Let’s set the record straight about one of the most controversial and misunderstood foods out there…dairy. How many years have you been hearing that dairy is a great source of calcium? Probably your entire life, right? We grew up learning that milk does the body good, helps us grow strong bones, and is a highly nutritional option (full of vitamin D and calcium) for our growing children. However, you may only know half of the story about dairy, which can end up being detrimental to your child’s health. The real question we all need to be answered is whether or not we should be feeding our family dairy on a daily basis, which we’ve heard for ages is the best thing for us. So, let’s bust all these dairy myths to help you determine if and how to remove dairy, for how long, what to replace it with, and how to reintroduce it mindfully.
What is Dairy, Actually?
Dairy refers to all milk-based products that come from mammals such as cattle, goats, sheep, buffalo, and even camel. This animal by-product is full of natural fats in the form of glycerides, proteins, sugars, vitamins, and minerals. The important thing to know is that there are two very different forms of dairy sold in your grocery store. One version can be detrimental to your child’s health, and the other can heal.
If there’s ‘good dairy’ why is it the first to be removed in most healing protocols?
The short of it is- it’s highly inflammatory. Most protocols aimed at reversing chronic illness, such as chronic and persistent eczema, start with removing dairy for at least some time. The Eczema Rescue Protocol it’s one of the first foundational steps in calming our kids’ itchy skin and reducing inflammation from the inside out. But don’t worry, it’s not forever. The ultimate goal is to be able to enjoy all things in moderation as eczema fades over time.
In my 10+ years as a pediatrician who is focused on permanent eczema transformation, I can say that about 60% of kids see improvement in eczema from removing dairy for just 4 weeks.
Why is eliminating dairy so successful?
Eczema, otherwise known as atopic dermatitis, is caused by a combination of genetics, immune dysregulation, and skin barrier dysfunction. Unfortunately, we can’t control our genetics. But what you can control is immune dysregulation. Eczema is an autoimmune condition resulting in elevated inflammatory cytokine levels, which are elevated by the presence of dairy in the diet. This is why the elimination of cow’s milk and milk products can often reduce inflammatory cytokines, resulting in a noticeable improvement in childhood eczema. This is one of the most effective ways to calm inflammation, so your child’s body can start to heal from the inside out.
What is the truth about ‘conventional dairy’?
We’ve been told for as long as we can remember that dairy is a great nutritional source of vitamins and minerals. But this is only partially true. Typical cow’s milk from conventionally and industrially raised cattle contains dozens of reproductive hormones, allergenic proteins, antibiotics, chemicals, inflammatory compounds, and growth factors (some of which are known to promote cancer). While humans are the only species that continue to drink milk after weaning, we have no biological requirement for this type of ‘nutritional food’. It’s important to remember that the milk we drink today is not what our ancestors drank. As we mentioned, there is a very big difference between conventionally produced dairy and grass-fed or organically produced dairy. Here is what the dairy council, the dairy industry, and our own governments forgot to mention when advertising that conventional dairy or ‘big dairy’ does a body good:
- Dairy cows often live in cramped, sunless, indoor, grassless stalls, which leads to the spread of illness.
- To prevent death, the animals are fed daily antibiotics
- Their feed is full of glyphosates (AKA Roundup, the weed killer)
- Ultra pasteurization kills all ‘good bacteria’.
- Recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is a synthetic (man-made) hormone that is used by dairy farmers to increase milk production.
- Ultra pasteurization makes dairy thinner, so there are additives like guar gum, carrageenan, polysorbate 80, mono, and diglycerides added to re-thicken
- Dairy is laden with the chemical nano-titanium dioxide to whiten it.
Growth hormones, like rBGH, have actually been banned in 50 countries for being linked to side effects like severe endocrine disruption and breast cancer development. However, these hormones are still being given to dairy cows in this country.
Additionally, to increase milk production, cows have been bred to produce higher levels of insulin-like growth factors, which is passed down to our babies through the dairy they consume. And because conventional dairy cows are pregnant for most of the time they are milked, they also have unnatural levels of progestins, estrogens, and other hormones in their milk.
