Don't Be a Dairy Queen (part 1) - PCOS Diva
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Don’t Be a Dairy Queen (part 1)

Grilled cheese… ice cream,…lasagna….macaroni and cheese .   If these words leave you salivating, you are not alone.  Many a night when I was in my teens and twenties, I spent the evening with Ben and Jerry.  Kraft mac and cheese was my college go-to dinner.  I now realize that these foods only made my PCOS worse.

I wish I knew then, what I am going to share with you now.

Here are 7 dangers of dairy for women with PCOS:

1. 75% -90% of all marketed milk and milk products are derived from pregnant cows

A cow is bred and produces no milk until she is post-partum with her first calf. She feeds her calf for about a month, and then she is put on the milking line. The cow is bred at her first heat, if possible (about 6 weeks post-partum) and milking continues during that 10-month pregnancy, until the cow is allowed to ‘‘dry’’ a few weeks before delivery. ‘‘Freshening,’’ the production of a new fresh milk supply post-partum, results from this cycle. This sequence results in milk that contains not only placenta-derived progesterone but also other dihydrotestosterone (DHT) precursors, including 5a-pregnanedione and 5a-androstanedione. These compounds are only a few enzymatic steps away from DHT.(1) During pregnancy female cows hormones like estrogen and progesterone go sky-high and these hormones are present in the milk.  Some of the hormones found in cow’s milk are: estrdiol, estriol, progesterone, testosterone, 17-ketosteroids, corticosterone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), growth hormone (GH) prolactin, oxytocin and others.

2. Cows are given genetically engineered growth hormones to increase milk production

The typical cow produces milk for about 300 days after giving birth.  In order to keep daily production levels high during this time the industry started giving cows bovine growth hormone BST also called rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone).  It is a genetically engineered growth hormone that is injected into cows to increase their milk production. Cows injected with BST have 2-10 times as much IGF-1 (compared to untreated cows. Canada and the European Union have banned its use.

3. Cows are given antibiotics

Because cows are producing quantities of milk nature never intended the result is often mastits or inflammation of the mammary glands which requires antibiotic to treat.  Traces of these are often found in milk samples.

4. Most dairy is unnaturally high in Omega-6 fatty acids and low in Omega 3

Conventional dairy in the US comes from factory farms where cows are fed products not natural to their diet such as grain, corn and often GMO soy.  Milk from these grain fed cows is high in Omega-6 fatty acids which most women with PCOS have too much of to begin with.

5. Conventional cows are often fed food that has been treated with chemicals.

Pesticides, fungicides and fumigants are often used in cows feed. The container trucks that deliver milk from farm to factory are disinfected with chemicals, the residue of which is found in the milk supply as well.

6. Dairy consumption increases the body’s level of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) — a known cancer promoter.

A growth factor is a small protein that is essential for a growth process. IGF’s have a similar structure to insulin.  They can trigger similar cellular division as insulin.   IGF-1 stimulates the growth of both normal and cancerous cells.  Excessive levels of IGF-a have been implicated in a number of cancers. One study suggests that ovarian cells of PCOS women have exaggerated potential for IGF-1 stimulated cell division as compared to ovarian cells of normal women. (2) So we may be more responsive to IGF-1 than other women.

Also, the milk sugar lactose is broken down in the body into another sugar, galactose.  In turn, galactose is broken down further by enzymes.  According to a study by Daniel Cramer, M.D. and his colleagues at Harvard (3) when dairy product consumption exceeds the enzymes capacity to break down galactose, it can build up in the blood and may affect a woman’s ovaries.  Some women have particularly low levels of these enzymes, and when they consume dairy products of a regular basis, their risk of ovarian cancer can be triple that of other women.

7. You may be lactose intolerant

The majority of humans naturally stop producing significant amounts of lactase – the enzyme needed to properly metabolize lactose, the sugar in milk — sometime between the ages of two and five. In fact, for most mammals, the normal condition is to stop producing the enzymes needed to properly digest and metabolize milk after they have been weaned. About 75 percent of the world’s population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products — a problem called lactose intolerance. As many as 25% of Caucasians and an estimated 75-90% of blacks, Asians, and Native Americans are lactose intolerant.(4)

When I realized that dairy was aggravating my PCOS I was worried about calcium.  What would happen to my bones if I wasn’t eating dairy?

Continue to Part 2

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  1. Rose- that is a good question. This is what I believe…
    Coconut oil is made up of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA’s). Two-thirds of the saturated fat in coconut oil is a medium-chain saturated fat. This important fact deserves clarification as MCFA’s actually helps us to lose weight, lower cholesterol, improve diabetic conditions and reduce the risk of heart disease.

    One of the most outstanding benefits of consuming MCFA’s is that they do not require the liver and gallbladder to digest and emulsify them. This means instant energy and increased thermogenesis (increased metabolic rate in the body) which leads to more heat production as well as improved circulation. For anyone with impaired fat digestion or a removed gallbladder, coconut oil is the only oil to consume as it is very easily digested.
    MCFA’s are also known for having antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties, so they are beneficial to our immune system. In addition, coconut oil assists people with under-active thyroids by increasing the metabolic rate of the body and creating more energy.

    Learn more:

  2. Is organic milk okay? I’ve been drinking strictly organic milk and I truly enjoy it more than any other alternative (I’m a very picky eater).

