Milk – almost everyone drinks it at some point in their life. Milk is available in lots of forms, including goat, cow’s, and even donkey milk, and can be whole, fat-free, or anything in between. Adverts suggest that milk is very good for you, but an ever-growing number of people are lactose intolerant, and cannot digest the sugars found in milk. So, is milk really healthy? Let’s see!
I used to drink a lot of cow’s milk. In fact, I was brought up on having milk and cereal for breakfast, milk and an apple for a snack, and milk and cookies for dessert. I was very much a milk-loving girl.
As a child, I thought nothing about the milk I drank, and it didn’t seem to do me any harm at all. In fact, other than accidentally drinking some milk that had curdled one summer, I remember enjoying milk a lot; it was just something we all drank.
Fast forward to around ten years ago, and I started feeling unwell and, at the time, couldn’t work out why. I had an upset stomach a lot of the time, loose stools, a weird rash on my upper chest and neck, and often had a blocked nose too. This often went on for weeks at a time.
After several visits to various doctors, I finally had an allergy screening, and it turned out I was lactose intolerant. Lactose is one of the sugars found in milk. Because I couldn’t digest is properly, my body had a mild but noticeable allergic reaction, and that was the cause of my symptoms.
To remedy this problem, I made the switch to lactose-free milk, and started to feel better almost immediately. Within just a week, almost all my symptoms had disappeared, and within a month, they were gone completely.
This got me thinking about milk in general. After all, lactose-free milk helped me to get rid of my symptoms, but milk contains more than just lactose, and so maybe it wasn’t as healthy as I had thought.
I did some reading and discovered that lots of people have problems with milk and lactose, and there were health concerns about all types of milk – whether it contained lactose or not.
Milk has to be pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria, and that kills a lot of the good parts of milk too. It destroys the enzymes that make digesting lactose possible, which is why so many people are lactose intolerant. It also kills many of the vitamins naturally found in milk. In addition, to increase milk yield, most dairy cows are treated with hormones that can end up in the milk we drink, and so too do the antibiotics used to treat unwell cows.
Also, did you know that humans are the only mammals who drink another animal’s milk? And animals who drink milk only do so when they are babies, and not when they are adults. It made no sense to me to drink cow’s milk now I was a fully-grown human woman!
All in all, this sounded like a good reason to give up drinking cow’s milk. So, seven years ago, that’s what I did!
At first, this was not easy because I had the habit of drinking milk. But, as I looked for and found lots of non-dairy milk alternatives, it got much easier. I also stopped eating cereals and started drinking my coffee black, so I naturally needed less milk anyway.
Seven years later, I’m happy to report I am still of the cow’s milk and don’t miss it at all. I’ve got used to using rice milk, almond milk, and soya milk instead, and even then, don’t use much of these non-dairy milk substitutes.
As for things like calcium, protein, and vitamin D – the things that most people drink milk for, I’ve found lots of equally available alternatives to meet these nutritional needs.
I think giving up milk is a good idea for most people, and that cow’s milk doesn’t really have much of a part to play in a healthy diet. You can read more about what does and doesn’t constitute good nutrition in my article Nutrition Facts – A Practical Guide About Nutrition.