Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
28 Jan

The Definitive Guide to Dairy

I knew going in this was going to be a tricky one, because dairy, especially raw and/or fermented full-fat dairy, resides in a Primal gray area. The literature, the evolutionary reasoning, and the anecdotal reports all unanimously point to sugar, cereal grains and legumes, processed foods, and industrial vegetable oils as being net negatives on the human metabolic spectrum, but dairy is somewhat different. The other Neolithic foodstuffs we can rule out because the science condemning them is fairly concrete and they weren’t on the menu 20,000 years ago. Heck, they weren’t just off the menu; they were basically unrecognizable as food in the raw state. Dairy, on the other hand, is a relatively recent food chronologically, but it is most assuredly and obviously a viable nutritive source in its raw form. It’s full of highly bioavailable saturated fat, protein, and carbs – in equal portions. You could conceivably survive on milk alone (I wouldn’t recommend it, but you could technically do it; try doing the same with honey or raw millet). Milk is baby fuel. It’s literally meant to spur growth and enable a growing body. Our bodies definitely recognize dairy as food, even foreign bovine dairy. But is it good nutrition?

I don’t know. I’m not sure anyone really does, in fact, which is why I place dairy firmly in Primal limbo. And so, this Definitive Guide to Dairy may come across as being a bit less than definitive, but that’s only because I’m being honest: we simply don’t know whether dairy is suitable for regular human consumption. Whether you include or exclude it from your diet, the decision must be borne from a review of the available literature (Cordain v. Weston Price, for example) with an assessment of the potential risks and benefits, followed by a personal assessment of dairy’s effect on your body (try it, then strictly eliminate it, and note the differences). If you’ve been eating dairy your entire life, your body doesn’t know anything else. In that case, you’ll want to fully drop it for at least a month to get an accurate assessment. Remember – pre-Primal, you probably “felt fine” eating grains and sugar every day. You may have to take the same approach if you really want to figure out what dairy does to you.

You could listen to Dr. Loren Cordain and other strict paleos who adamantly oppose all forms of it. They offer a number of reasons why dairy doesn’t belong in the human diet – mainly lactose intolerance and casein intolerance. Yet, the truth is,  lactose (a form of sugar) and casein (a form of protein) are both found in human breast milk, so each of us – and certainly every one of our ancestors – was not only able to tolerate but to thrive for some time during infancy depending on both of these “questionable” molecules. That’s the main thing that makes eliminating dairy a little less clear cut than eliminating grains and legumes. But let’s look a little closer at the intolerance issue.

Lactose Intolerance

The widespread presence of lactose intolerants, who still make up a majority of the world’s inhabitants, is somewhat compelling evidence that maybe dairy isn’t the ideal food many assume it to be. Worldwide, we see that most people aren’t adapted to lactose consumption after age four, when many of us lose the ability to properly digest lactose (actually gene expression for the enzymes involved in lactose digestion are down-regulated). Nevertheless, it would appear that among many people, most of whom can trace ancestry back to herding cultures, some adaptation has taken place that allows them to continue to effectively digest lactose throughout their lives. I would never argue that a lactose intolerant person should drink milk; if it makes you feel like crap, don’t eat it! At the same time, though, if that same person were to complain about getting enough fat in his or her diet, and olive oil and coconut oil weren’t cutting it, I would suggest incorporating some cream, butter, or ghee. Little to (in the case of ghee) no lactose to speak of, and you’d be hard pressed to come up with a better all-purpose cooking fat. Lactose intolerance won’t kill you if you ignore it. It’s actually pretty impossible to ignore rumbling guts, explosive diarrhea, cramps, and bloating, so I doubt the truly lactose intolerant will miss it.

Casein Intolerance

Casein is the primary protein in dairy. It shares structural similarities with gluten, a highly problematic grain protein that can shred the intestinal lining and lead to severe auto-immune issues. Bad, bad stuff, and a big reason why grains are so unhealthy. (And if you’re still not convinced that grains are unhealthy read this (PDF).) Now, paleo opponents of dairy say casein wreaks similar havoc on our guts, and it’s true that gluten intolerance goes hand-in-hand with casein intolerance. But is casein a primary cause of leaky gut, or does it slip in only after gluten has opened the floodgates? Once a floodgate is opened, any protein can enter and cause issues. And after all, casein is the primary protein in human breast milk…


