. His mother discovered he was regularly eating yogurt at school. Once he stopped eating it, his nose stopped running.
Some people suffer from a dairy intolerance. An intolerance is when someone cannot digest a particular food, for example many people of Asian descent are lactose intolerant. This means they do not have the enzymes to breakdown milk in order to digest it. This can cause issues such as bloating, gas, and even abdominal pain.
As a naturopath I really believe that nature teaches us how to live our lives. If we look and listen carefully to the laws of nature, we can learn important life lessons. For example, let us look at the purpose of milk. A cow produces milk to feed her offspring. The calf drinks its mother’s milk, which is perfectly suited to its digestive system and contains all the essential nutrients for the calf’s development. It should be noted that humans are the only fully grown mammals that drink the milk of another species. If anything we should be drinking breastmilk!
Interestingly women from Japan and China have less incidence of osteoporosis than women in the West who consume large amounts of dairy products. This could be because the calcium in milk is not very well absorbed. Traditionally Chinese and Japanese women do not eat diary, though of course this has started to change in recent years.
The bottom line is that we must listen to our bodies. If dairy doesn’t sit right with you, then don’t eat it. Look for other sources of calcium in your diet. There are many!
Photos: courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
This article originally appeared on page 20 of the beijingkids December 2015 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email email@example.com