I don’t know if there’s anything more contentious in the endo community than dairy, and I can’t think of a more controversial dinner party topic than raw dairy. There are so many competing trains of thought on these two issues, from vegan and paleo circles staunchly opposed to dairy in general, to the USDA recommending it full throttle. And raw dairy? Most of us only think of how dangerous it is, if at all. That’s okay, because we need to talk about both.
The truth about dairy is it’s a great option for some bodies, yet still not for every body. We’re all unique and, if you can tolerate it, the right types of dairy products can offer a perfect balance of fat, protein, and carbs, gut healing probiotics and butyrate, CLA (anti inflammatory fat), vitamin A, beta carotene, and even omega-3’s. Believe it or not, it can even help reverse chronic allergies, gut infections, and give energy to peoples with liver and gall bladder issues. But because most of us have only been introduced to the bad stuff (think Safeway refrigerated section), we often have never experienced the potentially healing factors of real, raw, grass-fed, milk products.
That’s why I ask you to at least hear me out, even if right now you think dairy is going to knock you dead with pain, if raw dairy doesn't kill you first. The types of healing dairy products I speak of aren’t the ones you see in the Got Milk ads; they’re the ones we evolved to eat. Ok, I know-- that’s not fully agreed upon, considering the often thrown around fact that hunter gatherers didn’t evolve drinking milk. Technically that’s true, but many of our recent ancestors did. How recent? Not too recent at all, really…. try 9,000 years! In the story of human evolution that may seem like a drop in the pond, but that’s still some 200 generations of peoples consuming liberal amounts of milk products - all of it raw, of course - and living healthy, fruitful lives.
9,000 years is also enough time for some of our human genes to physically evolve to consume milk products, with some 30-40% of us now being able to properly digest lactose past breastfeeding years (and that number being closer to 100% for the European/cool climate decedents). For those who didn’t develop the lactose-digesting ability (those mainly being peoples from warmer climates), it doesn’t mean your ancestors didn’t also thrive on milk products. In warmer climates where fresh milk would quickly sour, cultures instead consumed their dairy fermented. This is especially true for areas all over Africa, India, and the Middle East, whose many herding cultures relied on animals for both milk and meat.
Even in America it was widely agreed until recently that milk was purely beneficial for health! This was a time when people weren’t plagued with heart disease, obesity, auto-immune disorders, cancer, or endometriosis, and also a time when Americans consumed liberal amounts of butter, cream, and raw milk. Neither germ-phobia nor fat-phobia had yet caught on to the masses, and dairy products were revered as an enzyme and mineral rich way to get nourishment.
But the truth is, nearly all women with endo deal with severe stomach issues stemming from gut permeability, leading to a strong reaction to dairy in some way. That is potentially why you felt better going dairy free — it certainly was my case many years ago! That’s also why dairy should be approached very carefully, with full respect to where your body is in its healing process, knowing that you may or may not be able to tolerate the wide spectrum of dairy products either now or even after a gut-healing journey. Either way, I here hope to dispel a few myths about dairy, reinforce the benefits that are real, and help you see if some types of dairy can fit into your life as a healing agent. Like meat, there’s no black and white here, and you’re going to have to discover for yourself what’s good, bad, or even a exceptional partner in your healing journey.