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What's the problem with milk and dairy?

by (323)
Updated about 10 hours ago
Created June 08, 2011 at 11:07 AM

Yea, I know it's a basic question.

I have read Robb Wolf's book The Paleo Soultion and he sort of glases over this subject as he says "would just be repeating" himself, but I'd still like to know.

So can anyone tell me what the specific problems with dairy are? What is in it exactly that is so bad? How is it so different compared to human milk that it causes problems?

Note: The phrase "Because Dairy isn't Paleo" is hereby a banned answer - Science only please ;)

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20 · June 09, 2011 at 3:26 AM

Hmmm.. I don't know. It's been recommended to me that I eliminate dairy, sweets [such as fruit] and nuts to help boost my weight loss since I've been struggling. I can handle heavy whipping cream just fine in my coffee. I don't think I have a problem with butter either...I know when I eat too much dairy, I bloat up and sometimes get stomach pains...but I'm not sure about the yogurt. I haven't had it in a long time but I should probably try it and see what happens.

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5232 · June 08, 2011 at 4:20 PM

A spike isn't a problem, chronically elevated insuline seems to be.

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15226 · June 08, 2011 at 3:14 PM

Most weightlifters and coaches (including Mark Rippetoe) suggest a gallon of milk a day for athletes trying to bulk up.

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666 · June 08, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Yeah, very true. I just read through Cordain's book Paleo for Athletes the other day, looking for the reason to get rid of dairy and he said it was the insuline-spike which was to be avoided. Both sounds to be considered ;)

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12847 · June 08, 2011 at 1:41 PM

Good points ben. People forget insulin is a very important anabolic hormone

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15976 · June 08, 2011 at 1:34 PM

@cliff, nice point. i like seeing insulin being defended. its gotten such a bad rap in recent years. Our body doesn't produce something that hurts us. Insulin is a growth hormone. If you're trying to get stronger, grow in size, repair damaged tissue, etc you want and need insulin's action.

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1587 · June 08, 2011 at 1:03 PM

I'd say it depends on what is giving you trouble in the first place. If it's lactose you're probably fine, if it's the casein (or whey) you'll still have problems. In the latter case you can try cream and butter as they have very little milk proteins

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12847 · June 08, 2011 at 11:42 AM

It depends on your goals, a big insulin spike could be great for athletes(assuming its accompanied by plenty of carbs and protein)

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6 Answers

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20411 · June 08, 2011 at 2:06 PM

Dairy - or milk at least - contains three components that are not found in other foods: lactose or milk sugar, whey (a protein) and casein (yet another protein).

Some people are lactose intolerant, which means they no longer produce the enzyme lactase to break down milk sugar. This then ferments in the intestines and causes digestive distress. Even if you are not lactose intolerant, drinking white sugar water (skim milk) just doesn't make sense as the fat in milk is where some of the best nutrition is (vitamins A/E/D/K/CLA etc). Whole or raw milk may be appropriate for hard gainers, but it comes with a price (insulin spiking, weight gain that may not be all muscle).

Whey doesn't seem to be an issue for most people, but I have heard of people who are allergic to it (not sure why).

Casein is the protein that peeps are down on (even T Colin Campbell, which makes me suspicious). Casein causes loosening of tight junctions, which is good when you want to lactate - it makes lactation possible. The problem is when it gets to the intestines it can also loosen tight juctions causing leaky gut issues (allowing proteins to enter the blood stream directly, which causes all sorts of havoc). However, if you have a functioning stomach with a normal amount of hydrochloric acid (not taking a PPI inhibitor, for example), the casein protein should be cleaved at least once by the stomach acid and should not cause any problem whatsoever. But it can be an issue.

This is why some paleos say no to dairy even in addition to the "We are not adapted to it" argument. And why other paleos stick to high fat dairy like cream, ghee and butter, which have little of these three unique molecules.

Personally, I just avoid milk (although I did a raw experiment last month and found that it made me more likely to be hypoglycemic) and enjoy everything else, including cottage cheese. (Gasp! - tell T Colin Campbell to send an Oncologist pronto!)

