Dr. Mark Hyman: Are You Still Consuming Dairy?

In this week's House Call, a reader asked, "If one is lactose intolerant, but has no other intolerance to dairy, (e.g. casein and whey) is it ok to consume dairy products while having Hashimoto's?"

By now, most of my readers probably know how I feel about dairy—it's nature's perfect food—but only if you're a calf. We have no biological requirement for this food, and yet, we've been told over and over again that dairy is a great source of calcium, milk makes healthy bones and we should drink it daily. I'm here to tell you that this is not true.

Based on research and my experience practicing medicine, I typically advise most of my patients to avoid dairy products completely.

Here are some facts to consider:

  • Countries with the lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.
  • Research shows that higher intakes of both calcium and dairy products may increase a man's risk of prostate cancer by 30 to 50 percent. Dairy consumption increases the body's level of insulin-like growth factor-1 (or IGF-1)—a known cancer promoter.
  • Calcium isn't as bone-protective as we thought. Studies of calcium supplementation have shown no benefit in reducing fracture risk. In fact, vitamin D appears to be much more important than calcium in preventing fractures.

These are just a few of the findings related to the harm that dairy can cause.

About 75 percent of the world's population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products—a problem known as lactose intolerance—which is what our reader is asking about.

I often find that symptoms of lactose intolerance are actually caused by difficulty digesting casein, the main protein found in milk, which is often used in other food products as a binding agent. Casein proteins can actually induce inflammation leading to things like eczema, ear infections, congestion and sinus problems. So, I highly recommend avoiding casein, no matter who you are.

Whey protein contains very little lactose, so there is a chance that someone with lactose intolerance might be able to have whey. However, I know some people who can tolerate whey protein and others who cannot, so you might want to test it out for yourself.

Overall, I recommend avoiding dairy, especially if you're lactose intolerant. Dairy consumption can lead to increased cancer risk, increased fracture risk, constipation, irritable bowel, bloating, gas, diarrhea, allergies, eczema and acne. None of that sounds good to me!

One dairy product that many people can tolerate is ghee. Ghee is simply clarified butter which has had all the water and milk solids removed from it. That means it can be consumed by those who are allergic to dairy. Again, some people do well with ghee and others do not. It really depends on the individual.

How to Test for Dairy Sensitivity

I recommend getting off of all dairy—except for grass-fed butter and ghee for three weeks. That means eliminating milk, cheese, yogurt, products with casein and ice cream to see if you feel better. You should notice improvements with your sinuses, post-nasal drip, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, energy and weight. Then start reintroducing dairy again and see how you feel. If you feel worse, you should try to give it up for life.

If you do consume dairy, always choose grass-fed. If you're going to consume butter or other dairy products, remember that grass-fed is best. The milk these cows produce has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1:1 which is optimal. Conventionally raised cows eat grains and other crops that make their fatty acid profiles more inflammatory. The milk they produce—and as a result the butter and cheese made from it—contains more omega-6 fats.

Personally, when I eat little to no dairy, I feel much, much better. Give it a shot, what's to lose? Besides all the miserable symptoms and a little weight, that is…

Show Comments ()

Three Outlandish Ideas to Cool the Planet

By Jeremy Deaton

Climate change is a big, ugly, unwieldy problem, and it's getting worse by the day. Emissions are rising. Ice is melting, and virtually no one is taking the carbon crisis as seriously as the issue demands. Countries need to radically overhaul their energy systems in just a few short decades, replacing coal, oil and gas with clean energy. Even if countries overcome the political obstacles necessary to meet that aim, they can expect heat waves, drought and storms unseen in the history of human civilization and enough flooding to submerge Miami Beach.

Keep reading... Show less

Those Little Produce Stickers? They’re a Big Waste Problem

By Dan Nosowitz

Those little produce stickers are ubiquitous fruits and vegetables everywhere. But, as CBC notes, they're actually a significant problem despite their small size.

Keep reading... Show less

Despite Trump’s Bluster, U.S. Officials and Scientists Maintain Climate Work with International Partners

Trump has loudly declared his intention to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, but, behind the tweets and the headlines, U.S. officials and scientists have carried on working with international partners to fight climate change, Reuters reported Wednesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Gina Loudon and administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Gage Skidmore

EPA Sued Over Failure to Release Correspondence With Heartland Institute

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being sued for its "unlawful and unreasonable delay" in responding to requests for information about the agency's communications with the Heartland Institute, according to a complaint by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The Heartland Institute is an Illinois-based think tank that rejects the science of man-made climate change and has received funding from the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry.

Keep reading... Show less
Trump Watch
Aerial photo of Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill. Wake Forest University Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability

Trump Administration Seeks to Gut Water Pollution Safeguards, Putting Communities at Risk

By Mary Anne Hitt

A Hollywood scriptwriter couldn't make this up. One day after new data revealed widespread toxic water contamination near coal ash disposal sites, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt announced a proposal to repeal the very 2015 EPA safeguards that had required this data to be tracked and released in the first place. Clean water is a basic human right that should never be treated as collateral damage on a corporate balance sheet, but that is exactly what is happening.

Keep reading... Show less
Impossible Foods

Impossible Burger Executive Grilled at Sustainable Foods Summit

An executive from a company selling a genetically engineered meat alternative faced tough questions at the Sustainable Foods Summit held in San Francisco at the end of January.

Keep reading... Show less
Elephant family in Kenya. Nzomo Victor / Flickr

Why Trump’s New Trophy Hunting Council Is a Disaster

By Elly Pepper

In early November—the same week the Trump administration announced its disastrous decision to allow elephant and lion trophy imports from Zimbabwe and Zambia—the administration decided to create an advisory committee, the International Wildlife Conservation Council (IWCC), to advise Trump on how to enhance trophy hunters' ability to hunt internationally.

Yup, that means the administration now has a council dedicated exclusively to promoting the killing of more imperiled species, like elephants and lions, for sport. The council's mandate includes counseling Trump on the economic, conservation, and anti-poaching benefits of trophy hunting, of which there are very few. Sadly, Trump doesn't want advice on the many drawbacks of trophy hunting.

Keep reading... Show less
A robot bee from a season three episode of Black Mirror on Netflix

Walmart Files Patent for Robot Bees

With the mass die-off of bees spelling trouble for agriculture, the world's largest retailer has filed patents for the use of "unmanned vehicles," or drones, to aid with pollination and crop production.

In U.S. Patent Office documents made public last week, Walmart has applied for six patents on drones designed to identify pest damage, spray pesticides and pollinate plants.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!