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If dairy is so healthy, then why do so many people have trouble digesting it?

Milk and cheese are two of the healthiest fast foods I know. But many people are lactose intolerant, have milk allergies, or other reasons that dairy gives them trouble.  A sad thing, because dairy is the ultimate healthy fast food. I recently composed a post (complete with video) explaining why we develop allergies to processed food proteins.

If you are allergic to the protein in cow’s milk, you probably developed the allergy-inducing antibody due to ongoing intestinal inflammation from eating a pro-inflammatory diet. This is not to say that cow’s milk protein is uniquely bad, just that it is often included in processed foods that promote the intestinal inflammation that confuses your immune system. Even with protein allergies to cows milk you still may be able to drink goat’s milk, because the goat protein is slightly different, as well as cheeses that have been aged for a long time (90 days or more) as casein can be transformed to proteins with lesser immunoreactivity by the action of fermenting bacteria.

“I don’t always drink dairy. But when I do it’s fermented”

If you are lactose intolerant it’s because your body has turned off the intestinal enzymes for breaking milk sugar (lactose) into a form that can be absorbed into your bloodstream. This often occurs after an intestinal infection damages the cells lining your digestive tract, and many people notice they develop discomfort after drinking milk and avoid it. Within a few weeks, the lining regrows and you regain the capacity to digest lactose, but if you don’t use this metabolic machinery because you’re still avoiding dairy, the enzymes can be shut off again, perhaps permanently. Even so, you can still consume dairy that is lactose-free or fermented (like yogurt and cheese) because probiotic bacteria consume most or all of the lactose.

None of this is to suggest that if you don’t like dairy you have to have it. Only that if you are enjoying your new Paleo lifestyle but want to add cream or cheese to your omelets, or drink fresh milk with real whey protein after your workout you should go ahead and enjoy. In my opinion, you’re simply participating in an ancient ritual celebrating the wonderful gift of the ungulate.

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This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Hello Dr. Cate.

    I remember a podcast where you mention how to look at not just the typical blood markers but others ones that you can interpret to tell ones true metabolic health. Is that information on what kind of blood tests and how to interpret them available? Long time sufferer of chronic fatigue and am healing with information from podcasts and information like yours. Thank you for any help you can provide.

  2. Dr cate Thank you very much for all this information. I have read Deep nutrition and fat-burn fix. and I have been following the human diet for more than a year and it transforms my health, body, concentration, joints, and everything. Now I eat for nutrition not fuel. I have a question that wasn’t covered fully by your amazing books. Do I need to increase my calories intake and protein, beside working out, to build muscles ?

  3. Whats the story with “high oleic” sunflower oil. Seeing it turn up in ket marketed foods. I know sunflower oil is bad, are high oleic versions more acceptable?

    1. Great question. In theory, yes. But only marginally better and it’s also an opportunity for “healthwashing” becuase 1. Nobody is going to check this and 2. The strains may not reliably produce high oleic oil, since the effect of temperature may override the genetic modification.

  4. Hi Dr. Cate! I have dealt with asthma and allergies since I was a little kid (currently 17). Usually it only gets bad when I’m around an allergen like dogs or am exerting a lot of physical effort like sprinting. I’ve also noticed that my diet and what I eat will affect how bad I react to this ‘stressful situation’ like running. i.e. I eat a bunch of sugar and processed foods and run and my breathing gets really bad. Because of this reason, I cut milk out of my diet for the most part around 1-2 years ago. But, after reading your book, I have recently reintroduced milk into my diet after you spoke about it’s nutritional benefits. I have been drinking one cup a day for about a week and have noticed my asthma getting a lot worse when I would do conditioning and sprints at football practice and a little worse during the course of the day. I also noticed my acne get a little more red and inflamed at the end of the week. It feels like the milk is causing inflammation to me. Should I keep drinking it and see if my body will adjust over time or should I cut it? Btw I’ve been drinking organic, pasture raised whole milk and don’t have access to raw milk in WI.

    1. Some people have a reaction to the mucus-producing compounds in milk. These compounds may be absent or at least reduced in yogurt and cheese. You may want to try those, and yes grass-fed if you can find it. Sadly, some people are intolerant to pretty much all forms of dairy but it’s worth trying out the various forms since if you’re fine with cheese and or yogurt then that makes life easier.

    1. My thinking on all sweeteners including Monk Fruit and Stevia is the same: Depends what you’re using it in, and why. I discuss in some detail in the FATBURN Fix.

  5. I get headaches from drinking milk and eating cheese/yogurt….what can i eat to replace the goodness in these foods.

  6. Hi Dr Cate!

    You mentioned in one of your podcasts that PUFAs are toxic primarily because they’re so unstable and then went on to relate the same to fish oils. Could you please confirm if indeed fish oils bought in oil form will be toxic? Assuming again because they’re unstable and hence subject to oxidation etc?

    Secondly, does this also apply to essential oils and other cosmetic but natural oils – an example would be organic Rosehip oil or Raspberry seed oil. I use these on my face but wanted to know if they’re actually toxic too because they might have broken down during/after manufacturing.

    Would love to hear your thoughts and thank you so much!


  7. In your book you mention a class to interpret the NMR LipoProfile. Do you still offer this class? Where can I learn how to interpret my results? Thank You

  8. Hi Dr. Cate,
    I reading your book – Deep Nutrition. A fascinating collection of wisdom.
    Have you treated any patients with POTS, gastroparesis, EDS?

  9. Hi Dr Cate – I am dairy sensitive (although, at this point, I can get away with consuming a bit every now and then.) My partner has Celiac disease and it’s important for me to not have gluten-containing products in our home to avoid cross-contamination. We eat many whole foods already but there are always additions and exceptions! I’m interested in trying a diet that removes PUFA/veg seed oils as your site recommends but many dairy-substitute products and gluten-free foods contain these oils. Do you have any suggestions, guidance or resources that can help me wander through that maze? Thanks.

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