Don't Be a Dairy Queen (part 2) - PCOS Diva
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Don’t Be a Dairy Queen (part 2)

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

I found my answers from Walter Willet, M.D., Ph. D.  He is the second-most-cited scientist in all of clinical medicine and the head of nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health.  According to Dr. Willet, who has done many studies and reviewed the research on dairy and health,  has found that according to the Nurses’ Health Study (followed more than 75K women for 12 years) dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50 percent and that eating  dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk. (5)

Dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50% and eating  dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk.

An Australian study showed the same results. (6) And furthermore, countries with lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. In fact calcium isn’t as bone-protective as I thought. (7) Studies of calcium supplementation have shown no benefit in reducing fracture risk. Vitamin D appears to be much more important than calcium in preventing fractures. (8)  If you are eating lots of greens like collards, kale, cabbage, broccoli and bok choy as well as beans, nuts and seeds,  as I do,you will get calcium.

Countries with lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption have the lowest rates of osteoporosis.

So now that you know some of the risks of eating dairy, this information should empower you to decide how much you should rely on milk and dairy products for your nutritional needs. I don’t know about you, but the idea of getting extra hormones and IGF-1 in my food makes ice cream a lot less appealing. (Although Ben and Jerry was one of the first brands to pledge no rGHB in their products)

I am going to give you a challenge – try giving up all dairy for two weeks. That means eliminate milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream and see how you feel. You should notice improvements with your sinuses, post-nasal drip, headaches, migraines, acne, mood swings, menstrual pain,  irritable bowel syndrome, energy, and weight. Then start eating dairy again and see how you feel. Taking a brief break from eating dairy often leads to surprising improvements to health conditions

You may be wondering, “What about raw milk?” If you are lucky enough to live near a dairy where grass-fed cows are milked in their natural state (not pregnant) then you are in luck. Raw milk is not pasteurized or homogenized and has all of its original vitamins, minerals, protein and enzymes for proper digestion still intact. Many people who have problems with milk when they stop drinking pasteurized milk and instead drink raw milk with all the probiotics, vitamins, minerals and enzymes still alive and in their natural form.  I don’t have access to raw milk but my grocery store now sells raw butter and cheese.

If you do decide to continue to eat dairy and don’t have access to raw dairy, eat organic.  An organic cows’s diet does not contain added hormones (although most of the cows are stilled milked while pregnant- you can ask your local dairy about their practice) chemicals or antibiotics and the cow can’t be fed genetically modified feed. I suggest focusing on fermented products like unsweetened yogurt and kefir, occasionally.  If you follow my menu plans you will notice that I do eat small amounts of cheese and butter (think garnish rather than main ingredient) and I do eat organic yogurt a few times a week. And on a special occasions I make homemade ice cream with organic milk products. I have come to learn that nothing tastes as good as feeling good feels and that certainly applies to dairy foods.

(1)Danby FW. Acne and Milk, the diet myth, and beyond J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005 Feb;52(2):360-2.

(2)Wu, Xk et al, Selective ovary resistance to insulin signaling in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertil Steril, 2003, 80(4):954-65

(3) Cramer DW, Harlow BL, Willet WC. Galactose consumption and metabolism in relation to the risk of ovarian cancer.  Lancet 1989: 2:66-71

(4) Brannon PM, Carpenter TO, Fernandez JR, Gilsanz V, Gould JB, Hall KE, Hui SL, Lupton JR, Mennella J, Miller NJ, Osganian SK, Sellmeyer DE, Suchy FJ, Wolf MA. NIH Consensus Development Conference Statement: Lactose Intolerance and Health. NIH Consens State Sci Statements. 2010 Feb 24;27(2).

(5) Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Public Health. 1997 Jun;87(6):992-7.

(6) Cumming RG, Klineberg RJ. Case-control study of risk factors for hip fractures in the eldersly.  Am J Epidemiol 1994;139:493-505.

(7) Feskanich D, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Feb;77(2):504-11.

(8) Huncharek M, Muscat J, Kupelnick B. Colorectal cancer risk and dietary intake of calcium, vitamin D, and dairy products: a meta-analysis of 26,335 cases from 60 observational studies. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(1):47-69.