Cordain thinks milk leads to cancer, citing a fairly impressive array of studies that seem to suggest a link between milk consumption and various types of the disease. He fingers betacellulin, one of milk’s epidermal growth factors, as the causal agent. In the fetus and suckling newborn, betacellulin helps with growth and tissue differentiation. It’s completely essential for growing infants. In adults, Cordain says it passes cleanly into the gut, completely intact and free to enter circulation, where it can bind to receptors and enhance cancer cell growth. What Cordain doesn’t mention is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is also found in milk fat (especially raw, grass-fed milk, which is never included in any study) and has been shown to possess anti-cancer effects by inhibiting breast cancer cell growth and reducing the activation of insulin-like growth factor receptors (the same receptors Cordain identifies as sensitive to betacellulin). The studies Cordain cites as support of the milk-cancer connection are interesting, but their messages are muddled. As Chris Masterjohn points out, milk proteins mostly appear harmful only when separated from their natural fat. Low fat and skim milk appear to have associations with certain cancers (like prostate), while whole milk appears protective (of colorectal cancer) or neutral. It would be nice to see researchers take a good, long look at full-fat, pastured dairy’s effects on cancer rates. Conventional milk consumption probably isn’t advisable, but the jury’s still out on whether raw, pastured, whole milk is also problematic. We need more data.

Insulin Response

Milk is highly insulinogenic, more than most carbohydrate sources. We’re all aware of the dangers of chronically elevated insulin levels, but that’s also what makes milk such a popular post-workout recovery drink. If you’re insulin sensitive following a tough strength training session, milk’s insulin response can be an effective way to shuttle in protein and glycogen. I don’t do it myself, because I like to fast post-workout (and I don’t like the taste of regular milk) but some people swear by it. This is just speculation, but perhaps the potentially negative effects of milk are negated by the post-workout internal environment (starved muscles, depleted glycogen, insulin-sensitive tissue). Or perhaps those powerlifters are slowly but surely eroding their gut lining. To be on the safe side, maybe limit your milk drinking to immediately post-workout if you’re going to drink it at all.

There isn’t a whole lot of consensus on the subject. People with whom I normally agree on everything regarding nutrition have completely different takes on dairy. Some MDA forum goers report no ill effects, while others complain of joint pain and clogged sinuses from consuming even a single ounce of dairy. More than any other food, dairy seems to be entirely subjective. There is no “one size fits all” approach to it. To be on the safe side and to go “full Primal,” you would technically eliminate it completely, but that may be unnecessary for a relatively large number of people.

In a strange way, this entire blog is just a detailed, science-based map of my own personal journey augmented with anecdotes and experiments from others on similar, but slightly divergent, paths. Much of what I write is founded in science but based on my experiences, and this particular post is no different. When things are gray and murky and the science is unclear and far from definitive, I generally go with anecdote and personal, n=1 experimentation. Personally (and, in a way, this entire blog is just a detailed map of my own personal journey), regular dairy doesn’t generally agree with me. I don’t buy or drink milk. Having said that, I’m a big fan of heavy cream in my coffee and butter in my eggs (and on my steaks and vegetables). I like a nice thick yogurt sauce on lamb, and occasionally either Greek yogurt or fresh whipped cream with berries for dessert. I even have a bit of artisan cheese once in a while. It works for me. I don’t get cramps or gas, and I don’t get leaky gut symptoms from casein alone (gluten is another thing altogether). I’d say, on average, I consume at least one dairy item each day (usually butter), but that’s not a hard and fast rule.

As I mentioned in my book, I think there’s a continuum, a cascading scale of suitability when it comes to dairy. It’s not all created equal.

Raw, fermented, full-fat dairy is probably best.

Tons of traditional, fairly disease-free groups lived with dairy (just as tons of traditional, fairly disease-free groups lived without it), and they all included some form of fermented or cultured product. Cultured butter, yogurt, kefir, clotted milk, cheese – these are traditional ways of increasing shelf life, improving digestibility, and incorporating beneficial probiotics into the gut. Fermentation takes care of most of the lactose, and some posit that it may even positively alter the structure, function, and safety of casein.

Raw, high-fat dairy is next.

Raw butter and cream are minimally processed sources of good saturated fat. They’re free of most lactose and casein, and let’s face it: butter and cream just make everything taste better. If it’s essentially just pure, raw animal fat from grass-fed animals, without offensive levels of milk proteins and sugars, what’s not to enjoy? Ghee is another good choice, and though it technically isn’t raw, it is pure animal fat without a trace of lactose or casein.

Then raw milk.

I don’t advise regular consumption of raw milk, mind you, but if you can tolerate it (no stomach upset, no bloating, no gas, no intestinal issues) an occasional glass is probably OK as a sensible vice. Some farms will even supplement their raw milk with colostrum (the extra rich, “first run” milk that provides even more vitamins and nutrients), resulting in a lower-carb, higher-fat, higher-protein product. Look for that stuff if you’re thinking of buying raw milk.

