Is it time to give up dairy?
That’s week 3 done!
Just weighed myself at the end of week 3 and I’ve lost 1.5lbs. Things are definitely slowing down now, but I guess that’s to be expected. Still that brings my total weight lost to 12.5 lbs which is not bad for 3 weeks!
I feel like I’m getting into the swing of things now but find myself needing to deal with some other unexpected health issues.
Over 40 and I’ve Got Acne!
As a teenager, I had a few spots, but nothing serious. Through my twenties and thirties, my skin was pretty good. Now I’m in my 40’s, my skin is terrible, particularly in the last few months! Each morning, I wake up to find new clusters of spots. Apart from being painful, these do nothing for my self-confidence. What’s going on?
This is me with my current skin problem – not very flattering, but will be useful when comparing ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos in the future.
I’ve done a bit of research and it seems that there could be a number of causes for this from infection, hormonal changes, stress, and diet. Before taking myself off to the doctor, I thought I would see if some changes to my diet might help the situation.
Could cutting dairy lead to clearer skin?
From what I’ve read, it seems that the dairy in my diet may be the problem. In this article, Paige Flowler, says that milk may act as an acne trigger. She explains how research from Dartmouth Medical School has found that milk contains testosterone-like hormones which stimulate the oil glands in the skin and contributes to breakouts.
In this interview, Health and Wellness Reporter, Zelanda Montminy, reiterates this view and says that “there are strong claims about what causes acne and that dairy seems to be a repeat offender.”
This study also strongly suggests that dairy products can be a cause of acne.
Victoria Beckham apparently got rid of her bad skin by going vegan, so I would really like to give dairy free a go. Apparently it can take up to 6 months for the skin to heal, so I will have to be patient!
By the way, I’m not suggesting for one minute that I could end up looking like this beautiful girl with flawless skin….but you get the idea!
Can Dairy Free Help With Weight Loss?
Will cutting dairy stop me losing weight?
But what will giving up dairy do to my weight loss efforts?
As ever, there are conflicting views on this topic.
What do the scientists say?
Nutrition and Food Scientist, Danielle Starin, R.D cites a review in the International Journal of Obesity which found that people who ate the most dairy while on a calorie restricted diet lost more than those who stuck to low dairy, calorie controlled diets.
There is also some evidence that the calcium found in dairy is better at slimming fat cells than that found in non-dairy sources.
But, as ever, there are equally compelling arguments that claim the opposite. Nutritionist, Jedha Dening, strongly advocates cutting dairy out of your diet if you want to lose weight. She says that,
“Some of us go along completely unaware that dairy is causing unnecessary gut irritations that may prevent weight loss”
Dening also explains that casein is the main protein found in dairy and that this can cause problems for the digestive system. By removing it from the diet, we can increase weight loss by improving our digestive health.
Eating dairy may slow weight loss
A study in the Journal of Clinical nutrition found that eating dairy did not help overweight adolescent girls lose weight.
In another review of nearly 30 studies, they found that increasing dairy consumption did not help weight loss in the long term.
One study by Catherine S. Berkey of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, of more than 1200 children, found that the more milk they consumed, the more weight they gained.
And then there’s the celebrities….
As well as the medical support for removing dairy from our diets to support weight loss, there are plenty of anecdotal accounts of people having lost large amounts of weight having ditched the dairy. These include celebrities such as Khloe Kardashian and Megan Fox.
What do I think?
What decision have I reached?
So, on balance, I think there is plenty of evidence to support the notion that cutting dairy may help weight loss. After all, veganism is now considered by many to be the top lifestyle choice for those hoping to shed a few pounds, so I am convinced that there is some truth in it.
Are there any other benefits to going dairy free?
Improve your digestion
According to the Genetics Home Reference about 65% of the population suffer from some degree of lactose intolerance. They explain that,
“Lactose intolerance is an impaired ability to digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Lactose is normally broken down by an enzyme called lactase, which is produced by cells in the lining of the small intestine.”
Most people stop producing the enzyme, lactase, after infancy. Lactase is used by babies to digest dairy. Sufferers of lactose intolerance may experience abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, nausea, and diarrhoea. These problems may be even worse for those who suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
So if any of these symptoms sound familiar, maybe it would be worth skipping the dairy to see if things improve.
Lactose intolerance can cause bloating and abdominal pain
There is evidence to suggest that a diet rich in dairy products may be responsible for nasal congestion problems. This is something that I have struggled with for most of my life. I have undergone nasal surgery and have to take antihistamines everyday to prevent my nose, throat and sinuses swelling up.