What is the implication for our kids?
- Extreme decrease in the age of puberty, predominantly for female puberty
- Overuse of antibiotics in animals which is a significant source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that affects humans leads to infections that are difficult to treat and sometimes impossible to cure. This also leads to microbiome disturbances in a child’s gut and skin.
- Environmental effects such as GMO crops for animal feed and milk with weed-killer chemicals (glyphosate) in it
After taking a look behind the scenes, is conventional dairy really so nutritious? Is it worth the antibiotics, pesticide, herbicide, and hormone exposures? Is it worth the negative impact on the environment and on your child’s growing body? What about calcium and vitamin D? What about bone health? The main reason such a massive amount of calcium was recommended to kids and adults in the U.S. was to prevent osteoporosis, but these studies have been disproven and lacked evidence-based research. Additionally, drinking more milk during adolescence has not been shown to prevent bone fractures later in life.
And something you probably didn’t know is that calcium and vitamin D are used as synthetic vitamins that are actually added to your dairy. Conventionally raised dairy cows don’t actually produce either of these since they don’t see any sunshine, and their food is not grass. Where would they get their calcium or vitamin D from? But the great news is that you can get both of these vitamins from other foods or supplements without the potential negative consequences of conventional dairy foods.
What are the best alternatives?
Here are some yummy alternatives:
For calcium, eat this instead:
- Chia seeds
- Sesame seeds or tahini
- Bone broths
- Kale, collards, spinach, mustard greens
And can you believe…There is nearly 5 times more calcium in chia seeds than in cow milk. And nearly 8 times more calcium in sesame seeds than in cow milk! For vitamin D, sunshine and supplements can provide adequate intake at a far lower cost than fortified milk. But, keep in mind that this problem only relates to conventional dairy, not pasture-raised “organic” dairy.
What about ‘raw milk’?
Instead, drink high-quality dairy, which is pasture-raised, full fat, non-homogenized, and minimally processed. This is called raw milk, or real milk. Although it contains numerous bioactive components that can kill pathogens, prevent pathogen absorption across the intestinal wall, and strengthen the immune system, it is still not legally sold directly to consumers in many states. This is because the FDA warns that raw milk can contain a variety of disease-causing pathogens, as demonstrated by numerous scientific studies. These pathogens are present because the milk has not been pasteurized, which is what effectively kills raw milk pathogens. Pasteurization does kill the pathogenic or harmful microbes, but ultrapasteurization also kills the beneficial ones. Ultra-pasteurized conventional cow milk is often an empty food laden with synthetic vitamins, antibiotics, hormones, and herbicides, stripped of its nutrients, and bleached to be ultra white. Homogenization causes nutrient destruction, which actually changes the informational quality of the food. You can also choose alternative types of milk to help avoid negative symptoms from conventional cow dairy. For example, A2 beta-casein, the type of dairy found in sheep or goat milk, is much easier to tolerate and digest.
Lactose intolerance is actually quite common- about 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance looks like gas, belching, bloating, pain, cramping, or diarrhea. Also, casein and whey (proteins) intolerances can cause inflammation. This reaction occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly deems casein as a toxin and as a result, produces antibodies to protect the gut. It is the inflammation caused by the reactive proteins and the antibodies which result in symptoms such as:
- Sinus issues such as nasal congestion, sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing, or wheezing
- Skin reactions such as hives, a rash, or red, itchy, inflamed skin
What can be done to help my child?
