While I can't deny the benefits of our ancestral diet, I'll be the first to admit that I don't follow every Paleo protocol (as described in Loren Cordain's The Paleo Diet and Robb Wolf's The Paleo Solution) . I consider myself more Primal (based on Mark Sisson's Primal Blueprint) than Paleo. But recently I've been giving some thought to giving up dairy, if only temporarily. I currently eat organic Greek yogurt and cheese a few times a week, which is a lot less than than the two to three servings I used to have every day. I stopped drinking milk months ago. From everything I've read lately, going dairy-free makes sense for a lot of people, particularly those with autoimmune conditions like celiac disease, Type 1 diabetes, lupus, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. I don't appear to have any of these, although I do have impaired blood sugar control, hypothyroidism, and mild adrenal issues. Dairy has some strikes against it; however, it offers benefits as well. I'm a list maker by nature, so I decided to make a pros vs. cons list (although not an exhaustive one) for organic and/or raw dairy products:
Reasons to eliminate dairy:
1. Contains lectins: Lectins are small carbohydrate-binding proteins that protect plant and animal species but can damage our intestinal cell lining if consumed in excess. Virtually all foods contain some lectins, and although not the largest offender (grains, legumes, and nuts have that honor), dairy has an appreciable amount of these potentially harmful substances.
2 It's insulinotropic: Milk's intended purpose is to promote growth in young mammals, and it's believed that the protein casein is responsible for this effect.Because casein is present in all dairy products, consumption of even low-carbohydrate forms such as cheese may cause insulin spikes which promote anabolism and weight gain. (However, I have read blog posts from many who stopped drinking milk for 30 days or more and noticed no difference in weight or body composition).
3. Promotes a net acid load: Our bodies desire homeostasis, or a balance in our blood between acid and alkaline of pH 7.3 to 7.4. Acidic foods include meat, fish, eggs, and dairy; fruits and vegetables are alkaline. On low-carb/Paleo diets, animal protein consumption is fairly high, so getting calcium from plant sources (leafy greens, seeds and nuts) makes sense.
I won't go into the many issues I have with conventional dairy other than to say it contains residual hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides that can cause or aggravate many health problems.
On the other hand...
1. Contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA): CLA has been credited with promoting weight loss, improving blood sugar control in persons with diabetes, lowering serum triglycerides, and decreasing cancer risk. Dairy is one of the best sources of this fatty acid. The higher the fat content the better, particularly if it comes from grass-fed cows.
2. Raw dairy is a whole food: While pasteurized, homogenized milk is technically a processed food, raw dairy exists in its natural state and has been consumed for thousands of years by certain nomadic and agrarian groups, many of whom have enjoyed long, healthy lives.
3. Excellent source of many nutrients: Milk products contains all the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, and fat) and many micronutrients (all the vitamins, along with calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, to name a few) that are essential to health.
4. High satiety value: Goat cheese, whole Greek yogurt, buffalo mozzarella, and cream cheese just plain taste good!
So should we consume dairy or not? There are some strong opinions on both sides of this debate, but I believe that it's a highly personal choice. I recommend going without dairy for at least 30 days (This is what I plan to do in the near future). If you have more energy, fewer allergies, improved skin quality, and feel better overall on a dairy-free diet, then certainly that's the best eating plan for you. If you notice no difference in your symptoms, then eating dairy is probably fine and possibly beneficial. Again, we are all unique in our genetic and biochemical makeup; what works for one person may not work for another. For optimal well-being, we need to be attuned to the state of our health and make dietary and other changes accordingly. By the way, acording to a recent post on Mark's Daily Apple, even Robb Wolf consumes some dairy and admits he follows a primal way of eating :)
1. Rabinowitz D, Merimee TJ, Maffezzoli R, Burgess JA. Patterns of hormonal release after glucose, protein, and glucose plus protein. Lancet 1966;2:454–6]
2. Josse A, Atkinson SA, Tarnopolsky MA, Phillips SM. Increased consumption of dairy foods and protein during diet- and exercise-induced weight loss promotes fat mass loss and lean mass gain in overweight and obese premenopausal women. J.Nutr September 1, 2011 vol. 141 no. 9 1626-1634
3. Cesano A, Visonneau S, Scimeca JA, et al. Opposite effects of linoleic acid and conjugated linoleic acid on human prostatic cancer in SCID mice. Anticancer Res 1998;18:1429-34.
Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE