Simply put: cow milk is for cows, goat milk is for goats, and human milk is for humans. Every species produces milk specific to its own species’ needs and digestive capabilities. And every species stops drinking its own milk after infancy.
Not only do we drink other animals’ milk but we are lead to believe from an early age: “Milk—It does a Body Good!” And yet, every day I see patients with profound and wide-ranging ill effects from consuming any and all dairy products in any quantity whatsoever. As such, ZERO dairy is the only amount of dairy that is fit for human consumption. Almond, soy and rice milks are very good substitutes.
This article is going to focus on dairy and its role in various medical conditions that may lead to or worsen pelvic pain. No matter the origin, chronic musculo-skeletal imbalances can lead to organ dysfunction and chronic organ dysfunction can certainly lead to musculo-skeletal imbalances.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome-- Chronic Constipation
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common catch-all diagnosis for alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea with accompanying cramping and pain. Stress is often the default cause given to IBS. But while it can definitely play a role, stress does not cause problems alone. Rather, it exacerbates pre-existing ones. Stress plus the pathogens introduced to the gut from dairy can lead to IBS.
Dairy is a known allergen that can cause constipation, especially in children (1). You can easily do an Immunoglobulin E (IgE) blood test to check for food allergies, like to dairy. Yet, in many instances, patients have brought me their allergy tests showing no IgE response to dairy. Puzzled, I did some more research. IgE is the most likely or common immune response from our body to an allergen. But it is by no means the only response. In fact, an allergy to cow milk showing up as constipation may not even be mediated by IgE (2), revealing a less than complete picture painted by those tests.
Sixty percent of the protein content in dairy is casein, which when introduced to our digestive system becomes Beta-Casomorphine (BCM). Casein is used to make glue. Ever wonder why the logo used for Elmer’s Glue is a cow? Casein. Now notice the second part to that word: “morphine.” Just like opiate drugs, BCM can exert a numbing and paralyzing effect on our intestinal motility (3), and an analgesic and addictive response in our brain and nervous system compelling us to want more. Casein can also trigger a histamine response (4) in our intestines leading to more inflammation and irritation which can lead to more constipation.
Another aspect of dairy that can lead to chronic constipation is in its bacteria load. Pasteurization occurs at 162 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. Yet, to sterilize water we are advised to boil it at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for several minutes. There are bacteria that can survive pasteurization. In fact, the United States allows for a somatic cell count (SCC) of up to 750,000 per ml (5). Whether those cells are active pathogens like Mycobacterium Avium Subspecies Paratuberculosis (MAP) (6) or E. Coli (7), or non-active due to effective pasteurization, our immune system still recognizes them as foreign and kicks in to gear with an inflammatory response.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
The Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) has historically placed the main focus of each meal on animal protein, and doesn’t even take into account the glass of milk on the side, the cheese along with the protein, or the ice cream for dessert. Severe inflammatory bowel diseases like Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease are linked to the over-consumption of animal fats and the under-consumption of fiber (8), which is absent in all forms of animal protein but abundantly present in beans, peas and lentils—superior sources clean protein. Such diets can even compromise our intestinal clearance of bacteria, mentioned earlier, leading to further inflammation (9).
One of the simplest ways to link food choice and the pelvis is that everything flows downhill, especially when it comes to hormones, urogenital and reproductive health. While many of our environmental pollutants can exert an adverse effect higher up the endocrine system chain at the pituitary level, the first place I tend to look for culprits is diet.
Cows are fed and bred to lactate throughout their pregnancy with particular elevated milk production in the latter half of gestation. As such, even regardless of whether they are injected with exogenous hormones, the cows’ own hormones can show up in its milk. The dairy products you consume account for 60-70% of all dietary sources of estrogen (10) with at least 6 different hormones also being found in milk, including progesterone, and testosterone (11). One way we excrete hormones from the body is through stool. Studies show that there is a direct correlation between fecal weight and fecal estrogen content (12). And with the constipating effect of dairy, we now can see yet another link between chronic digestion dysfunction and hormone dysregulation.
For men, this undue influence on their endocrine function can show up as erectile dysfunction (also an indication of atherosclerosis aided by the cholesterol in dairy), low sperm counts and ejaculatory volume (13), and testicular and prostate cancers (14). For women, this can show up as irregular and painful periods, endometriosis (15), Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (16), and breast and ovarian cancer (17).
