Why We Gave Up the Cow

Imagine, if you will, a pack of wolves chasing down a cow. They lay in wait in the bushes, stalking their prey. They set up their pack so as to gain the best advantage. They bolt after her, the chase begins. They bring her down and, instead of breaking her neck or ripping her jugular, they pin her down… take turns sucking on her udders? As completely absurd as this is, humans readily acknowledge that they’re the only animals that drink another animal’s milk.  But most of our kind love milk, butter, yogurt, cheese and a variety of goods from another animal’s breastmilk.  Our personal belief is that not only is it unnatural, but that the full scope of health affects of non newborns drinking milk are not always doing a body good.

In the interest of giving you full background, rejecting dairy is what led us to the Paleo Diet and not the other way around. With our first two boys, Stacy noticed that consuming dairy resulted in our babies having very bad gas or colic (another name for “intestinal distress that makes your baby cry for hours” p.s. it’s  not normal and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you “it’ll go away in time”). Once Stacy stopped eating and drinking all dairy products while nursing our older boys, colic disappeared. So, on the eve of having our third baby, Stacy was researching dairy free recipes and discovered Paleo.  We thought, “neither of us have a problems with grains – but, all this stuff makes sense, let’s give it a try.”  Little did we know how much grains were also a huge problem in our lives.

But, the Paleo/Primal/Archevore community are all (mostly) on the same page about grains.  The debate heats up in the Paleo community over dairy products (recent Ancestral Health Symposium Tweets indicate the debate rages on).   But the logic for us is pretty simple: if we take our cues about nutrition from how our bodies react, the fact that cow’s milk is one of the most problematic ingested foods for breastfed babies tells us to steer clear. There’s probably some staggering statistic about how quickly the soy and cow protein allergies are growing (as we increase our consumption) if you don’t take our word for it. Plus, for us personally we also noticed every single person in this house having a reaction to dairy on their skin, from acne, eczema and baby acne – all disappear without dairy in our diet.

Cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat milk, all of it is made for the babies of that species. Those species, if you’ve noticed, are all ruminant animals. They’re lives consist of eating grass and other plants (although modern cultivation methods will actually include a lot of grain eating as well). Your primate life has nothing in common with those animals, other than needing their ability to break down that plant material into soluable vitamins and minerals through our carnivorous consumption. It only stands to reason that the milk they’d feed their babies would be specifically evolved for the gut of a future ruminant newborns and not compatible with your natural diet and gut.

Are you a newborn cow?  No, so my layman’s theory: there are bovine proteins in your yogurt that are indigestible. There are sugars in there that have the potential to devastate you and are already doing so to our population. Lactose is a sugar, after all. Dairy triggers your brain into an opiate like response, just like human newborn milk triggers such feelings for our babies to soothe them, comfort them and make them fat and healthy as quickly as possible.

The other aspect to consider is that milk is for babies. You will never see a fully grown wild animal suckling. It does not happen. Once a certain level of maturity is attained, animals wean. You yourself have an instinct that causes you to be repulsed by adults and even older children nursing. Remember watching Game of Thrones? Consider, perhaps, that it’s maybe a biological drive to prevent the injestion of breastmilk because it becomes a health hazard to continue to drink it as an adult?

Milk is a food designed by evolution to transform tiny babies into big creatures that can walk and run from their predators. Logical - it’s sugary, caloric and fatty. This is probably not news to you.  But, you know what else promotes growth? Growth hormones. Breastmilk has natural growth hormones which stimulates growth in a newborn. Commercial dairy has an even more concentrated volume of growth hormones, with the addition of rBGH (many negative associated health consequences). What then, might happen if a non-newborn is consuming breastmilk, from another species?  How about child and adult obesity.  You know what else loves growth hormones and sugar? Cancer cells. Cancer loves milk.

For all the concerns we have with milk in this house, we’re hard pressed to find reasons why we should consume it.  Some people insist milk is needed in order to get calcium. However, calcium is heavily represented in many other foods that we eat in our home – such as greens, nuts and fish. For our family, who hasn’t had any dairy or “calcium fortified” foods in over a year, our calcium levels and our blood tests baffle doctors. We’re able to absorb the dense nutrients from natural sources better when our body isn’t fighting with foods unnatural to our biology.

The problem, from what it seems by people’s immediate response to Paleo as ”but I LOVE cheese!”, is that milk has become such a culinary crutch for people that they cannot imagine eating without it. Think of all the things you make (or used to) to which you add cheese. We find that now we’ve made the switch, we find tools like herbs and spices effective and flavorful.  Unfortunately, we encounter countless “Paleo” and “Primal” recipes based on cheese, cream or butter.  It’s our one disappoint when lurking on Chowstalker: realizing the item we’re frothing at the mouth for isn’t compatible with our diet afterall.

Yes, it’s our own theories (we’re parents, not scientiets or nutritionists).  But, as parents that’s what we base it all on – what optimizes our family?  Figure it out, follow through as best we can.  Once we removed dairy from our diets, we were able to link our own discomfort (and skin reactions, HELLO acne) mimiced those of our colicy babies, our guts were just so used to it we didn’t scream for hours on end.  The answer was clear to us; we began a permanent avoidance of dairy products entirely over a year ago. We hope by sharing our reasons it helps you if you’re on the fence or, alternatively, gives you a list of reasons you can readily reject in favor of making a nice cheese plate or enjoying a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

The reality is, of course, that in extreme moderation there’s no lasting consequence to having a slice of stilton once in a while. But it’s important to put milk in the perspective of the Paleo philosophy: what does your body naturally want to eat? What does it easily process? Why is this a food for humans?  We can’t find an answer for non-human breastmilk (i.e. dairy) and that includes (sadly) butter, ghee, cheese, and even raw milk for our family.

About Stacy

Stacy Toth has written 340 post in this blog.

Stacy is the matriarch of the Paleo Parents family. After beginning a paleo diet and founding PaleoParents.com in 2010, she lost 135 pounds and found health and happiness for the whole family. The following three years have been a progressive journey with a mission to educate people about nourishing their bodies by eating real foods. Stacy can be found on all forms of social media as @PaleoParents as well as the top-rated The Paleo View Podcast and her two cookbooks, Eat Like a Dinosaur and Beyond Bacon.