Organic, hormone and antibiotic-free dairy (full fat, of course).

Bottom line: don’t consume non-organic dairy if you can help it. Avoid homogenized milk if you can, and try not to purchase pasteurized milk (organic or not) on a regular basis. If you’re out getting coffee or something, the regular half and half or heavy cream are fine, and Kerrygold makes a great pastured, pasteurized butter that’s available nationwide.

Other things to consider:

A2 Milk versus A1 Milk

Milk proteins are made up of different beta-caseins, which vary between cow breeds. There are two main categories of beta-casein: A1 and A2, each with different effects. A1 cows (Holsteins and Friesians) produce A1 beta-caseins, which release an opioid-like chemical upon digestion. This chemical, called beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM7), is a protein fragment that figures into the joint pains, digestive issues, and leaky gut symptoms that detractors typically blame on just casein. A2 cows (Jerseys and Gurnseys), on the other hand, produce A2 beta-casein, which has been vindicated. Raw, pastured milk tends to come from Jersey and Gurnsey cows; Holsteins and Friesians produce far more milk and so are used by conventional, factory dairy farmers. The Masai, for example, have A2 cattle.


Goat dairy is another option, with more fat (that’s never homogenized, even when pasteurized), less casein, less lactose, and fewer digestive issues. Structurally and nutritionally, goat milk is one of the closer corollaries to human breast milk, making it arguably more suitable for human consumption than cow’s milk.

In the end, is there a definitive stamp of Primal approval, or Primal disapproval? I just can’t go either way. Sometimes, the correct path is to admit that you simply don’t know. You can read all the blogs you want, pour over every comment, follow every link, and pontificate about every hunter-gatherer group on the planet, but if you don’t try things out for yourself – either by trying certain dairy products or by eliminating them and noting the effects – it’s all just speculation and hearsay. In the murky, milky world of dairy, it’s up to you to decide your ideal path.

Tell me about your experiences. Is dairy part of your Primal eating strategy? If so, what (butter, milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.) and how much?

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. For all fermentation questions see this:

    The Definitive Guide to Fermented Foods

    Mark Sisson wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • Mark,

      Thanks! I should have known you already adressed this in a previous post…

      pieter d wrote on January 28th, 2010
  2. I take in a lot of Dairy daily (primarily whole, organic milk, heavy cream, cheese, and greek yogurt)

    I have difficulty getting in enough calories as it is – I’d hate to see where I was without dairy in my diet.

    Jolly wrote on January 28th, 2010
  3. “In the murky, milky world of dairy…” Tee hee… Thanks for this Mark. Great post. I use raw cream, cultured butter, raw butter, and raw cheese. I also make my own creme fraise and sometimes yogurt.

    gilliebean wrote on January 28th, 2010
  4. I function really well on raw, full-fat dairy from pastured animals.

    And I’m a particular fan of fermented dairy: sour cream, yogurt, kefir, cheese!

    Those are definitely safer for the average person to eat.

    A TIP: When I can’t get my hands on raw milk, I don’t buy organic pastuerized milk at the store. I buy organic CREAM and water it down. Tastes like milk, but digests a WHOLE lot easier than pasteurized organic milk does.

    (Maybe that’ll help some of your readers out.)

    All the best,
    (AKA FoodRenegade)

    FoodRenegade wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • Watered-down cream tastes nothing like milk. It tastes like…. watered-down cream.

      The sugar and protein in milk definitely impart a flavor that is lost by simply drinking the milkfat. (Not that I have a problem with drinking watered-down cream, mind you.)

      Icarus wrote on January 30th, 2010
  5. I’ve been completely off milk (raw or otherwise) for years now, and don’t miss it. On rare occasion, I’ll have some cream in my coffee (although I hear coconut milk is so much tastier). I also eat some full fat Fage about once or twice month.

    The only dairy I get quite a bit of is cheese… and when I say quite a bit, I mean, I eat it every day, and always have (even pre-Primal). I’ve been meaning to experiment with a cheese-free existence, but a world without cheese might be a world I don’t want to live in. Of course, I think I said that about sourdough bread at one point as well… 😉

    BenevolentForce wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • Oh… and butter! I cook with butter nightly. Man, I love me some butter. I also love the faces my friends make when they see how much I use in the dinners I make them.

      Silly non-Groks!