Where to begin
Accepting the truth about dairy flies in the face of American identity and all we have been conditioned to believe since we were kids about this primary food in the SAD. But don’t believe me and the research I have done or the results I have seen with patients. Believe yourself. Come off dairy, all forms completely. Read labels. Ask questions in restaurants. Go dairy-free for at least 4 weeks and then if you are still curious, introduce it and only it in a meal and see how you feel the next couple of days. Most of my patients will immediately feel poorly—stomach aches, sinus congestion, knee pain, etc. For some, it may only clog the arteries of their heart or disrupt their menstrual cycle, both of which take time to reveal themselves. Let the decision to cut out dairy come from your own personal experience guided by critical thinking, accurate scientific research, and a willingness to experiment with self-awareness and truth.
I am always happy to help.
- J Pediatr. 1995 Jan;126(1):34-9. Chronic constipation as a symptom of cow milk allergy. Iacono G, Carroccio A, Cavataio F, Montalto G, Cantarero MD, Notarbartolo A.
- J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010 Aug;51(2):171-6. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e3181cd2653. Cow's-milk-free diet as a therapeutic option in childhood chronic constipation. Irastorza I, Ibañez B, Delgado-Sanzonetti L, Maruri N, Vitoria JC.
- Neuropeptides. 2000 Jun-Aug;34(3-4):181-6. Effect of opioid active therapeutics on the ascending reflex pathway in the rat ileum. Allescher HD, Storr M, Piller C, Brantl V, Schusdziarra V.
- Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 1992;97(2):115-20. A naturally occurring opioid peptide from cow's milk, beta-casomorphine-7, is a direct histamine releaser in man. Kurek M, Przybilla B, Hermann K, Ring J.
- Determining U.S. Milk Quality Using Bulk-tank Somatic Cell Counts, 2010. United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
- J Food Prot. 2010 Jul;73(7):1357-97. Assessment of food as a source of exposure to Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP). National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods.
- What Is the Current Milk Quality in the U.S.? Scott J. Wells, Stephen L. Ott. Centers for Epidemiology and Animal Health, USDA-APHIS-VS.
- Am J Gastroenterol. 2011 Apr;106(4):563-73. doi: 10.1038/ajg.2011.44. Dietary intake and risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease: a systematic review of the literature. Hou JK, Abraham B, El-Serag H.
- Dig Dis. 2014;32(4):389-94. doi: 10.1159/000358143. Epub 2014 Jun 23. Dietary clues to the pathogenesis of Crohn's disease. Pfeffer-Gik T, Levine A.
- Med Hypotheses. 2001 Oct;57(4):510-4. Is milk responsible for male reproductive disorders? Ganmaa D, Wang PY, Qin LQ, Hoshi K, Sato A.
- Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2012;29(5):770-9. doi: 10.1080/19440049.2011.653989. Epub 2012 Feb 14. Development of an LC-MS/MS method to quantify sex hormones in bovine milk and influence of pregnancy in their levels. Regal P, Cepeda A, Fente C.
- N Engl J Med. 1982 Dec 16;307(25):1542-7. Estrogen excretion patterns and plasma levels in vegetarian and omnivorous women. Goldin BR, Adlercreutz H, Gorbach SL, Warram JH, Dwyer JT, Swenson L, Woods MN.
- Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Feb;97(2):411-8. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.112.042432. Epub 2012 Dec 26. High dietary intake of saturated fat is associated with reduced semen quality among 701 young Danish men from the general population. Jensen TK, Heitmann BL, Jensen MB, Halldorsson TI, Andersson AM, Skakkebæk NE, Joensen UN, Lauritsen MP, Christiansen P, Dalgård C, Lassen TH, Jørgensen N.
- Med Hypotheses. 2003 May;60(5):724-30. The experience of Japan as a clue to the etiology of testicular and prostatic cancers. Ganmaa D, Li XM, Qin LQ, Wang PY, Takeda M, Sato A.
- Reprod Sci. 2014 Oct 29. pii: 1933719114556487. [Epub ahead of print] 17β-Estradiol and Lipopolysaccharide Additively Promote Pelvic Inflammation and Growth of Endometriosis. Khan KN, Kitajima M, Inoue T, Fujishita A, Nakashima M, Masuzaki H.
- Turk J Med Sci. 2014;44(5):781-6. Insulin-like growth factor 1, liver enzymes, and insulin resistance in patients with PCOS and hirsutism. Çakir E, Topaloğlu O, Çolak Bozkurt N, Karbek Bayraktar B, Güngüneş A, Sayki Arslan M, Öztürk Ünsal İ, Tutal E, Uçan B, Delıbaşi T.
- Med Hypotheses. 2003 Feb;60(2):268-75. The experience of Japan as a clue to the etiology of breast and ovarian cancers: relationship between death from both malignancies and dietary practices. Li XM, Ganmaa D, Sato A.