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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THE ILLS OF MILK


So your friend goes to the store and among all the kale and potatoes, seeds and sweets she purchased you notice butter (from organic grass-fed cows, of course) and goat cheese. What do you tell her?

Do you congratulate her on the overall nutriousness of her purchases while offhandedly mentioning the ills associated with the consumption of milk products. You don't want to hurt feelings or come off as judgemental, but true friends have each other's best interests at heart, don't they? How to broach the topic?

First, what are the ills associated with milk?

1. Milk contains lactose, the sugar that lends dairy its natural sweetness, and because the body generally stops making the enzyme lactase to digest milk sugar shortly after infancy (when breast-feeding ends), people lose the ability to digest lactose often before they even hit preschool. This so-called lactose intolerance makes milk products very difficult to digest, and the resultant bloat, cramps, gas, and diarrhea/constipation that often ensues attest to this difficulty.

You tell your friend this. She says, "But I am one of the minority that makes lactase into adulthood, so milk doesn't give me these issues you describe. Besides, I prefer milk derivatives like cheese and butter and yogurt to drinking milk or eating ice cream, and in these products the lactose is removed."

"True," you reply, and move to number two.

2. Milk, with or without lactose, is a major food allergen. According to the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, dairy products head the list of eight major allergenic foods, often referred to as the Big-8, the others being eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybean. These foods account for about 90% of all food allergies in the United States and must be declared on any processed food according to the USA food allergen labeling act (FALCPA). While anaphylactic shock is the most severe manifestation of food allergy and can lead to death from severe hypotension coupled with respiratory and cardiovascular complications, symptoms associated with milk allergies may be so subtle as to go virtually unnoticed. These symptoms include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your friend has a sensitive stomach and enjoys yogurt, butter and cheese etc. on a regular basis you may wish to point out that the two may be related. Indeed doctors report high incidences of ear infections in children as a result of milk consumption, and the fact that milk leads one to produce excessive mucus can be gleaned from personal observation alone.

3. Dairy contains casomorphins, an opioid-like substance with effects similar to morphine. These include signs of sedation, tolerance, sleep induction, and depression. And like morphine, these chemicals are highly addictive. Researchers believe morphine is found in milk to ensure  offspring will bond very strongly with their mothers and get all the nutrients they need to grow. In cheese, casein is concentrated, and so is the level of casomorphins, so the pleasurable effect is greater. Neal Barnard, MD said, “Since cheese is processed to express out all the liquid, it’s an incredibly concentrated source of casomorphins—you might call it dairy crack.”

You tell your friend that trying to give up an addictive substance can induce feelings of anxiety and nervousness, but that these are thankfully short-lived and kicking the dairy habit brings a host of benefits, including lowering her risk of cancer, osteoporosis, and kidney dysfunction (points 4 through 6).

4. Milk and cancer. The hormones and growth factors present even in organic milk whether goat, cow or other (estrogen and insulin-like growth factor among them) induce early puberty in women which increases the risk of reproductive cancers (breast, ovary, cervix, and prostate in men) and continuing consumption of milk through adulthood is associated with severe menopause. The growth factors in milk induce weight gain, not that you're saying your friend needs to lose any weight!

5. Milk and weak bones. Milk is high in protein and the amino acids lower the blood pH, which causes the body to buffer the excess hydrogen ions with calcium. Where does the body get this calcium? From the bones. Paradoxical though it seems, it has been shown that although milk contains a lot of calcium, those who eat milk products actually excrete in their urine more calcium than they consume in milk, resulting in a net loss of calcium. Again, this calcium is leeched from the bones, weakening them and setting the stage for osteoporosis and fractures down the road.

6. Milk and kidney dysfunction. The calcium the kidneys secrete as a result of a diet high in dairy and the excessive protein load lead to renal damage which can set your friend up for kidney disease down the road. We're only given one pair of kidneys, which produce liters of urine every day and help the body remove toxins and waste. Best to be gentle with them!

You can conclude with the observation that no animal drinks the milk of another species, or drinks milk into adulthood - except humans - and that no animal other than humans suffers such astoundingly high rates of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and obesity, and that the two facts are more than likely related.

Tell your sweet friend that there are milk substitutes to get her over the craving, including tofu, soymilk, and almond milk, while leafy green vegetables are excellent sources of calcium and also high in protein. And that instead of butter or goat cheese on her toast she should try an avocado spread which is delish.

And seeing among her grocery items the kale she proudly purchased (possibly for the first time), you can end your rant by enveloping her in a warm hug of congratulation and saying: "I'm not trying to change you because I love you just the way you are."

And even if your friend chooses to persist in the moderate consumption of milk products it's no big deal. Why split hairs? The point of life is to sever excessive identification with the body, these prisons of flesh and blood. Micromanaging the diet can be tiresome and lead to undue focus on the very thing we are trying to transcend - let's not forget that the immortal soul will outlive this accumulation of pus and excrement that is our vehicle here on Earth, so why pamper it excessively! After a while you reach a point of diminishing returns. There's so much else to think about other than the food you eat. What are we, merely animals?

The Avatars have this to say about the importance of food: "Food is the chief formative force. Food makes a person strong in body; the body is ultimately connected with the mind. Strength of mind depends upon strength of body too. Moral conduct, good habits, spiritual effort - all depend upon the quality of the food; disease, mental weakness, spiritual slackness - all are produced by faulty food. Food to be sattvic should be capable of strengthening the mind as well as the body."

What foods are considered sattvic?  Water, legumes, vegetables, fruits, and the Hindus would include grains, nuts, and unpasteurized and unhomogenized fresh milk and fresh milk derivatives. So whether she eats exclusively sweets, greens, beans and seeds as you recommend, or supplements with grains, nuts and dairy, she's spiritually on the right track. And that, after all, is life's ultimate purpose, say the sages.

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