For many people, the hardest part of doing a Whole30 is giving up dairy for 30 days. And I do understand. Dairy is a very delicious and, often highly addictive, food group.

Are there some very good reasons to avoid dairy? Yes.
But are there also some very good reasons to include dairy as a part of a healthy diet? Yes.

It all depends on many factors.

Depending on the source of the dairy food and the individual consuming it, it can be either very problematic, completely benign, or very nutritious.

Firstly we’ll cover the problematic.

Apart from gluten, dairy is one of the most commonly allergenic foods.

The protein in milk is 80% casein. Casein can trigger a histamine response in the body which can lead to headaches, GI upset, asthma and allergies. It also shares some similar structural properties to gluten. Very often people who are allergic to gluten will also be sensitive to milk.

The whey is highly insulinogenic, meaning it elicits a large release of the hormone insulin. This is a big problem in anyone with metabolic problems (over half the population these days).

In addition to casein, milk contains a carbohydrate called lactose, which is an issue for a surprisingly large percentage of people. Lactose-intolerant people have a hard time digesting lactose, which leads to issues such as bloating, GI upset and a dysbiosis of gut bacteria.

For these reasons, many people report marked health improvements from giving up dairy, and it makes total sense based on the facts.

However, when we refer to dairy, we are most often referring to conventionally available dairy we find in supermarkets:

lowfat_foods 2

Most milk, yogurt, cheese and cream found in the supermarket contains nothing in the way of nutrients and health-benefits. It has been so altered from its natural state that it is an entirely different product. ESPECIALLY anything that says low-fat or non-fat. The above potentially problematic components in dairy products are present far more highly in milk – especially low-fat milk. The nutrients in pasteurized milk have been completely denatured, so not only are you getting the problematic components listed above, but you are not even off-setting those with any nutrients worth having. You would really be better off drinking white paint*.

So what is good about Dairy?

Whilst pasteurized (and even more so, ultra-pasteurized) dairy is pretty much garbage, as far as health benefits go, RAW dairy is another story.

Many people who have problems digesting processed dairy do fine with raw, grassfed dairy. Raw milk contains enzymes such as lactase, which mitigate some of the problems people experience with digestion. However, raw milk is still insulinogenic and should be consumed with caution – especially by those with metabolic issues.

It is healthier to consume fermented dairy (such as yogurt or kefir) in which bacteria have broken down significant amounts of the lactose and dairy proteins. But again, individual tolerance for these foods varies.

What about dairy fat?

In general, consuming the fat (in the form of raw cream or butter) is the safest way to get the benefits
from dairy, without any of the potentially negative effects.

Contrary to the nonsense we are taught by conventional wisdom (which seeks to vilify fat and encourage its removal from every food possible) dairy fat is really the only part of this food group that really has any valuable health benefits. It is the dairy fat that contains all the fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D and K2, and conjugated linoleum acid (CLA) as well as some Omega 3 fatty acids.

So, if you are going to consume dairy, here is what you should look for:

  • If possible, make sure it is raw (un-pasteurized), unprocessed dairy from organically raised grassfed cows.
  • Never, EVER choose low-fat, skimmed or fat-free options. Ever.
  • Keep milk consumption to a minimum and focus more on fermented dairy, such as yogurt or kefir.
  • When it comes to cheese, again look for raw organic grassfed cheese where possible.
  • Of all dairy foods, butter and cream are the least problematic for people with dairy intolerances. Once again, choose raw, grassfed versions where possible.
  • With all this in mind, it is a very good idea to completely eliminate dairy from your diet for a period of at least 30 days to see how it affects YOUR body. Then slowly reintroduce it, starting with raw, grassfed butter or cream and seeing how your body reacts. If you do fine with it then it is probably safe to keep this as a part of your diet. However, if you notice any of the following symptoms, you probably have a dairy intolerance:
    bloating, gas, acne, headaches, congestion, eczema, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, tummy pain.

    If this is the case, there are plenty of ways to get the nutrients in dairy from other sources. If you don’t do well with dairy and are worried about not getting enough calcium, read this.

    A couple articles worth reading:

  • http://chriskresser.com/dairy-food-of-the-gods-or-neolithic-agent-of-disease
  • http://www.whole9life.com/2013/03/the-dairy-manifesto/
  • http://www.marksdailyapple.com/dairy-intolerance
  • If you live in the US, here is a great website that can help you find good quality sources of dairy in your area: http://www.realmilk.com/real-milk-finder/

    If you live in the UK, here is a great source of raw, grassfed, organic dairy: http://www.greenpasturefarms.co.uk/products-page/dairy/organic-grass-fed-raw-milk/
    I’m sure there are plenty of others, so do some research!

    *not really