First of all, it’s true that plenty of other calcium sources are available to you if you prefer to avoid milk. Leafy greens like kale and bok choy are particularly rich in calcium, but so are nuts, legumes, canned salmon, and seaweed. Other countries in Asia and Africa get by without milk, and so can you.
It’s also true that dairy and other animal products have been linked to increased rates of heart disease, diabetes, auto-immune conditions, and certain cancers. In the immensely popular 2005 book “The China Study”, Colin Campbell and his son Thomas cite epimediological evidence collected from 65 different counties in rural China during the 1970’s which show increased mortality rates for people whose diet contains high quantities of animal-based foods. It’s pretty damning evidence against meat consumption, and the book is said to have made a vegetarian out of Bill Clinton. However, to be fair, dairy was deemed a lesser culprit than other animal products, like beef and pork.
Sales of dairy milk have dropped 40% in North America over the last 40 years, and books like “The China Study” have likely been a big reason for those reduced numbers. Alissa Hamilton adds her voice to the anti-dairy group with her recent book “Got Milked?”, where she also questions dairy’s prominent place in our culture. She argues that the dairy industry has been unfairly propped up by the government, due to the $16.2 billion dollars it contributes to Canada’s annual GDP. Rather than giving dairy products status as an entire food group, she suggests that they be lumped in with other high-protein foods.
Considering the fact that most non-European races are lactose intolerant, and come from cultures where dairy products have never been consumed, the emphasis on dairy products in North America does seem rather ridiculous.
In Chinese medicine, the dietary advice concerning dairy is flexible. A blanket statement demonizing dairy products would never be appropriate, since the strength of Chinese medicine has always been its emphasis on each individual and their own particular strengths and weaknesses.
People of European descent whose ancestors have consumed copious amounts of dairy products over generations can continue to partake, provided they digest it well. If you experience bloating, difficult elimination, or excess mucus production after consuming dairy products, then they’re not for you.
Those who are lactose intolerant should not feel be made to feel guilty if they are not drinking enough milk each day. As mentioned above, there are other high calcium foods which can serve as excellent replacements for dairy products.
About the author: Rebecca Wong has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.