      BenevolentForce wrote on January 28th, 2010
      • Please keep in mind that it’s important to buy organic butter. It can be one of the most chemical laden food if it’s not organic.

        Kishore wrote on January 28th, 2010
        • Thanks! Yeah, we are a strictly organic household. :)

          BenevolentForce wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • I hear you sister! My 10 year old asked me if I would give up cheese for life if I never had to clean the house or do laundry again. I choose cheese!

      Patti wrote on February 27th, 2011
  6. My history with dairy has been a weird adventure. At about age 40, for some unknown reason, I noticed my hips felt creaky when I walked, but only periodically. This went on for about 10 years until I decided to include a lot of yogurt in my diet.

    Soon I could hardly walk because of the pain and tightness in my hips. After some intensive research and experimentation I figured out it was the yogurt causing the problem.

    7 years later I started having the hip problems again so cut out all dairy and it cleared up for the most part.

    Enter MarksDailyApple. After about a year of no grains my hip pain totally cleared up. Recently, I cautiously ate some raw organic chedder cheese. No problem. I have since eaten other cheeses and still no problem. Haven’t tried yogurt yet.

    A few other things….while on my no dairy phase, I learned that most people do not understand that cheese and butter is dairy. I found that surprising.

    Also, a number of years ago I bought an African wood bowl that was used for storing some sort of fermented milk product. This bowl really stinks and no matter what I have tried, the smell just won’t go away. I don’t know why I have included this last bit of info…maybe it is a warning of some sort.

    Sharon wrote on January 28th, 2010
  7. What about rice milk? Is that acceptable?

    Michaell Crews wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • Rice milk is highly processed rice.

      Since rice is a grain, it’s not very primal. White rice is a highly starchy grain and seems to lack most of the antinutrients of other grains and so may be the least offensive of grains.

      But, it’s a grain. And highly processed.

      Ross wrote on January 28th, 2010
      • Is there a Rice Milk that is made of Brown Rice, or is that not very primal either? (I am Brand New to this site via ChuckyZ :) Need to amp up my game…and so here I am.)

        Amazing how much of this Primal Plan is similar to things I have done in the past.
        For me I have tended to take a few various plans and blend them into my own. Thanks CZ & to this site… I am sure to be on a Grand New Adventure!!!

        Wen wrote on July 11th, 2010
    • I used to drink rice milk some time ago when I gave up dairy experimentally. To presume to answer your question: Rice is a grain, so definitely NOT acceptable in the Primal/paleo scheme of things

      silverbenz wrote on January 28th, 2010
  8. I dig dairy. The cavefamily goes through 4-5 gallons of non homogenized cream-top milk a week. I’ve been trying to cut back, and convince the fam too as well but it’s been a slow process because we love it… a lot.

    I drank skim milk for years growing up (thanks Mom) and until this last summer I had been drinking 1 or 2% for about 10 years. I’ve never noticed any problems but like Mark said, I’ve never not had a large amount of dairy in my diet so I need to do some testing. That’s a good idea for some future blog posts I think.

    Caveman Sam wrote on January 28th, 2010
  9. Fage yogurt, lots of goat cheese, grass fed cream for my coffee. I no longer drink milk- not ready for raw yet. But goat cheese and how its made fits the bill for me.

    pjnoir wrote on January 28th, 2010
  10. The consumption of dairy is one of the most subjective eating experiences partly because it is a pure representation of the water and earth body constitution (Kapha) as explained in Ayurveda. If anybody consumes dairy and already has an aggravated Kapha then milk will surely cause discomfort and other GI problems.

    Bobby Fernandez wrote on January 28th, 2010
  11. I drink a glass of whole milk a day or with my protein shakes for the natural fat and protein.

    Michael W wrote on January 28th, 2010
  12. Well before I discovered the Primal diet, I had horrific colitis from eating the usual glop, and in my blind experimentation I discovered that cow’s-milk kefir was almost a total cure for the many symptoms. Some nights I had nothing but a bottle of kefir for dinner. I suspect my intestinal microbiome was thoroughly rebalanced for the better. Immediately I started losing fat and gaining energy, kicking off a chain reaction that ultimately led me to the Primal Blueprint.

    So I would especially recommend kefir to milk-tolerant people who are taking their first steps toward Primal health. These days I prefer coconut-milk kefir (with nuts and meat for protein), but the flavored cow’s-milk kefir was a crucial initial bridge to health for a carb junkie on his last legs like me.