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  1. And how are we going to get calcium by not eating any dairy??
    I drink powdered milk…is it different? is it ok?

  2. Eleni-
    I still have small amounts of fermented dairy like yogurt and kefir. Greens are a wonderful source because they also have lots of magnesium too which you need for calcium absorption. Bone broths (soup stock) made from animal bones is also a good source of calcium- but a little vinegar in your broth for to help leech the calcium from the bones.

  3. I noticed that a lot of your weekly recipes call for some form of cheese. What cheeses would you recommend if no dairy?

  4. This is such great information! Thank you! I LOVE CHEESE! I will have to look into these other options….in regards to milk…only recently have I noticed that it makes me sick so I am probably lactose intolerant. Thank you!!

  5. I made the decision a few weeks ago to go dairy free. I was surprised that it wasn’t as hard for me as I thought it would be. I love yogurt so I have replaced that with soy (which I will be cutting out after reading your article about soy) almond and coconut yogurt. As for calcium… I don’t worry much about that. About 2 years ago I had hypercalcemia and found out there was a tumor on my parathyroid glad causing excess calcium. I had surgery to remove it and I’ve been fine since. I rely on greens/beans for my calcium intake. I think the drug/medical industry has gone WAY overboard with misinformation about women needing so much calcium for bone health…and they must get kick backs from the dairy industry with the way they promote dairy as the only way to get that supplement. ok, off my soap box now 😉 thanks for posting this article, I think it is much needed info for all women, especially us with PCOS!

  6. Thanks for your insights Denise. I agree and think that strength building is another way to maintain strong bones.

  7. I love the information on this website, I love milk and I know I can stop drinking it, do you have any other suggestions like almond milk or something like that?

  8. Not sure if this is an obvious question, but I need to ask. What are your thoughts on goat cheese? I like to sprinkle some herbed goat cheese on a quinoa dish I make. Is it still considered a dairy to avoid. Thanks!

  9. Hi, I’m new to your site. I am on a weight loss forum where there is a PCOS support thread and was directed here. I have been soy free for awhile, but still take in some dairy. I’m not huge on milk, I like almond milk, or Diamond brand has a almond/coconut milk that’s really good when I need to have something milk like, but what can you suggest for cheeses and yogurt? I’ve recently switched to a whole foods diet and watch the amount of cheese I do eat so usually it is in very small amounts, but I believe vegan cheeses usually are made with some sort of soy product if I am correct? When I do eat yogurt it is plain greek yogurt with fruit usually.

  10. I have read that carageenan in SoDelicious and other coconut milks can cause inflammation.

    I like Silk TrueAlmond because it doesn’t have that in it, and it’s Non GMO Project certified.

    I sometimes get a local milk brand that low temp/batch pasteurizes (raw milk is illegal here in Canada unless you own a cow and only give it to your family).

    I also look for cheese that says just milk as the first ingredient. There’s a Canadian grocery store brand that only uses annatto to colour their unpasteurized milk cheddar. I think their “mild” is pasteurized. We also have a smaller company in a province closer to me, but they are more expensive.

    I also eat greek yogurt (the stuff I get isn’t organic, but in Canada, I believe we’re not allowed to give hormones and prophylactic antibiotics… almost all the organic stuff is fat free) and drink kefir.

  11. What about eggs? I know they aren’t really milk products, but I always think of them as dairy.

  12. Eggs are a great source of protein for women with PCOS (as long as you don’t have an intolerance or allergy of course!)

  13. These are interesting points. However, I notice that you often have not one or two studies to support your points, and everything in your bibliography is severely outdated. My OBGYN, MD, FACOG, who has over 30 years’ experience, does not caution against dairy at all. What has your doctor had to say about the need to eliminate dairy?

  14. I thought I didn’t eat much dairy until I started planning this morning in preparation to follow a dairy free diet. Now I’m terrified I’ll miss it. I love my morning porridge (I think you would call it oatmeal in the USA) and I make mine with skimmed milk because I cannot bear it made with water. But I will give it a go. Can you advise me on how dairy alternatives take to being blasted in the microwave for 2 minutes?