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November 04, 2019 | Abigail Mckay

Is Dairy Good for you?

Dairy products, along with gluten and soy, are highly controversial topics because there are mixed reviews on whether these particular food groups are beneficial to your health. Some people say that these foods contribute to chronic medical conditions, and other people claim that they prevent these conditions. So, what is the truth? To this day, there is still research being conducted on the long-term effects of these food groups. Gluten-free and dairy-free diets are relatively new to the scene, so it is not surprising that ample research has not been conducted regarding the long-term effects of these diets.  

Dairy Products and What They Contain

Dairy products include milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, ice cream, creamers, and butter, to name a few. Doctors and dietitians have encouraged the consumption of dairy products for years. The medical community considers dairy to be not only beneficial but also necessary to prevent osteoporosis from developing later in life, although this correlation is beginning to be disputed. Calcium, which is found in dairy products, is essential for building strong bones and teeth and also initiating muscle contraction. However, there are other sources of calcium, such as leafy greens, nuts, fortified cereals, fortified bread, and soybeans. So, yes, calcium is necessary, but dairy products are not the only source of calcium. In addition to calcium, there is another component found in dairy products called saturated fats. A diet high in saturated fats usually leads to weight gain, high cholesterol, and subsequent heart disease. In general, people with heart disease are encouraged to maintain a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat to reduce the risk of further heart damage.  

Reasons to Avoid Dairy Products

Some people report not consuming dairy products due to lactose intolerance. Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products. Without the enzyme that is produced in the small intestine called lactase, there will be an imbalance between lactase and lactose, which can cause bloating, nausea, and diarrhea. Fermented dairy items, like yogurt and hard cheeses, do not contain an abundance of lactose due to the fermentation process. So, some people who are lactose intolerant may still be able to consume certain types of dairy products. Other people choose to reduce or eliminate dairy from their diet due to claims that dairy may increase the inflammatory response in the body. While there are many reasons to decide not to consume dairy, there is limited evidence to conclusively prove that dairy is beneficial, or not, to your overall health.  

If you feel that you may be sensitive to dairy or you choose to eliminate it from your diet, speak with a physician to determine ways to fill in the nutritional gap. It is vital to understand that there are vital nutrients in dairy products, such as calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. If you choose to partake in a dairy-free diet, ensure you are getting these nutrients through other means. Once again, there is not enough evidence to firmly state one way or another that dairy negatively affects your health. If you are having stomach sensitivity or multiple inflammatory responses, try an elimination diet.  This would entail cutting out dairy for two weeks to determine if dairy is causing your symptoms. If symptoms reside or greatly diminish, the dairy-free diet might be for you.

Abigail Mckay

Abigail has been a nurse for five years, and throughout her time as a nurse, she has worked in multiple medical-surgical units as well as spent time in the infusion therapy clinic and endoscopy lab. She is passionate about preventative medicine through patient education regarding nutrition and exercise. Due to her passion, Abigail has gone on to earn two certifications including a certification in medical-surgical nursing (CMSRN) and a certification in holistic nursing (HNB-BC), in hopes of being able to better serve her patients. Abigail earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA and now bettering patient education in the healthcare system through partnering with American TelePhysicians.