    Timothy wrote on January 28th, 2010
  13. This might sound silly, but does anyone else here think there might be a relationship between those who are allergic to other animals (cats dogs, etc) and animal milk (goat/sheep/cow)?

    barbara wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • I have never heard of a correlation between the two before, but I have to live with it everyday. I have non-IgE mediated cow milk allergy and I am allergic to dogs, cats, horses and rabbits.

      Jacquelyn wrote on February 5th, 2010
  14. For those that only choose pasture raised meats, do you strive for the same standards with dairy? This was published 2 days ago – good timing!

    Uncle Herniation wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • I def do! I get raw milk and cream. I make yogurt and kefir most of the time but sometimes I buy it. I get raw cheese as well, most of the time. I would say I am on a 80/20 with dairy as well… :)

      Looking into making my own sour cream on a regular basis. I sued to but not of late.

      Tara tootie wrote on January 29th, 2010
  15. Solid! I’ve been looking for a thorough guide to dairy and the way it fits in Paleo / Primal diets for quite some time now.

    My understanding is that dairy is a more recent addition to our diets than grains or legumes (although not by much), and presumably, we have had less time for our bodies to acclimate to it. That being said, the consensus around these parts is that our diets are better off with dairy than with the others.

    Perhaps it’s true. Northern Europeans became tolerant of lactose in rather short order. Why couldn’t dairy be one of those foods that we may not be optimally evolved to consume, yet still by pure dumb luck offer a net benefit to our health?

    I am 100% Scandinavian and doubt that I am lactose intolerant. That being said, I rarely drink a glass of milk. I am quite a cheese fiend though, and will eat yogurt with fruit on occasion.

    Darrin wrote on January 28th, 2010
  16. I love, love, love milk and have always drank a lot of it. I have it on my cereal in the morning, as well as a glass with dinner and likely a glass with a snack as well.

    Problem is, I’ve begun to think recently that it does give me gas. I notice that I tend to burp a lot more when I have ice cream especially.

    But since milk is one of the three beverages I drink (I only ever drink water, milk and coffee) – I’m a little scared to give it up! Plus – doesn’t this put me in danger of not getting enough calcium?

    Plain Good Sense wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • Lactose intolerance is dose-dependent, so if you cut back your milk consumption a bit the gas problem may improve. Most people get enough calcium but have low vitamin D levels, which impairs the body’s ability to utilize calcium. A normal 25-OH vitamin D level is 30ng/ml, but an optimal level may be 50 or more. 2000-8000IU of vitamin D3 supplements per day may be needed to optimize vitamin D levels.


      Ed wrote on January 28th, 2010
      • I believe DR Hollick suggests vitamin D levels should be 80-120 to be normal so the high end supplementation is preferred. A 25 OH level above 65 eliminates cancer and most auto immune diseases. There are lectures on UCTV on the subject of vitamin D. I personally believe 5-10K is minimal and take 10K IUs per day and believe up to 30K is safe.

        Gordon wrote on January 28th, 2010
  17. All the folks who love milk may not realize it but they are probably addicted to the opioids in the casein. They are likely a significant factor in the increased cancer risk associated with milk consumption. Please see:

    Brantl V, Teschemacher H. A material with opioid activity in bovine milk and milk products. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 1979 Apr 30;306(3):301-4.

    and for a description of the factors in opioids that may increase cancer risk see:

    Hoggan, R. (1997). Considering wheat, rye, and barley proteins as aids to
    carcinogens. Medical Hypotheses. 49, 285-288.

    best wishes,
    Ron Hoggan, Ed. D.

    Ron Hoggan, Ed. D. wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • Why would opioids cause cancer? Antibiotics cause cancer and they are in commercial milk…grains cause cancer because they are full of mycotoxins and break down into sugars immediately and cancer eats sugar. I do not believe raw milk could cause cancer and I do not believe milk sugars are at all like grain sugars when they are metabolized. =And milk is not mycotoxic without antibiotics in it and I believe cancer is a candida overgrowth.

      Gordon wrote on January 28th, 2010
      • Grain also has anti-nutrients and many other factors that count against them and towards cancer. Milk was used successfully to cure cancer before they started feeding them sour mash leftovers from corn whiskey. What do your cows eat?

        RawZi wrote on February 19th, 2010
  18. I gave up drinking my “pint of milk at supper” years ago when I noticed I felt a whole lot better without it. Still took full fat in cereal/porridge.
    Since going primal I’ve given up the porridge; with it the last stronghold for milk consumption… and the 4 slices of toast at supper… no need for supper now, I’m always satiated!

