IT’S STORY TIME, FRIENDS!
Welcome to the “Overlooked issues of Dairy consumption and Calcium absorption”
A little background…I’ve had (and continue to have) the privilege of working with a broad range of athletes as a Proactive Lifestyle Specialist; US Olympians, professional surfers, MLB athletes, youth athletes in Africa, NCAA golfers, youth and elite volleyball players, just to name a few. It’s awesome! For the most part, my guidance has been in yoga therapy, body education and alignment, athlete recovery and restorative practices. Compared to these, my focus (and sharing of) nutrition is more recent. My instagram account probably chronicles this best — it used to be solely travel-oriented, then I added movement bits, and now finally nutrition! Just a heads up: Keep all this in mind for this article…
There are many stories that have inspired me along my teaching journey. Yet there are also those that perplex me. I am left bewildered, confused, and on a rare occasion, speechless.
I was about to lead a post-workout recovery session for a group of professional athletes. One of them came up to me prior to my session, “hey Jaime, I won’t be able to make it to yoga today because I’m getting my shoulder rubbed out, it’s really inflamed.” As one who respects taking ownership of your actions, I fully respect this decision…except for one thing. This person was drinking Muscle Milk while they were sharing their “inflammation station” story.
Moments ago, before this individual approached me, I was literally just scrolling through my phone, reading an article by Dr. Mark Hyman, a highly respected MD, sharing the issues of dairy. My husband (and partner in crime), Matt, sent this over to me, as we have both been for the most part dairy free for a few years (and feel so much better for it!).
Yet we hadn’t seen too many mainstream highlights on the issue. What issue, exactly? The issue of how typical dairy (what you find in the grocery store) is acidic, is related to inflammation in the body, and people may experience symptoms of bloating, fatigue, acne, eczema, joint pain. Let’s be honest, any of these symptoms, especially inflammation, is the last thing you want as an athlete.
“Dairy contains some very allergenic proteins, such as casein, which can be problematic for many people. And to make matters worse, the casein that’s in our modern dairy – sourced from modern, hybridized cows – has been genetically altered, creating a much higher likelihood of inflammation, autoimmune disease, and even type 1 diabetes. With this in mind, I strongly recommend that you limit the amount of cow-sourced dairy that you consume.” – Dr. Mark Hyman
So here I am, with an athlete telling me that they are too “inflamed” to participate in my yoga therapy session (which in this case, included supported restorative postures, breathing practices, and other movements that could potentially increase circulation and decrease stress throughout the body). Yet there I stood, with a thoroughly awkward and dumbfounded expression. So I may not be a nutritionist, but apparently whoever you work with is not doing their job. Or maybe it’s your sponsorships. Whichever it is, it’s not helping.
Check it out…below is the list of ingredients in Muscle Milk: Can you pronounce half the ingredients on this long list? Me neither. I googled a few and came up chemically confused. One thing I did discover is that the UK requires products containing Yellow #5 (found in the Banana Creme Muscle Milk) to print a warning on the label: “May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” Well that’s just awkward!You can read more about this here. If you’re curiosity about “tips on reading ingredient lists” has not been satiated, check out our blog on tips for reading labels and ingredients.
Just because you eat an item of food that is nutritious by nature, does not mean that in fact you absorb these nutrients? There are other factors that can influence the absorption of nutrients. This was a big eye-opener for me. I figured if I drank my milk, I would absorb its calcium. And voila, strong bones!
Yet what most nutrition education fails to mention is that in order to absorb calcium, our body needs to have a healthy pH level. If we’re eating acidic foods and our body ends up in an acidic state, called acidosis (think: inflammation, dehydration and degeneration at the cellular level), we can’t even absorb the calcium we consume. In fact, because your body needs calcium, it will pull this mineral from your bones. Ya, that’s kinda creepy. Your body is literally sucking the life out of you like a vampire. Eeek!
