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A Functional Medicine Approach to Dairy

A Functional Medicine approach to dairy by Dr. Mark Hyman - excerpt from his book, Food, What the Heck Should I Eat?….

“If someone handed you a beverage that you knew would cause you weight gain, bloating, acne, gas, allergies, eczema, brittle bones, and possibly even cancer, would you drink it? Would you chug 3 cups of that liquid daily and give 2 cups of it to your children?

Probably not.

Yet the federal government tells us that milk is a perfect food that Americans should lap up daily—in spite of a large (and growing) body of research showing its lack of benefits and awful side effects. Humans are the only species that continues to drink milk after weaning. And the milk we drink today is not what our grandparents drank. Nowadays, cows’ milk contains dozens of reproductive hormones, allergenic proteins, antibiotics, and growth factors, some of which are known to promote cancer, such as IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor).

All milk has one purpose: to make living things grow.

So why would adults consume it? In most people, the production of lactase, the enzyme that digests dairy, begins to plummet around age two. That fact alone should tell you how our bodies feel about consuming dairy beyond childhood.

Most people can’t even stomach milk: about 70 percent of the world’s population suffers from milk-induced digestive distress because of lactose intolerance. One of milk’s main proteins has been linked to cancer of the prostate. Dairy causes problems in people who have irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut. Milk allergies are common, especially among children.

Thanks to bad science, the food lobby, and the junk-food industry’s influence on research, Americans have been fed a lot of lies and misinformation about their food. But only dairy has inspired wrong advice from all sides. The government’s dietary guidelines say that adults should drink at least 3 cups of milk daily and that children should drink at least 2, so we can all get plenty of calcium and other nutrients that protect our bones and our health. But the evidence just isn’t there. In fact, studies show that milk may actually make our bones weaker. On top of that, there are plenty of better, richer, healthier sources of calcium in food.

Here’s how some common food sources stack up:

Sesame seeds, 1⁄4 cup: 351 mg

Sardines (with bones), 33⁄4-ounce can: 351 mg

Tofu, 31⁄2 ounces: 350 mg

Yogurt, 1 cup: 296 mg

Collard greens, 1 cup: 268 mg

Spinach, 1 cup: 245 mg

Cheese, 1 ounce: 204 mg

Turnip greens, 1 cup: 197 mg

Canned sockeye salmon (with bones), 3 ounces: 188 mg

Blackstrap molasses, 1 tablespoon: 180 mg

Mustard greens, 1 cup: 165 mg

Beet greens, 1 cup: 164 mg

Bok choy, 1 cup: 158 mg

Almonds, dry roasted, 2 ounces: 150 mg

Cows’ milk, 8 ounces: 276 mg

Furthermore, there’s even evidence that it’s vitamin D, not calcium, that truly strengthens our bones."


· Grass-fed whole milk in very small amounts—a splash in your coffee is okay; ideally, use goats’ milk

· Grass-fed, full fat, unsweetened yogurt that contains milk and live cultures and nothing else; ideally, use goat or sheep yogurt

· Kefir (fermented cows’ milk), following the same rules as for yogurt

· Whole-milk, grass-fed cheese made with no additives

· Butter or ghee, grass-fed, of course

· All these products made with goats’ milk or sheep’s milk when you can find them, but still in small amounts

Note: Consume these products only if you have no dairy allergies or sensitivities.


· Dairy from conventionally raised cows

· Skim, 1 percent, or 2 percent milk

· Low-fat or nonfat yogurt

· Yogurt that contains fruit, sweetener, additives, or anything extra

· Cheese made from skim milk or reduced-fat milk

· Processed cheese that contains preservatives, additives, flavorings, or anything unnatural sounding (added herbs, pepper, fruit, truffles, etc., are all fine to eat)

· Cheese that comes in a spray can

About Dr. Mark Hyman: Dr. Hyman is a practicing family physician and an internationally recognized leader, speaker, educator, and advocate in the field of Functional Medicine. He is the founder and director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, and Board President for Clinical Affairs for The Institute for Functional Medicine.

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