    I still eat a lot of butter, some cheese and always have organic double cream on hand for boosting calorie intake: adding half a tub to a shake is a quick 500cal :)

    Craig wrote on January 28th, 2010
  19. I’ve been using, a couple of times a week, a yogurt cheese, organic, full fat. I seem to deal with it very well. I also mix almond milk and goat milk, 50-50, in my post work out shake.

    rik wrote on January 28th, 2010
  20. Opioids from casein would behave similarly to those from gluten grains. Since butter is mostly fat, there is little casein to worry about. The reason I posted a citation to my paper on how opioids increase cancer risk is that it is a complex issue. Send me a private email asking for my paper and I’d be happy to send it along.
    Best Wishes,

    Ron Hoggan, Ed. D. wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • Ghee or clarified butter are even better choices for those concerned about casein, because the process of making it removes most/all of the remaining milk protein. Ghee can be purchased pre-made, or you can make it yourself at home (Google for instructions).

      Pikaia wrote on January 29th, 2010
  21. Mark

    Your post today reminded me of a recent NY Times article about new research that explores the link between the consumption of acid producing foods like dairy and osteoporosis; that the acid in dairy actually leaches more calcium from bones than it provides. I would love your thoughts on the article, Exploring a Low-Acid Diet for Bone Health. Here’s the link:


    Alison wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • That acidic/basic nonsense has been around for a long time, although it is usually used to implicate meat or coffee in osteoporosis rather than dairy. Also, it’s probably a good idea to never ever take Jane Brody seriously – she’s a scion for Conventional Wisdom on nutrition.

      Also, make note of this quote, as it’s very important to the subject which is not so simple as the acidic/basic proponents make it out to be:

      “By contrast, Dr. Insogna said that although eating more protein raised the loss of calcium in urine, it also improved intestinal absorption of calcium and thus might not result in bone loss.”

      Icarus wrote on January 30th, 2010
      • Yes, don’t combine too many foods that have incompatible digestion with each other, and you won’t get that acid/osteoporosis problem. Thank you for the Insognia link!

        RawZi wrote on February 19th, 2010
  22. I use dairy. Grassfed butter, yogurt, ghee, and I love goat milk butter, raw milk feta and kefir.

    I’ve had a hard time finding anything past raw milk cheese for any animal, so I don’t drink milk. I try to limit the cheese save for feta which I have some on my salad everyday.

    I’d probably drink some whole raw milk if I could get my hands on some. But I can’t, so I have to pass. Even the cream and butter I can get is still pasteurised.

    paleo_piper wrote on January 28th, 2010
  23. I don’t drink milk, however sometimes have cream in my coffee – rarely – but cook with butter, and have cheese with wine. I have noticed lately though, after eating a meal cooked in butter it sits on my chest. I don’t get this when I have cream in my coffee or eat cheese. So I guess I will just stop cooking with butter.

    Parlain wrote on January 28th, 2010
  24. I gave up dairy for a while as an experiment a couple of years ago. For years (~15) I’ve not been able to smell or taste anything and I had hoped giving up dairy would resolve that. It didn’t. However, going Primal did! I don’t have 100% smell/taste back, but what I do have is a vast improvement! It may improve even more if I try to give up dairy again – but I’m not looking to do that right now.

    During the dairy-free experiment, which lasted a few months, I can’t say that I felt really any different at all, and based on that I’m happy to continue eating dairy for the time being :)

    silverbenz wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • Do you have white flecks in your fingernails? If so, you may have a zinc deficiency. The white flecks + not being able to taste/smell + going primal(red meat=zinc) makes me think this could be the case.

      Eric wrote on January 29th, 2010
  25. Mark – My take here is that you don’t really need to analyze its constituents and effects to say whether milk is a primal food or not. It is NOT in my opinion because it is specifically produced for the offspring of the animal that produces it. It will have all the ingredients that is necessary for the growth of the offspring. Now human beings have taken advantage of one aspect of the production of milk from cows and created a multi billion diary industry – it is produced based only on demand. We are in effect interrupting the basic life cycle of the cow for our selfish needs, though killing and eating a cow is a natural thing because we have let the complete cycle of life for them before we kill(which is also a natural phenomenon). And they are also the only species that drink milk after they have grown up! So in my view this is indeed a very unnatural thing to do – here is my take in a bit detail,

    Jayadeep Purushothaman wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • So you must avoid eggs and seeds also? They serve the same function – to provide nourishment for young, developing members of their species. I am more of a mammal than a seed or a bird, so milk is probably more closely suited to my nourishment than eggs or seeds, right?

