Early this century I had a contract with a local dairy producer, with my car covered in advertising and I ate about 1 litre of skyr, an Icelandic yogurt specialty extremely high in protein, each day. All the meal plans I created for my clients were chock a block with dairy. I had been totally brainwashed when I started training that dairy was good for me. “You will get results if you eat your skyr and add some protein powder to it”, was the message to the 15-year-old David.
However, it was about that time that I found out that diary is not for everyone and most of my clients lose weight when I get them to reduce their dairy consumption. Don’t get me wrong. I love butter and cheese. However, what happens when milk is pasteurised is that all digestive enzymes, essential amino acids, and all those delicate vitamins and minerals in the milk get destroyed.
The food industry is not always as clever as advertising would lead you to believe. Skyr and yogurt are low in fat but fat is exactly what we need for our hormonal system to function properly, to help us absorb proteins and for us to feel full. I always got hungry about half an hour after eating half a liter of skyr and the reason is very simple: There was no fat to make me feel full.
And why do dairy products contain so much sugar? The dairy industry tells us that this is what we want. I have a hard time accepting that answer. It seems to me that sugar is addictive and by including it they sell more of their products.
Most dairy is pasteurised and homogenized to last longer. Pasteurisation destroys important vitamins and digestive enzymes. Pasteurisation simply means that most anything that is alive in the dairy is killed by boiling it.
When we eat pasteurised dairy the body needs to work overtime because the enzymes that would normally help us digest the food is missing. A lot of people that are intolerant to dairy can actually handle unpasteurised dairy products.
Milk contains both protein and carbohydrates. The carbohydrates in milk are in the form of lactose, which is a disaccharide consisting of glucose and galactose. The body can only use lactose once it has been split into those two units. Lactase, a special enzyme found in the body, is responsible for this first step in digesting lactose. Some people do not produce this enzyme or have too little of it and can therefore only eat a limited amount of dairy, or have to skip it altogether. This is what is called lactose intolerance. However, most people intolerant to lactose will be fine drinking unpasteurised milk straight from the cow’s udders, me included.
It is important to point out that lactose intolerance and dairy allergy are two different things. For those allergic to dairy, their immune system reacts adversely to certain proteins in milk, attacking them as if they were a foreign object. Those with lactose intolerance on the other hand cannot digest the lactose and therefore it enters the colon undigested where it ferments and causes uncomfort. The result can be bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramps and gassiness. Lactose intolerance symptoms tend to manifest about 30 minutes after dairy has been consumer, but it can be up to 2 hours before they present.
Most infants produce plenty of lactase and therefore it is rare for babies to be lactose intolerant in their first years. However, this does happen with symptoms such as frothy diarrhea, slow gain in weight and vomiting.
Lactose intolerance can be uncomfortable, but it is not dangerous and the symptoms can be easily treated. Eliminate dairy but with exceptions. You can eat hard cheese such as Gouda, because the bacteria used to ferment the cheese breaks down the lactose. Some can also have yogurt as lactose in yogurt is often partially broken down.
Some people can handle dairy up to an extent, as they do produce some lactase, although not much. Others do not produce any lactase and have to cut out dairy altogether.
The best way to test what you can and cannot tolerate is to eliminate all dairy for four weeks and then test by introducing one type of dairy at a time. If you need help with this, my 30 Days of Clean Eating program is ideal for you. It is completely dairy free and you get meal plans, recipes and shopping list for the whole time so you don’t even need to organize things for yourself. Click here to find out all about it!