Growing up in a U.S. American lifestyle it was quite common to see ads targeting the consumption of dairy, specifically milk. It was so prevalent that there was a huge campaign called “Got Milk?” (1993-2014) where various celebrities would be shown on TV and in magazines drinking a tall glass of milk resulting in a milk mustache. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) originally released their food pyramid in 1992-2005 which was designed to help give it’s citizens the guidelines to healthy eating. It recommended 2-3 servings of dairy daily (1 cup of milk, 1-1/2oz of natural cheese or 2oz of processed cheese). A refined “My Pyramid” (released in 2011) replaced the old Food Pyramid. Today, My Plate, which is the most current food recommendation system, also recommends 2-3 servings of dairy but what is classified as acceptable forms of dairy has changed such as including soy milk.
My Past Love Of Dairy
Considering how all these ad campaigns with their recommended daily food intakes were consistently being pushed, it was only natural for many of us to take the advice and implement it. I personally grew up on a great love for milk. One of my favorite memories as a toddler was sneaking into the refrigerator for my sliced cheese fix. I loved drinking pasteurized cow’s milk to the point it became an addiction. During my pre-teen years it was so bad I would have a bowl of ice cream and then “wash it down” with a glass of milk. In my teenage years, my consumption of milk increased to almost two gallons a week. When I went out in public, instead of carrying a bottle of water or juice, I would have a bottle of milk. I was known then to be a “milkaholic”. Looking back on it now, it seems so outrageous and ridiculous to me to the point where I just have to sit back and laugh. Yet, the joke was over when I realized how it was affecting my body after the lupus diagnosis.
Dairy During Autoimmune Diagnosis
When I was initially diagnosed with lupus (SLE) in 2006, I had never heard of the disease. At the time I was so in the dark about food consumption and its correlation to our health that I never thought to research what could help me have a healthier lifestyle. My doctors weren’t speaking on it and I didn’t know anyone who had the disease who was knowledgeable in that arena. So naturally, I just kept up with my eating habits which included consuming dairy daily.
I did not realize how pasteurized cow’s milk was affecting me and thus the lupus flare symptoms continued for years which involved being tired, losing hair, fevers, swelling and more. There were days I had pain so bad in my joints that it felt like screws were being screwed into the softest points in those areas throughout my body simultaneously. Truly, it was like being in a torture chamber of such.
Fed up with that mess, I found myself speaking with someone who had some good ideas on improving my health. It was the first time in my life I learned about how to eat properly and with a goal (such as reducing inflammation) besides eating just to satisfy hunger. It was then when I did further research and found cases of individuals who were diagnosed with lupus and other autoimmune diseases that spoke of how reducing/eliminating dairy helped to get rid of symptoms. It was in retrospect when I had stopped consuming pasteurized cow’s milk that I figured out what was going on.
My worries about dealing with my milk addiction led me to run across information on alternative milk sources such as rice, soy, coconut and almond. I decided to try them. The milk that resonated with me the most was coconut milk. It tasted the closest to pasteurized cow’s milk and therefore I decided to drink that. I then decided to try ice cream and yogurt. My taste buds still found coconut milk based foods to be the winner. After a while, my desire to drink glasses of milk dramatically reduced until I stopped entirely. At this rate, I only use coconut milk in recipes that require milk. I eat coconut milk based yogurts and I consume non-dairy, soy-free cheeses that will give pasteurized cow’s milk a run for it’s money. By this time, I had noticed those crazy lupus flares were long gone.
Reduction Of Symptoms
The presence of inflammation in my body is nearly non-existent to the point where I hardly feel like I have the lupus diagnosis. Waking up and being able to move around without having to rub joints and flex out the stiffness and pain is such a great feeling! I can be on my feet all day and not have those crazy joint pains. I no longer have the presence of mucus response in my mouth (which came when I consumed pasteurized cow’s milk) or an increase of such from my nose. When I had stopped consuming dairy for the first few months my blood drawn labs showed a significant reduction in flare activity to the point of remission. My quality of life has significantly improved and I am grateful that these dairy alternatives were available as a stepping stone to eliminating pasteurized cow’s dairy in my life.
What About Raw Milk?
Raw milk has been raved by it’s drinkers to be a better option than pasteurized cow’s milk. They say the taste and quality is better. I have read that most of its original nutrients and necessary enzymes for breaking down the milk are still present and therefore the body doesn’t have to struggle to break it down and benefit from it. It would be considered a whole food which is important for everyone to consume, but especially those of us who experience any sort of disease. However there are noted risks of consuming raw, unpasteurized milk especially when it comes to the spread of bacteria that can make you sick. This is one of the reasons many people simply stay away from it.
I have heard of individuals with autoimmune conditions who were able to consume raw, non-pasteurized cow’s milk and feel fine and those who do not. I personally do not have experience with this. If you have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition such as lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. and have been drinking raw milk instead of pasteurized cow’s milk then please leave a comment below or send an email if you have or have not noticed a change in your symptoms. At this point, I am so over consuming pasteurized cow’s milk to even try raw at this moment. To me it’s like a former alcoholic going back to drinking. Not interested.
Sometimes you will see that hindsight is better than foresight as times when you weren’t paying attention turned out to be valuable lessons in experience. I learned from my mistakes and past experiences of not paying attention to my food intake and body health correlation so I can do better now and in the future.
Remember to stay active in your self care!