Got Milk? A Naturopathic Perspective

kali's picture

My colleague, Alda, wrote a great post on dairy consumption from a TCM perspective this week. To pair with this, I've done my own dairy-rundown from the naturopathic perspective. Here it goes:


Recently in the states, the USDA replaced their traditional Food Pyramid with “MyPlate guide,” in an attempt to make suggestions for healthy eating to Americans that make practical sense (who eats off of pyramids anyway?). In response to their suggestion that a plate should be divided into vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins and have an accompanying dairy serving, Harvard School Of Public Health created their own version of MyPlate, called the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate which leaves out the dairy.


Still with me?


Dairy has always been a hotly debated topic in the nutrition world – mainly because some of the literature suggests it can benefit patients, and other suggests it is harmful. Some critics would argue that much of the pro-dairy research has been funded by the dairy industry (and is thus severely biased), but it can be difficult to tease out what’s high quality and what isn’t.


Since food lobbyists did not influence the new Harvard Healthy Eating Plate, its layout is a little different than the federally-funded USDA MyPlate. The Harvard Healthy Plate shows a similar breakdown of veggies, fruits, grains and proteins on the plate, but doesn’t reserve a spot for dairy – for the reasoning that “…high intake can increase the risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer.”  They caution about the high amounts of saturated fats in dairy, and suggest that calcium can be obtained in sufficient amounts from collards, bok choy, fortified soy milk, baked beans and high quality supplements. I agree with the idea that dairy products should not be a part of every single meal, for several reasons, and will suggest that the quality of the dairy you choose is extremely important. My TCM colleague, Alda, mentioned that from a TCM perspective dairy is great for some patients and not great for many others. I tend to agree – but also, even if dairy is good for your constitution I think it should still be consumed in moderation.


Here are some of the reasons I don’t think you should consume dairy with every meal, whether or not it’s good for your constitution:


1. dairy is a highly insulinemic food (ie. it raises insulin production, without raising blood glucose levels, thus contributing to the development of insulin resistance) 

2. dairy is acid-forming (when you digest dairy, acidic byproducts are formed, which must be balanced with alkaline minerals pulled from storage areas in the body such as the bones; the more dairy you consume, the more you tip the cellular environment toward acidity)

3. dairy is inflammatory (the sugar and proteins in dairy activate a systemic immune system response; in moderation, this inflammation is manageable but dairy with every meal will result in chronic systemic inflammation. People with dairy sensitivity/allergy will produce an even stronger inflammatory response)

4. full-fat and especially commercially-produced dairy is full of hormones and pharmaceutical medications (genetically engineered growth factor, antibiotics.. everything injected into that cow makes its way into your meat dairy products)

5. studies link dairy to cancer development, and increased morbidity and mortality in cancer patients


For many of my patients, a bit of dairy in moderation is absolutely ok. High quality dairy from organically fed, pasture-raised animals (cow, sheep or goat), is an excellent protein source for patients who tolerate it. If you don’t have a sensitivity, intolerance or allergy to dairy, following our 80:20 guide and consuming dairy no more than a few times a week is reasonable. 


For those who are sensitive, there are other ways to get dairy benefits through alternate foods. I often coach dairy-free patients on calcium intake and the required co-nutrients for optimal absorption, as well as healthy fat consumption and how to get high quality protein daily. 


If you suspect you’re dairy sensitive but have never been tested, you should call for a free 15-minute consult with us – I’ll help you determine the most appropriate test method and help you tailor your diet to accommodate.



In health,


Dr. Kali MacIsaac HBSc, ND

Naturopathic Doctor



Got Milk? A Naturopathic Perspective