Heads up: If you choose to remove dairy from your child’s diet for some time, talk to your doctor first. This information is not medical advice to diagnose or treat any medical condition in either yourself or others. Always consult your own physician for any medical issues that you or someone in your family may be having. That being said, here is the detailed process you can follow once you’ve made your informed decision to remove dairy…
Dairy & Eczema Protocol:
How to remove dairy:
- Slowly: wean dairy quantity day by day
- Cold turkey: just stop and never look back
- For weaning toddlers from a bottle after age 1- Dilute with water little by little over the course of the week
- What about breastfed babies?- Mom should eliminate it from her diet
If you are going to eliminate dairy, be mindful of the array of hidden dairy sources as well:
- Dairy milk
- Yogurt or Kefir
- Butter (and butter blends)
- Cheese (made with dairy)
- Frozen desserts (ice cream, ice cream cakes, sorbet, gelato)
- Whey protein powders
- Dehydrated coffee and hot chocolate powders
- “Cheesy” snacks like corn chips (believe it or not, ‘the cheese’ can actually be derived from dairy)
- Dairy milk chocolate (containing milk solids, skim milk powder, milk fat)
- Baked foods like cakes, biscuits, muffins, etc.
- Crackers (containing milk powder or butter flavor)
- Spice mixes (read the label- many contain whey powder as a thickener)
- Most processed foods will have a dairy-derived ingredient
- Deli meats (often use milk proteins as a binder)
- Protein powders (even when not listed as ‘whey’)
- Non-vegan soy cheeses (they often contain whey or casein proteins)
- Salad dressings containing butter or milk (creamy versions)
- Meals prepared in restaurants (butter, big time!)
How long should dairy be eliminated to see max effects?
What about dairy alternatives?
Looking to make your own?
Can I start this right away?
What if I remove dairy for some time and my child’s eczema starts to heal?
If your child is looking and feeling better, congratulations! You have a choice to make at this stage. You can continue on this dairy-free path (which is recommended for several more months), or you can begin the re-introduction of dairy.
Here are the rules of reintroduction:
- Make sure you are allowed the foods you are restarting per your allergist, pediatrician, or dermatologist. If there are trigger foods that are not allowed, do not restart them here.
- If your child was never diagnosed with an allergy to dairy or gluten, do the following steps:
- Observe for symptoms. You can use The Eczema Rescue Program soft signs questionnaire for a full list of which soft signs to look out for
- Reintroduce dairy first in this order: Goat Milk Products -> Sheep Milk Products -> Cow Milk Products
Only use this type of cow milk:
- PASTEURIZED- “100% grass-fed” or “pasture-raised”
- FULL FAT
- UNHOMOGENIZED or “cream line” (You can use the cream to make crem Fraiche or butter, or shake the bottle to distribute)
- Avoid ultrapasteurized or ultraheat treated
- Fermented to optimize probiotics and digestibility
- Organic- Meaning any extra feed was organic feed and they were not treated with antibiotics or hormones
- A2 Jersey Cows (better for dairy tolerance and digestion)
Follow this reintroduction schedule:
- Day 1 – Drink or eat Goat Milk products (milk, yogurt, kefir)
- Day 2 & 3 Observe
- Day 4 Drink or eat Goat Milk products (milk, yogurt, kefir)
- Day 5 & 6 Observe
- Day 7 Drink or eat Goat Milk products (milk, yogurt, kefir)
- Day 8+9 Observe
- Day 10 Drink or eat Sheep Milk products (milk, yogurt, kefir)
- Day 11 & 12 Observe
- Day 13 Drink or eat Sheep Milk Products (milk, yogurt, kefir)
- Day 14 & 15 Observe
- Day 16: Drink or eat Sheep Milk Products (milk, yogurt, kefir)
- Day 17 & 18: Observe
- Day 19: Drink or eat Cow Milk Products (milk, yogurt, kefir)
- Day 20 & 21 Observe
- Day 22: Drink or eat Cow Milk Products (milk, yogurt, kefir)
- Day 23 & 24 Observe
- Day 25: Drink or eat Cow Products (milk, yogurt, kefir)
- Day 26 & 27 Observe
This dairy detox results in internal and external healing for the entire body, even without the initial presence of eczema. I have led thousands of patients through this process over the last decade, and I cannot speak more highly of this process. You can literally watch your child’s skin and gut heal before your eyes.
Be sure to leave a comment below if you have tried or are considering trying this process so we can all support each other on our journey to rescue our children’s health!