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1811 · June 08, 2011 at 1:55 PM

Chris Kresser put together an excellent post about this.

He makes the important distinction between pasteurized, commercial dairy and the raw, grass-fed variety. Many people who experience problems with the former do not with the latter.

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666 · June 08, 2011 at 11:29 AM

I believe dairy (milk at least) also results in an insulin-spike (even though the GI is low), which is bad for various reasons.

D10ca8d11301c2f4993ac2279ce4b930
5232 · June 08, 2011 at 4:20 PM

A spike isn't a problem, chronically elevated insuline seems to be.

64433a05384cd9717c1aa6bf7e98b661
15226 · June 08, 2011 at 3:14 PM

Most weightlifters and coaches (including Mark Rippetoe) suggest a gallon of milk a day for athletes trying to bulk up.

446d2dddaeeccb2cc31a09cf20e40d46
666 · June 08, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Yeah, very true. I just read through Cordain's book Paleo for Athletes the other day, looking for the reason to get rid of dairy and he said it was the insuline-spike which was to be avoided. Both sounds to be considered ;)

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c
12847 · June 08, 2011 at 1:41 PM

Good points ben. People forget insulin is a very important anabolic hormone

667f6c030b0245d71d8ef50c72b097dc
15976 · June 08, 2011 at 1:34 PM

@cliff, nice point. i like seeing insulin being defended. its gotten such a bad rap in recent years. Our body doesn't produce something that hurts us. Insulin is a growth hormone. If you're trying to get stronger, grow in size, repair damaged tissue, etc you want and need insulin's action.

E5c7f14800c5992831f5c70fa746dc5c
12847 · June 08, 2011 at 11:42 AM

It depends on your goals, a big insulin spike could be great for athletes(assuming its accompanied by plenty of carbs and protein)

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1639 · June 08, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Oh, so you don't like the normal phrase? Awww....

Well, it depends. Some people are intolerant of dairy. That's a food allergy. It can also cause auto-immune issues. I know that Robb Wolf goes on a negative stance, while Kurt Harris (I'd give you a link -- but the site is down) is more of a pro-dairy stance (as long as you don't have issues with it).

If you want it from the source, Robb Wolf and Matt Lalonde talk about in Robb's podcast #68. Podcast: http://robbwolf.com/2011/02/22/the-paleo-solution-episode-68/ Show notes: http://robbwolf.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/the-paleo-solution-episode-68.pdf

The main issues seems to be the lactose and casein, which some people can't tolerate. Lactose is removed with going to high-fat, so some people can tolerate heavy whipping cream and butter when they can't tolerate regular milk.

For me personally, I know that I can't tolerate dairy. I won't go into detail, but it isn't fun. I can, however, eat butter and heavy whipping cream without issue.

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5232 · June 08, 2011 at 4:18 PM

A lot of people with gluten sensitivities have the region of the microvili where the lactase production is done blocked by way of atrophy. After gluten is removed, this over time should heal. But reintroducing milk should be like starting working out as an obese person. Go slow! It'll take time to adjust. That may mean some inflammation at first (gasp!). See where you're at in a few weeks and evaluate.

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20 · June 08, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Where does full fat greek yogurt come in? Do folks who can't tolerate dairy are able to with full fat greek yogurt?

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20 · June 09, 2011 at 3:26 AM

Hmmm.. I don't know. It's been recommended to me that I eliminate dairy, sweets [such as fruit] and nuts to help boost my weight loss since I've been struggling. I can handle heavy whipping cream just fine in my coffee. I don't think I have a problem with butter either...I know when I eat too much dairy, I bloat up and sometimes get stomach pains...but I'm not sure about the yogurt. I haven't had it in a long time but I should probably try it and see what happens.

1a641bbff1a7b0a70f08410376bbdf6b
1587 · June 08, 2011 at 1:03 PM

I'd say it depends on what is giving you trouble in the first place. If it's lactose you're probably fine, if it's the casein (or whey) you'll still have problems. In the latter case you can try cream and butter as they have very little milk proteins

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