I love cheese, and it was a daily staple in my diet for many years — especially since I was a vegetarian. It didn’t occur to me that unless you were allergic or lactose intolerant, cheese would be undesirable, until I learned to eat less cheese myself. I realized with less dairy in my diet I felt lighter and more energized. At one point, I even stopped eating dairy altogether, and surprisingly didn’t even miss it thanks to my arsenal of dairy free recipes.
Dairy is one of those foods that is controversial in the nutrition world. While it can be a good source of protein and fat, it has also been shown to trigger digestive issues which leads to a host of other health problems including acne, endometriosis, PMS, uterine fibroids, menopausal discomfort, sinus problems, earaches, and possibly cancer among them.
Increased levels of a component in dairy, known as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), has been linked to increased rates of breast and prostate cancer. Patients with prostate and breast cancer unarguably have increased levels of IGF-1 circulating in their blood. The theory is that eating dairy increases the levels of IGF-1 in the blood, which could be an early warning sign of these cancers. This is especially true for the breast tissue, which is sensitive to hormonal influences. In addition, eating dairy appears to reduce vitamin D, as an excess of calcium interferes with vitamin D production. Since vitamin D protects the prostate, lower levels of vitamin D could lead to prostate cancer.
If you choose to incorporate dairy into your diet, pay attention to how your body responds when you eat it. Do you feel tired and drained? Do you notice an increase in sinus problems? These and similar questions are important to consider, especially when dealing with cancer, since optimal immune function is necessary. It is also important to consider the type of dairy you consume. Goat or sheep dairy, along with products labeled hormone-free contain lower levels of IGF-1. As always, buying organic and/or raw (natural enzymes for digesting milk sugar are still present) is ideal.
If you would like to minimize or eliminate the dairy in your diet – and are a cancer patient, survivor, or family member – sign up for my next Healthy Habits class: “Dairy Free,” and learn how to prepare alternatives to the dairy treats you love and crave. Looking forward to seeing you!