This article by Livestrong.com explains that,
“Dairy products contain casein, a mucus-forming agent. It is the dominant protein in milk and other dairy items. Foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream and butter all contain casein. It has a glue-like texture and histamine-creating properties, both of which cause increased mucus production and nasal congestion.”
Popsugar supports this view. She says that,
“ Casein (found in milk) is also used to make adhesives, like glue, beer bottle labels and wood glue used in furniture. Think about it — if casein can make two objects stick together, imagine what it can do to your sinuses.”
I don’t know why, but I have never had it suggested to me before that giving up dairy might improve my condition. But I am certainly willing to give it a go!
Reduce your risk of cancer
The word ‘cancer’ strikes fear into the hearts of most people. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that by cutting dairy, you can limit your chances of getting this awful disease.
Reduce your risk of cancer
The Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine state that,
“Recent scientific studies have suggested that dairy products may be linked to increased risk for prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and possibly for ovarian and breast cancers.”
They go on to explain that,
“Dairy product consumption increases levels of insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-1) in the bloodstream. IGF-1 is a potent stimulus for cancer cell growth. High IGF-1 levels are linked to increased risk of prostate cancer and breast cancer.”
Professor Jane Plant had cancer 5 times. She then went dairy free and went into remission and remained cancer free for 18 years. She gave up the dairy after studying the low rates of breast cancer in women in China, who have a very low dairy diet. This YouTube video gives a very compelling account of her findings and I urge you to watch it:
So I started this post hoping to find a way to improve my skin, but research on the link between dairy and cancer has raised far more serious concerns in my mind about the risks to myself and my family by continuing to eat dairy products.
And then there are the ethical issues
Although I didn’t set out to look into the ethics of the dairy industry, my research for this post has flagged up lots of disturbing facts which I find hard to ignore. If I’m honest I was fairly ignorant about what actually goes on behind the scenes in order to deliver the white stuff to our supermarkets. Maybe I didn’t really want to know, because that made it easier to ignore?
Dairy cows live a life of misery
But now I have discovered that cows are repeatedly made pregnant, have their young dragged from them and then cry for days for their calves, only to have the whole process repeated. All in an effort to keep them lactating, in order to keep us supplied with milk. This knowledge makes me more than a little uncomfortable. Have a look at this recent article from the Guardian and make your own mind up.
But what about calcium?
Don’t we need dairy for calcium?
This was the first question that sprung into my mind when I considered giving up dairy. Most of us automatically assume that we need dairy to get enough calcium. So without it, will I end up with a calcium deficiency? Turns out that that is not the case at all. Although dairy is a very good source of calcium, there are loads of plant based foods that are packed with the stuff. I just have to be sure to incorporate them into my diet.
Be wary of calcium supplements
A word of caution about calcium supplements. There is some evidence to suggest that taking calcium supplements may lead to an increased risk of heart attack. If you decide to give up dairy, it’s probably best to ensure that you get adequate calcium from the rich array of food sources, rather than use a supplement.
So am I going dairy free?
For me, the evidence supporting a dairy free diet from both a health and ethical perspective is too strong to ignore. So after discussing it with my family, we have all decided to give it a go.
Which leaves me with a dilemma: The meal replacement bars and shakes I have been living on for the past 3 weeks are going to have to go as they all contain dairy. This concept makes me anxious.
As I have explained before, I have a difficult relationship with food and living on ‘fake food’ helps me detach myself from the real stuff all around me. I know that by going back to eating ‘normally’, I will struggle with many of my food demons again. But I feel ready for the challenge! I guess that’s part of the journey.
I also don’t want to stall my weight loss. So I will have to be vigilant and continue to limit my calories to about 1300 a day. I really hope I can do this.
What about meat?
After some debate, my family and I have decided to take things one step further and give up meat too. Why?
What are the benefits of a plant based diet?
- A plant based diet has been linked to a decreased risk of some cancers, and heart disease. It can also help with weight loss. If combined with a healthy lifestyle and exercise, it can limit the chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
- Although protein in the diet is essential, excessive protein from meat can cause health issues. There are also plenty of plant based sources of protein, so it’s a fallacy that giving up meat leads to a lack of protein in the diet. Obviously you just have to be careful to ensure that you have a broad and varied diet which contains all the nutrients you need.
- A plant based diet can also lead to an increase in protective species of gut bacteria, reduced inflammation in the body and reduced cholesterol levels.
For me, the ethical issues surrounding meat production have also been a major consideration in making this decision.
So what do you think?
I’d love to know your thoughts. Were you aware of the impact that dairy and meat could be having on your health? Do you already have a plant based lifestyle and if so how do you find it? Perhaps you have a different point of view on these issues to me. If so, I’d love to hear it.
Until next time,