Dairy has its place in the Western diet. It is a valid way to consume calcium, get vitamin D, and other important vitamins and minerals. The issue is that it causes a lot of problems for a lot of people. Some people are aware that they have a sensitivity to dairy, and some are completely unaware that it might be the source of minor issues.
It may not affect everyone, but there are still some issues with consuming dairy in the recommended quantities.
The biggest problem is how addictive it is, especially in cultural consciousness. If you’ve ever gone dairy-free, considered going dairy-free, or know someone who did – the usual response is: “how will you live without ice cream/cheese/eggs?” and “I could never go without ice cream/cheese/eggs, I love them too much.”
It is possible to go dairy-free with all new options for alternatives out there, but it isn’t the same sometimes. That said, lessening one’s consumption of dairy does a body good.
Dairy and Overall Health
In America, dairy has really good lobbying and special interest groups. This isn’t a conspiracy, but the truth. Think of the things you’ve been told about milk since childhood:
- Helps build stronger bones
- Part of a healthy diet
- Great source of calcium and protein
- Does your body good
But independent studies differ from the dairy lobby: dairy increases your chances of brittle bones as you age, dairy is high in cholesterol, there are better ways to get calcium and protein, and it is linked to various diseases.
Both those part of the dairy lobby and those against it have a personal agenda, and so it’s up to the actual consumer to decide how they choose to consume dairy or not consume it. I will be completely honest: this information alone is not enough to get me to quit eating dairy. But how it affects my MS does make me rethink dairy in my diet.
Dairy and Multiple Sclerosis
There is a connection between vitamin D deficiency and MS, particularly in women. My neurologist likes to check my blood levels and prescribe me high doses of vitamin D if it’s too low. Milk is a quick and easy way to consume vitamin D, yet there was a study that examined the consumption of milk and the MS diagnosis. While there was no connection between early milk consumption and getting MS, they did posit that there is a possibility that consuming milk might aid the progression of the disease:
It seems that molecular mimicry may disrupt immunological self-tolerance to [Central Nervous System] myelin antigens in genetically susceptible individuals. [Cow’s Milk Allergy] is one of the most common food allergen in infancy. It seems that immune system identifies some of proteins of milk as harmful and makes IgE antibodies to neutralize it. IgE antibodies recognize these proteins in next contact and signal the immune system to release some chemicals.
Therefore, cow’s milk as a dietary protein has potential molecular mimicry with myelin autoantigens and may induce autoimmune process, so consumption of milk in MS patients may have a possible role in progression or relapse of disease. – “Cow’s milk allergy in multiple sclerosis patients“
There is a protein in cow’s milk that mimics the same myelin autoantigens in the body and causes the immune system to attack itself. Consuming cow’s milk with this protein is creating an environment prime for a flare-up, and each flare-up helps further the progression of the disease.
Dairy doesn’t do the nervous system any favors, so it would make sense that cutting it out of my diet would be a good thing for my MS. A study published in 2014 found a correlation between a healthier diet (reasonable consumption of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats) and increased quality of life and lowered chances of disease progression. Part of that healthy eating is dropping dairy, saturated fats, trans fats, sugar, sodium, refined grains, and gluten.
Dairy isn’t something I should continue to consume with my MS. If I regress back to any old eating habits, I should keep dairy and sugar out definitively because it helps minimize my chances of progressing the disease. It’s not a cure, but it’s a means to help supplement my medication by giving it less work to do (and working hard where it really counts).
I am not concerned about getting my essential nutrients and vitamins that normally come in milk. Vegans will be quick to tell you that if you are concerned about getting important nutrients found in dairy – think about what herbivores consume and how they get all their dietary needs met without consuming milk past nursing age.
This isn’t to push veganism in anyway, but there’s a truth to that statement: if other animals are able to get all their dietary needs met without consuming milk, then it’s possible for humans to do so as well.
Also, there’s vitamins out there for that if I am really worried.
Note: Image credit goes to I, VirtualSteve took this photograph on February 19, 2006., CC BY-SA 2.5