Do Cheetahs drink Giraffe’s milk?

No, but humans drink cow’s milk. As Dr. Joey Shulman points out in her book ‘Winning the Food Fight,’ “Humans are the only creatures that drink milk from the mother of another species.” I’ve never thought of it this way, and it sort of grossed me out.

We’ve been taught that ‘milk does a body good’ and it’s a great source of calcium, but that might not necessarily be true.

Shulman is a registered nutritionist, and an authority on pediatric nutrition (I’ve been reading her book for the pediatrics section of my course). Her experience and research has shown that consuming cow’s milk is linked to many common health problems in children such as:

“-Allergic rhinitis (runny nose)
-Allergic shiners (dark circles under eyes)
-Ear infections
-Chest infections
-Frequent crying
-Heart disease
-Juvenile diabetes (Type 1)
-Spitting up
-Stomach aches”

My first question when I read this was, “how can milk cause these problems?”

Let’s use ear infections for example.

A little anatomy lesson: an ear infection (or acute otitis media) “is caused by inflammation of the inner ear. The middle ear is connected to the nasal cavity and the throat by the Eustachian tube.” This tube can become blocked (especially in children because it’s more horizontal; making drainage difficult) when a child has a cold or allergies because of the excess mucous. This can lead to a build-up of fluid in the middle ear. When this fluid doesn’t drain, and builds up, you’ve got a breeding ground for bacteria growth and infection can result.

How does milk factor in?

Consuming dairy products (cow’s milk being the most potent) increases the production of mucous. And, like you just learned, excess mucous can lead to a build-up of fluid, which causes bacteria to grow, and can lead to infection.

I found this connection really interesting. If my child suffered from chronic ear infections, or runny nose I would probably try eliminating dairy before putting them on antibiotics right away. Antibiotics are necessary sometimes, but can also be harmful to a child’s little system. They kill bad & good bacteria, which can throw their digestion systems out of whack. Also, if your child is on antibiotics all the time they can become immune to them.

Another interesting fact I read about cow’s milk: it’s very slightly acidic. When we drink milk our body wants to naturally restore our body’s pH levels, by pulling in an alkaline material as a buffer. Calcium is an alkaline material. Drinking milk could cause calcium to be pulled from our bones to buffer the acidity. Shulman shares this finding: “countries with the highest consumption of dairy products, such as North America and the Scandinavian countries, also suffer from the highest levels of osteoporosis (a debilitating disease where calcium is lost directly from the bone matrix).” While this may not be a causal connection (thanks Matty!), it’s an interesting observation!

It seems as though milk may not be doing our bodies good.

If you or your children are suffering from any of the symptoms above, try eliminating dairy for 2 weeks, and see what happens. Almond milk (naturally high in calcium) or organic soy milk (enriched with calcium) are both great alternatives. There are also plenty of food sources that are calcium-rich such as:

Nuts & seeds (almonds, sunflower seeds)
Organic edamame (shelled variety is available)
OJ fortified with calcium
Leafy green veggies
Whole grains

In terms of substitutes for other dairy products, soy-based cheese, ice cream & yogurt are available. That being said, I would recommend organic soy products, and to consume in moderation. Soy contains something called phytoestrogens, which have their benefits, but have also raised some issues. The overconsumption of soy products have been linked to causing hormonal imbalances, especially in males.

I buy organic soy milk on occasion, and eat organic edamame. I try to consume whole, fresh foods as much as possible, which is one of the main reasons I avoid packaged soy products. I’m currently in the process of doing more research on the issue of soy, and hope to develop a more solid opinion soon!

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6 Responses to Do Cheetahs drink Giraffe’s milk?

  1. Kurt May 4, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    Thanks Lauren, I’ve read about milk many times before but never so well summarized as here. Plus the giraffe & cheetah analogy sticks very well too.
    Told Michelle to try it out with our 3 & 5 year olds for a few weeks, just to see what the effects are.

    • Lauren May 4, 2012 at 6:26 am #

      Thanks Kurt! Keep me posted on how the kids react!

  2. Andrea May 4, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    Hi Lauren! Great blog! As we twitter discussed :), I started buying flax milk by Good Karma. You can buy at Loblaws or any health store. Its awesome and a great alternative because I don’t like almond milk (unless in coffee) or rice milk. I also make Oat milk. Basically, cover oats in water for 24 plus hours (in the fridge), use an immersion blender than strain and refrigerate! 🙂 You can also add some honey for sweetness but I never do. Also here is a link to some soy info. I avoid it in everything. Bad news, its in everything (soy lecithin), good news its stopped me from eating most foods that are bad for you haha . No more dairy milk 🙁

    • Lauren May 4, 2012 at 6:47 am #

      Thanks Andrea! Those both sound like great dairy milk substitutes. The issue of soy is scary. I find there are so many conflicting messages out there, and it’s hard to know who to trust. Like I said in my post, a good rule of thumb: buy organic, and try to avoid processed, packaged foods as much as possible. It’s also important to remember to not overdo anything – good or bad. I find a lot of the research done on soy is based on people who consume A LOT of it. That’s a great link, and has links to other articles about soy as well – I better get reading!


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