Yep, how you move your body, and the position each joint in relation to your other joints and to the ground – on a daily basis – influences your bone density. Crazy balls. Or in this case, crazy dense balls (or maybe brittle, but I’m hoping for dense). Biomechanist, Katy Bowman is a great resource to learn more about this area. Here is a post to get you started. All you body nerds, this one is for you!
You know I love talking, thinking and being positive. Yet there’s no way around this one. The American diet is acidic. It’s downright bad for you. Don’t get me wrong, if you have the choice between 1) an American breakfast at Denny’s of bacon, eggs, toast, jam, coffee, and orange juice, or 2) no food at all. Option 1 is the way to go. Any food is better than none if you’re talking about survival.
In most cases, we’re not. We’re talking about health, longevity, athletic performance, quality of life, and happiness.
And dang America, you really messed up with this one. Now the majority of fast food joints, breakfast diners, coffee shops, and restaurants in America thrive off the acidic diet.
Like everybody and their dog (literally), I grew up drinking a glass of milk every night at dinner. My dad would even give me 25 cents to buy milk at school. And yes, I am 6’0″…where does that height come from? Milk? Genetics? Nutrition? Environment? Who knows – I’m guessing it’s a variety of factors.
Let’s be honest, the majority of cheese sold in the U.S. is processed. In fact, some of it can’t even legally be called cheese. No joke. Check out the Moral of the Story section below for more info there. Here’s a couple fun finds via Fooducate.com:
• The most popular processed cheese in the US is “American Cheese” although there is no one definition for that term. In most people’s minds, the term has come to mean a smooth, mild flavored cheese.
• Processed cheese was invented over 100 years ago in Switzerland, but it took an American, James L. Kraft, to manufacture the first commercially available sliced processed cheese, just after World War 2.
• Kraft Singles, a product introduced in 1947 by James L. Kraft, was an instant hit and went on to become an American legend.”
I’m a stubborn kid (can you tell?). It took some time for me to slow down and take the time to be willing to listen to my body. I started by cutting out dairy for a couple weeks. No cheese, yogurt, milk, creamer, nada. How did I feel after my no-dairy time? Heaps better. My joints didn’t ache (yes, they were always aching, especially my overused hips, shoulders and fingers). My stomach didn’t bloat up and cramp. Who knew! I felt so good I kept dairy out of my diet. Since then, anytime I have ice cream, certain cheeses, or other dairy goods, I experience the not-so-welcoming consequences.
Here’s the thing. As Dr. Hyman mentions in his article, we all might react differently when consuming dairy. We may notice an immediate difference or perhaps we opt for a change to improve the longevity of our health. Relevant to our longterm health, here is an informative article on the influences of consuming too much dairy protein (think: inflammation, cancer risks, digestion issues, skin problems, etc).
- 75% of people (globally) are lactose intolerant (genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products). I recommend going dairy-free for a couple weeks to observe how you respond with / without it.
- For athletes, taking out dairy appears to be a logical option to decrease inflammation and increase recovery time between training.
- If you consume dairy, opt for local, unpasteurized products. I also find goat and sheep products, like goat cheese and feta cheese, easier on the stomach.
- Not all cheese is created equal. Not all cheese is even real cheese. “By the FDA’s standards, Kraft isn’t permitted to refer to Singles as “cheese” because this word indicates that a product is made with at least 51 percent real cheese. This is why the label reads “pasteurized prepared cheese product.” By the way, Kraft Singles was “the first food to receive the new “Kids Eat Right” label — a stamp of approval designed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to help families make healthier decisions in the grocery store.” Is it just me or is this a wee bit sketchy??
If you really want dairy, how can we get back to drinking our great-great-granny’s version?
There are some farms and stores out there that are stickin’ to their guns, creating and selling only unpasteurized, raw milk and cheese. In Orange County, we found Fermentation Farm. We also recommend checking out local farmer’s markets. Do you have your own favorite places to find raw, unpasteurized dairy? Share in the comments below!
PS: Back to the Muscle Milk Organic option…while this option is better than the original, it is still super processed dairy and a weee sketchy in my opinion: acidic qualities, “natural” flavors.