Your morning cappuccino, your lunchtime bar of chocolate, and your after-dinner cheeseboard. Everything we love seems to contain dairy, and makes the prospect of giving it up a daunting task. However, there are many problems associated with dairy that are easily solved by cutting it out of our diets.
Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar in milk, and is something that around 70% of the population have some intolerance to. If lactose is not broken down, it ferments in the gut, leading to digestive issues including stomach cramps, bloating, and even IBS. This is because after weaning, the body naturally begins to lose the enzyme lactase which aids the digestion of lactose.
A benefit of going dairy-free is clearer skin. Recently, dermatologists have been recommending a dairy-free diet as the first step in treating acne. The exact link between dairy and acne is unknown, however physicians say that the hormones in antibiotics fed to cows are aggravators and can cause breakouts.
Antibiotics are given to dairy cows to help prevent infection, but concern has been raised over the human consumption of these antibiotics. The consumption of milk has been shown to increase the serum level of IGF-1(insulin-like growth factor 1) in humans by 10%, which has been linked to a significant increase in the risk of many types of cancer.
Milk products are naturally high in the amino-acid tryptophan, which increases tiredness. Dairy is also harder to digest than other foods, causing the body to use more energy. Therefore, giving up dairy can increase energy levels, which is why athletes including Novak Djokovic have completely cut dairy products from their diets.
On the ethical side, the treatment of dairy cows is appalling. Many cows aren’t allowed outdoors and are confined to cramped stalls on factory farms. Although a cow can live twenty years, nearly all dairy cows are slaughtered before they turn five because younger cows produce better milk. And nowadays, cows are impregnated to maximize their milk yields, with their calves sold as veal.
Environmentally, milk production has a big carbon footprint, and water quality is compromised as fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones can pollute it and therefore the surrounding ecosystems.
Cutting out dairy completely may seem hard, but by just cutting back, you and the environment will reap the benefits. And there are plenty of plant-based alternatives to dairy if you really can’t live without pizza!