The Dangers of Hormones in Milk
It’s easy to take that glass of milk on the breakfast table for granted. Most mothers always remind their children to drink their milk before going to school. Most of us have grown up with the idea that milk is essential for our bodies, haven’t we? In some belief patterns, milk is even considered a cleansing liquid, known for its purity.
But things have changed, and it is important for all of us to know the reality of that innocuous-looking white liquid that we take for granted. The fact is that the milk of today is disrupting our health and that of our growing future generation.
Milk – Today
We all know, milk is no longer processed the same way it once was. But do we really understand the inherent dangers?”
Gone are the days when the milkman would drop off fresh bottles of milk at the doorstep and you knew they were from happy cows, who were grass-fed, well-exercised and – well, simply the way nature made them to be. Normal.
But, we all know, milk is no longer processed the same way it once was. But do we really understand the inherent dangers?
There are many other issues often raised with modern day milk intake. Selective breeding of dairy cattle, the use of drugs and hormones to generate greater milk yield per cow, issues with pasteurization and others have altered the quality of milk and raise questions about how healthy it really is for human consumption.
Some effects linked to milk intake:
- recurrent ear infections in children
- possible relation to low thyroid activity
- hormone related cancer
- food allergy and food sensitivity
A study showed a potentially disturbing issue to milk and its impact on the hormonal system. The modern dairy cow has been converted to a full time milk factory. It is not often talked about, but modern industrialized dairy cattle continue to produce milk throughout their pregnancy. This milk goes directly into the food supply and contains varying amounts of bovine estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are then directly absorbed by consumers.
Clinical Study on the Health Impact of Hormones in Milk
The researchers of this study wanted to see what impact these hormones were having on men and women so they enlisted seven men, five women, and six pre-pubertal children. The adult male and child participants in the study drank the equivalent of two 8 oz glasses of milk and had their urine and blood tested before drinking the milk and at multiple time points after milk intake.
The adult women in the study drank the same amount of milk (2 8oz servings) daily for 21 days beginning on the start of their menses. They were then followed for two more consecutive menstrual cycles to determine if female ovulation was impacted.
The results of the study were worrisome, especially for children. The adult male participants had significantly increased blood levels of all female hormones including estrogen and progesterone as well a sharp decline in serum testosterone. All the adults in the study as well as the children had increased levels of estrogen and progesterone and a suppression of their body’s own hormonal regulation of these same hormones.
According to the researchers, the levels of hormones could be especially problematic for children by delaying sexual maturation in young boys and increasing it in young girls. In addition, as discussed by the researchers, adults could theoretically see increased risk for hormone sensitive cancers including breast and prostate cancer. The lowered testosterone seen in men in this study raises a counterargument to the common belief that milk helps increase testosterone and improve body composition. (A February 2010 article in the journal Pediatric International (February 2010. Vol. 52 #1)
The benefits of milk include the facts that it is a source of protein, Vitamin D and calcium. Protein as well as vitamin D and calcium are positively associated directly or indirectly with testosterone among other hormones. It is easy to take a single study like this one and become alarmist. The truth is information such as this needs to be viewed in context.
The metabolic effect clinic has seen both benefits from and issues with dairy. Many men and women suffering from hormone related issues (PCOS, PMS, acne, prostate issues, etc) benefit from either reducing dairy intake or eliminating milk consumption altogether. We have also seen great health improvements in many after replacing refined starch and sugary foods with milk protein (i.e. replacing morning cereal with a whey protein meal replacement shake).
Given these seemingly contradictory pieces of information, both clinically and in studies what take homes can we offer related to the potential downside and obvious upside to dairy protein? Here are our suggestions:
- If you are eating large amounts of dairy foods in the form of daily milk intake, cheese, yogurts and other foods AND you are suffering from hormone related issues (acne, PCOS, PMS, prostate, etc), then it may be wise to reduce your milk intake, eliminate it for a brief period of time or find a permanent replacement for milk (see elimination diet advice below).
- When choosing dairy foods opt for organic or even raw milk products (available in some areas). These products have less of a chance of having issues.
- If organic dairy products are not an option, you may want to opt for lower fat milk since higher fat items concentrate fat soluble compounds like hormones. High fat milk contains more hormone.
- If you suspect dairy foods may be an issue do a diet elimination and challenge test. Eliminate all dairy foods for a period of 10 to 14 days or until symptoms improve. Then “challenge” the food by having 1 large serving of a dairy food. After this one meal challenge, once again avoid dairy foods for a period of 4 to 5 days looking for any worsening or return of symptoms. As an example, if you suffer from acne and milk elimination results in improvement, but the challenge causes a return or worsening of the condition you have a positive challenge and should decrease milk use, eliminate it altogether or at the very least consume with digestive enzymes.
Some Milk Alternatives
For those who would like to try to avoid milk or eliminate it for a short period of time here are the alternatives we recommend.
- unsweetened almond milk
- unsweetened coconut milk
- unsweetened soy milk (downside= a source of plant estrogens, possible thyroid disruption)
- unsweetened rice milk (downside= high in carbohydrates)
- almond and rice cheeses
- pea, hemp, rice, soy protein replacement shakes
While there are many beneficial aspects of dairy, there are also serious, potential concerns. Given the individual nature of metabolism we cannot and should not make generalized statements regarding foods as each person is unique. However, the fact that commercialized production of milk is causing serious health challenges is quite clear.
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