Got milk? (And bloating, and acne?)
What is milk?
Milk is an emulsion — a mix of water, proteins, and fat. Because it’s meant to contain all the nutrition a baby mammal needs, milk is pretty complex stuff.
- Scientists have identified about 50 proteins in milk. These include the more familiar whey and casein along with enzymes and immunoglobulins, among many others.
- Milk fat itself is a complex blend of fatty acids, glycerols, phospholipids, and other types of lipids (aka fat-based molecules).
- Milk contains carbohydrates ranging from sugars (such as lactose, galactose, and glucose) as well as starches/complex carbohydrates (such as oligosaccharides and mannose).
- Milk from pastured animals contains naturally occurring types of vitamin A and D. Milk from grain-fed animals is usually “fortified” — in other words, manufacturers add the chemicals during processing. The same is true of minerals such as calcium.
Don’t worry about the exact details if you’re not so interested in nutrition.
Just get a general idea: milk is more complicated than, for example, just “protein” or “calcium”.
Dairy + you = problems?
Whether it’s whey protein, Greek yogurt, or cottage cheese, dairy offers a convenient and versatile source of protein.
Many people find that dairy is a great addition to their protein roster.
Other people find that milk and dairy products can cause digestive and other problems.
So, we’re telling you about milk’s ingredients because we want you to understand why milk may not always be the best protein choice for many of you.
Milk contains sugars and starches.
Some folks can’t digest these — especially lactose — properly. This can cause stomach upset, including gas and bloating, diarrhea, and cramping… not fun.
If you like things like yogurt, check the label carefully. Many types have as much sugar as ice cream! Consider something like plain Greek yogurt or plain curd instead.
Some people can’t digest whey and/or casein properly.
This creates the same issues as lactose.
Some folks get an inflammatory reaction from other components, such as the immunoglobulins.
This can cause symptoms such as:
- skin irritation (such as rashes and acne)
- digestive upset
- flare-up of allergies and asthma — or just “the snuffles”
- flare-up of other auto-immune conditions, like thyroid issues or joint pain
It can also cause fluid retention and keep you feeling heavy. Not what you want when trying to slip into those skinny jeans!
Here’s a fun factoid — milk contains substances known as casomorphins and lactorphins that use the same brain pathways as opioid drugs, such as morphine. This means these substances can actually affect your mood, the way you feel after eating, and your gastric motility (how quickly things move through your intestinal tract).
It’s easy for milk to add up.
People trying to lose fat may find that they are drinking plenty of extra calories when they include lots of milk and cream in their diets. A couple of lattes here, a couple of cups of milk in a smoothie there… it adds up.
What’s the “right” choice?
That’s a trick question.
As you should know by now, we don’t have “bad” or “good” foods in our coaching.
We experiment, see what happens, and decide based on outcomes. And we choose from a spectrum of foods ranging from “worse” to “better”.
What defines “worse” or “better” involves many factors, including how processed food might be, what other choices are available, and how your body responds to that food.
YOU are the boss of your body. And this is YOUR journey towards good health and fitness.
So YOU decide what to eat or drink, based on what YOU feel and observe.
You might already know that dairy suits you… or doesn’t.
If you aren’t sure, if you suspect you might be intolerant, or if you just want to see how removing dairy affects your body, experiment and see what happens.
At least try it.
You may discover some new foods and tastes that you enjoy.
And hey, maybe you’ll discover your acne and sinusitis clear up, too.
Whatever the outcome, remember:
- It’s fun to experiment!
- Try various options and see what works best for you given how your body responds, and your own goals and values. (Ask: “How’s this working for me?”)
- Add whatever you learn about yourself, make a note, write down for your own reference.
Consider milk alternatives
If you’d like to try some new stuff, here are some milk alternatives that:
- are very low in calories
- provide healthy fats/fiber
- taste great
Here are a few of our favorites.
Notice that these are unsweetened. Read labels carefully and be on the lookout for hidden sugars.
- Unsweetened hemp milk
- Unsweetened almond milk
- Unsweetened rice milk
- Unsweetened coconut milk
Note: Unsweetened coconut milk is super tasty and contains some high-quality saturated fat. That’s good. But if you’re trying to lose weight, consume it sparingly.
What about soy milk?
We generally don’t recommend soy milk.
Although unprocessed soy foods, in small amounts, can have some health benefits, research suggests that eating more than 1 or 2 servings per day can disrupt hormones such as your thyroid or reproductive hormones. (This means stuff like sluggish metabolism and menstrual issues.)
If you’re going to include soy in your diet, keep the amount small. And, with all the other milk alternatives out there, there’s no reason to include soy milk.
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