Dairy, it includes all things good in the world, like ice cream. But it is also unfortunately incredibly allergenic among other issues. So what are individuals with autoimmune disease and Multiple Sclerosis to do about dairy? As with many things, the consumption of dairy is a hotly debated topic in the autoimmune world. This is due to strong arguments for and against consuming certain amounts and types of dairy. People argue about dairy in all different stages, that consuming no dairy at all, to ghee to grass-fed, to aged cheese to all dairy on a regular basis is the way. So who is right? Is there one group that is right above all the others? Let’s take a deeper look.
First off, lets talk about the actual forms of dairy, because after all, it’s not all created equal. Raw grass-fed dairy is NOT the same as the skim milk you can buy at your local grocery store. One is a whole food and one is a processed food. Also, raw forms of dairy contain lactase, the enzyme your body needs to be able to digest lactose. The pasteurized and processed versions of dairy does not contain lactase, it gets destroyed in the pasteurization process. The reason why so many people are lactose intolerant, is due to the fact that they don’t produce their own lactase enzyme, so they can not digest lactose. So if you react to pasteurized dairy, you may be able to tolerate raw dairy. Food for thought!
The Good Dairy Argument
Many studies have shown benefits for the consumption of dairy, the full fat, grass-fed and fermented kind. Full fat dairy has been shown to protect against Metabolic syndrome and Cardiovascular disease. Fermented diary has been shown to protect against those two also, as well as Type II Diabetes. The Paleo Mom, Sarah Ballantyne, Ph.D. explains that full fat, grass fed dairy is “an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins and Conjugated Linoleic Acid, an anti-inflammatory and healing fat.” She also explains that dairy contains proteins that are extremely valuable, like ” glutathione (very important for reducing inflammation and protecting against oxidative stress) and whey (which may help prevent cancer).”
The ‘standard’ paleo diet allows for some forms of dairy fats to be included, like ghee, butter and some cases heavy cream, due to these positive effects listed above. However, the Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet eliminates dairy entirely. Lets examine why that may be.
The Bad Dairy Argument
As with the positives for dairy, the negatives for dairy are widely studied and discussed. The main negatives, or arguments against the consumption of dairy are that dairy creates a spike in blood sugar levels due to the high amount of sugar. This could lead to insulin-resistance. Lactose is negatively tolerated by many adults, around 25% of Caucasians are lactose intolerant and as many as 97% of Native Americans are lactose intolerant. If consuming raw dairy, this is mitigated due to it’s levels of lactase, the enzyme that helps to digest lactose.
One of the biggest arguments against dairy, in my opinion, especially for us autoimmune folk, is the fact that it contains protease inhibitors and protease inhibitors may contribute to leaky gut (when these proteins come in contact with our gut lining, they ‘open the door’ and toxins can get through, into our bloodstream, to create inflammation elsewhere), which is something I discussed last week when speaking about gluten. Dairy is also a gluten cross-reactor, which means that if you are sensitive in any way to gluten, you might react that same way to dairy. So, if you have an autoimmune condition, or poor gut health, dairy might not (probably isn’t) the right choice for you.
Dairy and Multiple Sclerosis
What does dairy have to do with MS, if anything? Besides being a gluten cross reactor and significantly impacting gut health (which by itself will compromise our systems) dairy can have an interesting impact on MSers bodies. Studies have shown that the protein butyrophilin that is present in cow’s milk can mimic part of the myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein or ‘MOG’ (I like the abbreviation much better). The ‘MOG’ is the part of the myelin that is thought to initiate the autoimmune reaction in Multiple Sclerosis. Butyrophilin has been shown to induce inflammation in the central nervous system of animals as well as stimulates specific T cell responses.
What are you to do?
That’s a lot of contradicting information I just gave you. Some camps are saying eat all the dairy! And some are saying run as fast as you can in the opposite direction! That seems to happen quite a bit, so is there a group that is more right than the others? As with most everything else, it will depend on your specific circumstance. What is right for you, might not be right for me, and vice versa. The answer is try different things out, see what makes you feel the best, that will lead you to the right answer.
My main suggestions are, if you have an autoimmune disease/MS, try giving up dairy for a bit and see how it makes you feel. It might not even make you feel all that much different. But all the research points to dairy not being beneficial for individuals that have an autoimmune condition, that’s usually good enough for me!
As always, if you’d like to connect further about this, or any topic, reach out! I’d love to chat!
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