7 Good Things That Happen to Your Body When You Cut Dairy Out of Your Diet

Aug 24, 2017 by

Food

It might be hard to imagine your life without cheese. But it depends on what kind of life you want.

Photo Credit: Georgy Dzyura/Shutterstock

Connections to certain foods often echo human relationships. There’s that sense of familiarity and warmth that comes with biting into a certain combination of flavors you’ve grown familiar with over time. But just because you’ve eaten something for a long time doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you. Cutting a type of food out of your life can be hard. For those who find the strength, though, the benefits often outweigh the costs.

There could be no better example of this than dairy.

Milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream. For many, it’s hard to imagine existence without these popular foods. In fact, according to the USDA, each year Americans on average chow down on 36 pounds of cheese and 24 pounds of ice cream or frozen dairy products, and a total of 36 pounds of cheese and 24 pounds of ice cream or frozen dairy products.

But you may be surprised to learn that since 2005, those numbers have been steadily declining. According to an American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics survey cited on Prevention.com, 22 percent of Americans reporting they’ve decreased their intake.

Why?

Simple really: our health. Yes, most will associate the ill-health effects of consuming dairy with suffering from lactose intolerance. Stomach pain, cramps, bloating, diarrhea are some of the more obvious signs of the condition. But there are others, including simply having flatulence. You may not think it, but even you might be lactose intolerant. Part of this problem comes down to aging.

“After weaning, humans no longer “need” the ability to digest their mother’s milk,” writes Alisa Fleming, author of Go Dairy Free. Fleming explains how as we age our bodies naturally begin to lose lactase, the enzyme responsible for helping us digest lactose in dairy milk. Fleming explains that this is a “relatively new phenomenon in our evolution.”

Need more reasons to be convinced? Here are seven of them.

1. Better skin condition

Why do babies need to drink milk? A simple question, with a relatively simple answer: to help with growth. One of several chemicals that assist that process are “testosterone-like hormones that can stimulate oil glands in the skin,” explains this study from Dartmouth Medical School. It doesn’t take a dermatologist to know what that means for skincare. As a result, cutting on diary can drastically reduce the breakout of acne, caused by an excess of skin oil.

To get a personal take on this, read Annie-Tomlin’s article on XoJane, “I Gave Up Dairy and All I Got Was the Best Skin of My Life.”

2. Weight

Ok, so here’s the thing. You’re not guaranteed to lose weight if you cut dairy from your diet. But done in combination with eating the right foods, it can work wonders. Basically, explained registered dietitian Rebecca Blake to MyDomaine, “Dairy is a rich source of fat and protein in people’s diets, and keep you full because your body digests them more slowly.” And so, instead of replacing that with “other foods like simple carbs, which can lead to weight gain.” said Blake, try eating other energy-rich sources of food like nuts, seeds, eggs, and beans instead.

3. Cancer

At least according to some researchers from Sweden, drinking more than a glass of milk a day can lead to at doublethe risk of ovarian cancer. A further Harvard study found that men who enjoyed one too many sips from the milk fount had a “34% increased riskof developing prostate cancer, compared with those who consumed little or no dairy.” The reason? Once again, we’re back to those pesky dairy hormones as the likely cause. Specifically, thpse that promote insulin-like growth in your blood, a hormone directly attributable to cancer cell growth.

4. Stronger bones

This might sound contrary to popular thought, but yes drinking less milk might actually be better for your bones. In fact, an epic 12-year long Harvard study that surveyed over 78,000 female nurses found that “women consuming greater amounts of calcium from dairy foods had significantly increased risks of hip fractures, while no increase in fracture risk was observed for the same levels of calcium from nondairy sources.” To that, Fleming adds that “study and population reviews” have commonly come to find that “countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis are also the largest consumers of dairy products.”

5. Healthier environment

You had to have seen this one coming. Like many forms of industrial farming, mass milk production is no exception when it comes to the large environmental footprint it leaves—reports The Organic Center—through greenhouse gas and nitrogen emissions, and degradation of water quality caused by runoff of fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and pathogens. That’s not to mention the effect it has for soil, the report adds. And all those environmental effects, in turn, have serious impacts on public health, including pollution-related conditions like asthma and respiratory issues, as well as exposure to dangeous pesticides that make their way into waterways.

6. Sense of smell

This is possibly one of the most immediate health benefits you may notice living a post-dairy life. One possible theory for this is that it has to do with a naturally-occurring protein found in dairy products known as casein, which some attribute to the formation of mucus. Some people like Jenny Sugar, writing for Shape.com, as well as Fleming swear by its effects.

7. Happiness

When you give up dairy—particularly dairy products made from industrialized factory farming—you’re also removing yourself from the inherent cruelty of dairy agriculture. According to Compassion in World Farming: “Given a natural and healthy life, cows can live for 20 years or more. High-yielding dairy cows will last for only a quarter of that time. They are often culled after three lactations or less because they are chronically lame or infertile.”

The nonprofit animal welfare group also notes that the majority of dairy cows in the United States are prevented from accessing pasture all year round. Knowing that you’re no longer part of the animal cruelty that is a persistent aspect of the dairy industry can give you a boost of dopamine that might just exceed the one you used to get when you ate cheese.

To give any more reasons would be to try convince you of a habit you’re not wanting to change. Changing habits you enjoy often seem pointless, until you try. Just because something is familiar, doesn’t make it essential. In the end, the only way to truly test this when it comes to dairy, is to reduce your intake and witness the effects for yourself.

Have you tried to cut dairy out of your life? Share your experience in the comments.

Robin Scher is a freelance writer from South Africa currently based in New York. He tweets infrequently @RobScherHimself.

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