      Uncle Herniation wrote on February 3rd, 2010
      • Not really, as long as you ensure that eggs and seeds are not completely exhausted, the cycle is not disrupted. It is also before the lifecycle of the plant or animal begins. The point is, milk is produced exclusively for the offspring, not for anyone else and it is disrupting the cycle in between. Hope you get the point.

        Jayadeep Purushothaman wrote on February 16th, 2010
  26. Hi Mark,
    Like a few others here I would also like to know more about the whey protein issue. I have found a supplier in Australia that apparently sell WPI and WPC from hormone free pasture fed cows in New Zealand but as I have had lactose intolerance and mucous problems from factory dairy I am hesitant to try it. I would be interested to know if there is any records of whey protein causing the same problems as casein. Also, does whey protein powder still contain lactose?

    Angelina wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • Whey concentrate contains some lactose, whey isolate has almost no lactose and fat. There is some study suggesting that concentrate is better than isolate, since concentrate has all the nutritional co-factors. You can find top quality whey concentrate sold by Ori Hofmekler at warriordiet dot com.

      Kishore wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • I’ve got a Whey Protein article in the works for next week. Stay tuned!

      Mark Sisson wrote on January 29th, 2010
      • Would you address the issue of oxidized cholesterol in whey protein please?

        Tara tootie wrote on January 29th, 2010
  27. I like this video: he says he is lactose intolerant but raw milk has lactase, which counteracts the lactose and doesn’t give him problems. I also like two posts at titled “a taste of dairy” and “insulinogenic does not mean hyperglycemic.” And Peter at Hyperlipid had this to say about dairy in a personal email:
    This is quite simple. Grains are designed to damage your gut, speed the throughput of non damaged ceral seeds, so helping the grain spread itself. As with most plants, they’re not on your side. Dairy is a gift from a mammal directly to it’s own offspring, 50% of the genome of which is common to its own genes. It is looking to maximise survival, not kill. The main problems might come from using a growth promoter type food in an adult. This I would accept as a potential problem but, if it was a reality, the various milk based societies should have stood out as highly disease prone, not a syndrome I recognise. I also tend to avoid the lactose but it’s not something I worry a great deal about.

    I suspect a lot of lactose intolerance is merely occult gluten intolerance… No brush border means no lactase. Gluten trashes your brush border. I’ve got a paper somewhere but I’m replying from work…


    Just my thoughts on the topic! Great post btw. I love dairy. I have drastically reduced milk, but the flavor of cheese, cream, sour cream, creme fraiche, and butter is something I don’t think I could give up.. I just need to work on pastured products (can’t really afford that kind of eating on 9.50 an hour).

    Jeromie wrote on January 28th, 2010
  28. Very nice summary, Mark.

    It’s an individual issue with no clear general answers if we are to be scientifically rigorous.

    For those with casein concerns, I give a worry gradient with the most acceptable dairy products listed first:

    ghee> butter>cream>half and half>hard cheeses>non-aged soft cheeses>whole>skim

    something like that

    It’s pretty easy to just stick to ghee or butter and then sub coconut milk for cream – gives you the same fat content and ability to wean from carbs with zero lactose and casein.

    I think pastured is the most important modifier – raw may also be a help -and “organic” is just meaningless marketing

    Kurt G Harris MD wrote on January 28th, 2010
  29. Here is my take on dairy: I ate dairy for years, consumed milk, yogurt, cheese, and butter every day of my life. As a mountain climber i would do everything to improve performance, so experimenting with diet was inevitable. To give a little more background, when climbing more than 8 or so hours I would begin to develop bronchospasm, this would also occur on bike rides, and runs that were of similar duration. I adjusted my diet tending toward strict paleo, but never gave up dairy. About 3 months ago I gave it up to see the results. To be honest I don’t notice much of a difference in my day to day life, but the moment I get in those high endurance situations my lung function has improved drastically. I dont get that damn bronchospasm that I have been battling with for years. 2 weeks ago I brought dairy back into my diet, and 3 days ago I went on another long climb. There it was, the bronchospasm was back. I almost hate to say it because I love the stuff, but dairy is off my menu for good, or at least until i retire from long endurance efforts.

    My next experiment will be to see if I can get away with Raw, Organic, and Grass Fed cheeses, milk, yogurt, butter, or some combination of them. It sure would be nice…

    Brian Crossman wrote on January 28th, 2010
  30. OK, I tried some raw cream the other day and I had bowel issues like nobody’s business. I tried some pasteurized (non-homo)cream and was fine. Is it the bugs in the raw that I wasn’t accustomed to? I don’t know if I can put myself through that again! Anyone have this experience?

