Milk does a body good, or does it? We are led to believe that dairy is healthy. It’s even served every day in school lunches. We feed powdered milk to infants. Men looking to build lean muscle rely on it as a lean protein source. While dairy undeniably contains valuable amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, there have been concerns that it may exacerbate inflammation. Does dairy cause inflammation? Let’s examine the studies to find out.
The Facts Behind Dairy and Inflammation
Yes, dairy does cause inflammation. However, this is the short answer. There are so many “ifs” and “buts” we need to talk about. The studies do indicate a dairy inflammation connection. However, there is a huge caveat. The inflammatory culprit is not the dairy itself. Rather, it’s the artificial antibiotics and hormones found in non-organic, pasteurized milk.
The conventional milk found in supermarkets contain estrogen, which according to a study is linked to breast and prostate cancer.
Typical store-bought milk is also heavily laced with antibiotics. In dairy farms, cows are kept in close confines. The close proximity elevates risk of illness, hence why livestock are pumped full of antibiotics. While antibiotics kill bad bacteria, they also indiscriminately kill beneficial probiotics. A weakened microbiota increases risk of pro-inflammatory disorders, as confirmed in studies.
Some cows are also treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBST). This is a genetically engineered growth hormone used to increase milk output. Studies show that rBST is relatively safe for humans since the body does not absorb rBST from dairy consumption. However, the hormone has been linked to increased illness in cattle. In turn, this increases the nutrient-killing antibiotics they receive to counteract the effect.
rBST is banned in some countries, such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. While not outlawed in U.S. farms, more farmers are pledging not to use the synthetic hormone. It’s not unusual to see dairy products with the label “from cows not treated with rBST.”
The Truth About Pasteurization
Dairy pasteurization became an industrial practice in the 1890s. This involves heating the contents to kill off pathogenic bacteria. No doubt, this is beneficial as it prevents food poisoning from consuming contaminated milk. Unfortunately, pasteurization causes collateral damage in the process.
The heating also kills off or denatures a lot of the beneficial vitamins, minerals, proteins, enzymes, and immunoglobins. A lot of these components are naturally anti-inflammatory. Unbeknownst to most people, milk in its raw form contains vitamin C, which studies show fight off pro-inflammatory free radicals.
In addition, pasteurization also converts the natural lactose into an alternate form called beta-lactose. This is the form that most lactose-intolerant folks are actually unable to digest and not the natural lactose. Studies also show that beta-lactose is potentially pro-inflammatory. Pasteurization, then, is a double-edged sword; it prevents you from falling ill, but also strips the dairy of valuable nutrients. The vitamins and minerals that appear on a milk’s nutritional label are fortified, usually from inferior synthetic sources.
The Dairy and Inflammation Connection Revisited
Does dairy cause inflammation? Now that we have the facts, we must revisit this question. As you can see, the answer is a clear yes. However, the cause of inflammation isn’t stemmed from the dairy itself but from modern cultivation practices. Organic raw milk from free-roaming cows is actually beneficial with loads of anti-inflammatory nutrients. Let’s examine some of the properties of organic dairy.
The Anti-Inflammatory Benefits of Raw Dairy
Raw milk has a far more diverse nutritional profile. This includes a higher abundance of antioxidants, phytochemicals, omega-3s, beta carotene, and vitamin E. Studies show, for example, that heat-treated milk contains less traces of the minerals copper, iron, and manganese compared to their non-pasteurized counterpart.
Raw dairy also contains lactose in its unadulterated form and not the hard-to-digest beta-lactose we talked about earlier.
Finally, studies reveal that children who consumed raw milk were less likely to develop asthma or allergies, both of which are partly induced by inflammation.
Where to Find Organic Dairy
We suggest visiting a farmer’s market. Organic supermarkets like a Trader Joe’s are also good places to look. Carefully read all labels. Look for words like “organic,” “grass-fed,” “unpasteurized,” and “raw.” This goes for all dairy-derived products, including yogurt, cheese, cream cheese, and ice cream.
The same principles, by the way, also apply to meat, poultry, and eggs.
Does Dairy Cause Inflammation? Our Final Thoughts
As you can clearly see from the scientific literature, dairy in and of itself does not cause inflammation. In fact, it contains valuable anti-inflammatory vitamins and antioxidants. Unfortunately, 95% of dairy products in stores are derived in ways that invite the biomarkers for inflammation. If you choose to consume dairy, then make the effort to acquire products from natural sources. You’ll have to go a bit out of your way, and you’ll pay a bit more, but the superior benefits are worth it.
On the subject of inflammation, we also recommend Total Relief. On top of making better food choices, this supplement will help quell lingering inflammation.