By: Nathaniel Mead
Asked what single change in the American diet would produce the greatest health benefit, Washington, D.C-based pediatrician Russell Bunai, says, “Eliminating dairy products.”
Bunai has observed the effects of cow’s milk on the health of children and their families for more than two decades.
In the 1960’s, when he served as a missionary in Ghana, West Africa, Bunai noticed that certain diseases prevalent in areas where people ate dairy were absent in areas free of dairy consumption.
“At first I noticed that where people consumed milk products, asthma and allergic conditions were common. In contrast, I rarely saw asthma, hives, or other allergies in areas free from dairy consumption. Gradually it became clear that arthritis, appendicitis, and inflammatory bowel disease followed a similar pattern. Over the years, the list of diseases associated with dairy continued to lengthen.”
Bunai is not alone in believing that our health would be improved if we cut out dairy. Increasing numbers of researchers, physicians, nutritionists, and other health professionals have begun to see milk as a food we could do without.
(References to milk and dairy products in this article are to cow’s milk; there are far fewer studies of the milks of other animals.)
Perhaps the biggest health problem with cow’s milk arises from the proteins in it:
- Cow’s milk proteins damage the human immune system.
- Amino acids, the units that make up proteins, are building blocks for all living cells.
- When protein in our food is properly broken down by the digestive system into amino acids, it does no harm to the immune system.
- Some food proteins, however, are absorbed into the blood fully undigested, provoking an immune response. Repeated exposure to these proteins disrupts normal immune function and may eventually lead to disease.Cow’s milk contains many proteins that are poorly digested and harmful to the immune system. Fish and meat proteins are much less damaging, while plant proteins pose the least hazard. “When we lose our wellness,” Bunai says, “it is most often due to immune system damage and dysfunction. Most nutritionists and physicians focus only on the quantity of protein taken in, and ignore the pathogenic characteristics of the protein.”Removing dairy from the diet has been shown to shrink enlarged tonsils and adenoids, indicating relief for the immune system. Similarly, doctors experimenting with dairy-free diets often report a marked reduction in colds, flu, sinusitis, and ear infections.“Dairy is a tremendous mucus producer and a burden on the respiratory, digestive, and immune system,” says Christiane Northrup, a gynecologist based in Yarmouth, Maine. “If women eliminate dairy foods for an extended period and eat a balanced diet they suffer less from colds and sinus infections.” In fact, the list of health problems attributed to the immune-damaging, or antigenic, properties of dairy goes on:
Arthritis. Antigens in cow’s milk may also contribute to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. When antibody-antigen complexes (resulting from an immune response) are deposited in the joints, then pain, swelling, redness, and stiffness result. These complexes increase in arthritic people who eat dairy products, and the pain fades rapidly after patients eliminate dairy products from their diets. In a study published in Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, when people with rheumatoid arthritis fasted on water, fruit and vegetable juices, and tea for seven to ten days, their joint pain stiffness were greatly reduced. When they ate a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (including only milk and eggs as animal foods), the symptoms became aggravated and they remained ill.
Diabetes and Autoimmune Diseases. Consumption of cow’s milk has been associated with insulin-dependent diabetes. The milk protein bovine serum albumin (BSA) somehow leads to an autoimmune reaction aimed at the pancreas and ultimately to impairment of the pancreas’s ability to produce insulin. According to a 1992 report in The New England Journal of Medicine, all of 142 diabetic children studied had abnormally high levels of BSA antibodies. This research suggests that a combination of genetic predisposition and exposure to cow’s milk leads to juvenile diabetes.
If you or anyone in your family is experiencing health problems of almost any kind and dairy is a part of your diet, it makes sense to completely eliminate the dairy for at least a month and observe the results.
Author: Nathaniel Mead, who managed a herd of Jersey cows in the 1970’s, considers himself weaned. He is coauthor of: Udder Non-sense: Why Milk Is No Longer Required or Recommended, Avery Publishing Group, 1995.
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