    Twyla wrote on January 28th, 2010
    • It is possible that the raw milk you had was infected with some sort of bad bacteria. I drink raw milk all the time and have never gotten sick from it–that is NOT normal! But, any raw food can have bad bugs in it and its possible yours did. It is also possible that your body wasn’t used to the good bacteria in it, but I can’t imagine that good bacteria would make you that sick. If anything it would just dramatically improve digestion, not make you sick.

      Kara wrote on February 1st, 2010
  31. Excellent article (from University College London) on our the evolution of our tolerance for dairy: “Early Europeans Unable to Stomach Milk”.

    Paolo S. wrote on January 28th, 2010
  32. I’m English and like my traditional strong cuppa with milk. Thing is, my parents switched to completely skimmed milk (this *was* the 80s – the height of the anti-fat crusade) when I was 16 and I’m unable to tolerate even semi-skimmed in my tea now. It’s not a fat thing (I’ll happily down a big dollop of mascarpone with blueberries or a hunk of cheese) – it’s a taste/texture thing. The smell and texture of fattier milk in my tea is totally repellant to me. I do drink plain green tea at work but I’m miserable without my traditional cuppas at home, much as I’ve tried other alternatives. Fortunately I don’t seem to have a problem with milk and in the EU, the regulations are stricter on what they can put into it (ie, no hormones).
    I guess I now have to think of my cuppas as a sensible vice!

    Indiscreet wrote on January 29th, 2010
  33. Lots of comments on this post. I’m not a huge fan of dairy and only drink it with tea or coffee which I do not drink often. It tastes horrible and fatty after a while. Plus the person I live with has lactose intolerance.

    Richard Shelmerdine wrote on January 29th, 2010
  34. Seems dairy’s a huge issue in this community – I for one really would miss my full fat FAGE Greek yoghurt with a few berries, and – touch wood – I have no problems with it.

    I never really drank milk as a child, we did have it at school daily until Mrs Thatcher [Milk Snatcher – non-UK folk might like to Bing that] put a stop to it. Wonder if she was secretly primal back in the early 80s… :)

    Harpo wrote on January 29th, 2010
  35. Read “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell. Then you will understand the science about animal products. This is new scientific information about dairy. Casein, the protein in dairy is a carcinogen.

    Marge wrote on January 29th, 2010
  36. I don’t really drink milk much but I do put it in coffee, and I was an ice-cream eater until a month ago when I got serious about the Primal Diet.

    When I did drink milk, though, it never bothered me. But I am wondering now if I am have leaky gut symptoms from the small bit I put in my 2 cups of morning coffee.

    I’m hitting 30 days Primal, and just a few days ago, after eating a little roast beef and turkey wrapped around a couple of cheese sticks, I felt a little nauseaus. Then I began feeling a little nauseaus each time I ate. I was having what appeared to be leaky gut symptoms because I felt slightly allergic to anything I ate, especially fruit- there are some that I cannot eat like apples, pears, apricots, peaches- but now bananas and blueberries seemed to be affecting me. I had a tingling feeling on my face like little hairs and also had some hive-like bumps popping up near my eyes/cheekbones.

    Will eating a really clean, pure Primal diet make things I could be sensitive to stand out more than when I was eating all kinds of junk lopped in together? Also I notice my bathroom habits are suddenly whacked- I couldn’t go for 2 days, and then when I did, it was not normal- it was loose. This is me on a month of the Primal diet. I’ve never lived on such a restricted diet before so I’m wondering if it’s adversely affecting me. I already avoided gluten because my son is Celiac and I believe I am, although he was diagnosed and I was not formally diagnosed. I already avoided yeast, soy, hoppes, tomato (allergy) and those other tree fruits. I also tested postive to carrot and onion although I still eat those cooked in small quantities. So will someone like me with lots of allergies be worse off from a smaller selection of foods to choose from?

    Sharon C. wrote on January 29th, 2010
    • Hi Sharon, I suffer from certain food allergies but then I married into a family that severely suffer from them. My mother in law experiences very similar symptoms to yourself. So yes, once you do cut out foods that you are allergic to and then try them at a latter date, the allergy reactions may be greater. This is one of the reasons that this method is used to work out which foods you are allergic to. It was amazing the difference it made when I cut out grains and dairy. Now, as soon as I have dairy my sinuses clog up instantly and my abdominals start to swell. It is the same for grains. There was a stage when my mother-in-laws diet was actually restricted to two food items as she reacted to everything else for quite some time. Then she had to reintroduce other food items slowly and keep out those she reacted to.

      Angelina wrote on January 29th, 2010

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