  3. This blog has been amazing. I was recently diagnosed with PCOS and this has helped me clear up a lot of issues and mysteries surrounding my symptoms. Just as a side note I went through a soy milk binge at one point and that made my symptoms incredibly worse. My doctor told me that I should avoid products with lots of hormones. In hind site it all makes sense why the soy milk made my body react the way it did. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

  4. that really sucks!!….i LOVE milk…i could almost drink a gallon of milk a day…i love it so much

  5. You don’t mention anything about soy milk in this or your “milk alternatives” blog. I love the Silk vanilla soy milk and was wondering if it would be better to switch over to almond?

  6. Amy-
    Thank you so much for all your guides that you have posted, this one including. I had no idea all this stuff(especially milk) was bad for my PCOS. Not one doctor ever told me these things weren’t good for the PCOS. I also wanted to ask if you are familiar with the drink Horchata. I used to drink it a lot as a kid. It’s a cinnamon rice milk drink that is easy to make and I think for the recipes that call for sugar stevia could be substituted. Not sure if it is healthy enough for us girls to drink but thought I’d ask and see what your opinion was of it. Thank you for all your site has to offer I love it!

  7. Hi AJ- Rice milk tends to be high in carbs. If you sent me a recipe or a food label i could give you better feedback.

  8. After reading this I went to the grocery store and bought Silk Almond, I wish I had known about this sooner because its delicious! Thank you!

  9. What are your thoughts on grass-fed, pastured milk occasionally? We switched to that and I also buy their cream and make my own butter. I don’t drink a lot of milk or eat a lot of cheese but when I do, I try to make sure it is grass-fed dairy. Is this still a no-no?

  10. Is goat’s milk okay for someone with PCOS? Goat’s milk reaps many more positives than cow’s milk.

  11. I think you need to see how it makes you feel. Those who are lactose intolerant tend to do better with goats milk. I am still skeptical of the hormones in the goat milk as well.

  12. What about Organic Skim Milk? I love Milk so trying to cut back. I use a little with my oatmeal in the mornings.

  13. Yes I have. I’ve known about my PCOS for about 10 years now. I’m a little foggy on the exact science of it all but basically our bodies don’t shed excess estrogen well, and when you give it tons of extra artificial estrogen (soy milk) the hormones in your body start to back up. If I can remember correctly when we go through our cycle we cycle through hormones; first testosterone, then progesterone, then estrogen. When our bodies’ can’t shed the excess estrogen everything backs up and you end up with too much Testosterone. This would cause me, what felt like,roid rage. I would be fuming mad for no reason. I found a product that works wonders for me it’s called ESTROSMART by Lorna Vanderhaeghe. My boyfriend calls them my “happy pills” haha Also looks into Almond milk. My favorite is Blue Diamond Almond Breeze. One cup has 30% of your daily recommended calcium intake. Good Luck.

  14. What about yogurt? Is that a big no no too? I’m a fan of 0% Fage Greek yogurt. Would love your take on this. Thank you & thank you for the great site. Just discovered it today!

  15. I would try going Dairy free for at least a week but 21 days is a better gauge. Then add the yogurt back in and see how you feel. I can tolerate small amounts of organic yogurt and often use it in my recipes.

  16. I was diagnosed about 3 years with pcos, my endo. gave me info on the DASH diet, it does not eliminate milk but encourages lower fat. Is butter off limits?

  17. How exactly do you know it is aggravating your PCOS? What are your symptoms that told you it was the dairy, etc./ made it worse?

  18. Acne is usually a big symptom, difficulty losing weight, digestive issues. It is amazing for many women what happens when they eliminate or reduce dairy from their diets.

  19. Just to make you more aware of the real way that dairy cows are raised and treated:
    1 ) when a cow has to be treated with antibiotics, it’s milk gets “pumped and dumped” so to speak. It does not make it to the bulk tank or the dairy- so any traces of antibiotics making it to the milk are really unlikely. The dairy also tests the milk from each farm after each pickup, to check for bacteria counts and antibiotics. If elevated bacteria counts (remember that this is before pasteurization) or significant traces of antibiotics are present, the dairy dumps the milk.

    2) very few farms use growth hormones on their cows at all. Almost every carton of milk at the store says somewhere on it that it came from cows not treated with rbst, and lots of dairies won’t accept milk from treated cows. It really isn’t necessary anyways because caring for your cows results in great milk production anyways.

    3) if someone is not lactose intolerant, milk is one of the best sources of calcium, vitamin d, and phosphorus out there.

    4) you might be surprised how few chemicals the average dairy farm uses. Hot soapy water cleans a lot of the equipment, with occasional application of acid and base rinses- all of which are thoroughly flushed from the milk line with more hot water afterwards. Also- not all cows even get fed much in the way of pesticides exposed food- though if you are extremely worried about it you could always opt for organic milk.

    Personally I would rather have the possibility of worse pcos symptoms than osteoporosis because of a lack of calcium, vitamin d and phosphorus in my diet.

  20. Calcium is in a lot of foods. You ruined dairy and I triple dog dare you to come down with PCOS. Nutjob.

  21. Hi Amy, what about cheese? Are there any healthy cheeses? I am obsessed with cheese and put it on everything. I have already switched to Almond milk, which has made me feel way better.