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How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: Dairy Beware, Autoimmune Sufferers Are Onto You

Post Published: 05 July 2009
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Category: How To Kick Your Thyroid's Ass
This post currently has 14 responses. Leave a comment

Here’s to hoping we all had a lovely Fourth of July.   In honor of the holiday, today we’re talking about dairy. ,  I mean, I definitely wouldn’t want to make you feel bad about those cheeseburgers, and the corn on the cob with butter, and cookies you probably ate yesterday, but there are a few important points for thyroidish and autoimmune people to consider. ,  And trust me: even though no, I myself don’t eat dairy anymore, it sometimes is tough to get over the cake and ice cream at these sorts of holidays and gatherings. ,  After all, I’ve got it the worst: my family owned a three-generation ice cream shoppe and my grandfather and his father were graduates of the world-famous Penn State creamery school. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve a huge walk-in freezer, a black and white dairy cow motif, and gallons of mint chocolate chip.  Oy.   It runs deep.

Because, I’ll assume, that most all of us have been raised to believe that dairy consumption is normal, natural, and necessary for good health, it can come off as unhealthy and completely bizarre when someone like me suggests we omit it (oh, by the way, I’m suggesting we omit it). ,  Since, after all:  WHERE WILL WE GET OUR CALCIUM??? Once again, the benefits of plant-based nutrition come into play here. ,  Human beings are the only mammals who, once weaned from breast milk, begin feeding on the milk of another species. ,  And if that ain’t weird enough for ya, let’s take a look at the science.

Let’s take a look at the milk protein casein and the sugar lactose. ,  If you remember from,  Gluten And Your Thyroid Might Be in A Fight, you will recall that although the autoimmune response is still not completely understood, it’s thought to work something like this: the body mistakes certain entities, namely proteins, as invaders and attacks them instead of real viruses or bacteria or pathogens. ,  Gluten and casein are similar in the fact that they are both proteins and are both known to cause an inflammatory/autoimmune response. ,  (This is called molecular mimicry.)

Casein is a very sticky, glue-like substance (it’s even used to adhere labels to bottles of beer and wine. ,  Oh, and it’s also the active ingredient in Elmer’s glue. ,  Ewww, right?) Now imagine introducing that sticky substance into the body. ,  If our intestinal vili aren’t already damaged enough just from years and years of Standard American Diet food, or even gluten intolerance or yeast imbalance, things will really go to hell in a hand-basket with the introduction of dairy and casein because the gluey-ness can block absorption of nutrients. ,  Here — just imagine pouring glue down your intestines and then eating some carrots and expecting those vitamins and minerals to actually be broken down and absorbed. ,  We may be making a point to eat foods with nutritive value, but if our vili are blunted and damaged, and if there’s a glue coating it all, how can our bodies properly digest and replenish? ,  As people with chronic illnesses, don’t we need all the nutrients we can get? ,   Also, here’s the real kicker: this can also equal a malabsorption of our medication/thyroid hormone. ,  (It’s important to note that human breast milk contains casein, but in very small amounts compared to that in cow’s milk).

Lactose, the milk sugar, we’ve probably all heard about before. What we’re not told is that in order to break down lactose in the body, a special enzyme called lactase is required. ,  However, many people are deficient in this enzyme. ,  That means that when a person who is lactase deficient consumes dairy, the body is unable to break it down. ,  The residual, unbroken-down lactose is said to end up collecting in other tissues of the body, which the body perceives as an invader and attacks. ,  Also, because lactose is a sugar, it fuels the growth of bacteria and mucous.

Some other points to consider:

  • If not organic, dairy contains a sickly cocktail of hormones and antibiotics. ,  For thyroid peeps, extra hormones circulating in our bodies, in which a hormonal deficit already occurs, sounds like a bad idea. ,  And antibiotics makes any yeast/bacterial issues we have much much worse because antibiotics kill all bacteria — friendly or not and this creates an imbalance, which causes symptoms. (See,  This Is Not (Necessarily) About Vaginas for more on bacteria).
  • Whether organic or not, most dairy cows are fed grains. ,  Because grains are not a natural diet for cows, many times illness and infection will occur (which requires antibiotic doses). , Also, grains raise a cow’s insulin.  When we consume such animal products, we’re also consuming grains. ,  Remember,  Don’t Be Grainwashed? ,  Over-use of grains is not beneficial for those of us with endocrine disease.
  • All “benefits” of dairy (protein, Vit B-12, calcium, to name a few), can be acquired through other means. ,  Specifically when it comes to calcium, any green vegetable is a wonderful source, as well as sesame seeds, almonds, and figs.
  • The combination of wheat/gluten and dairy together can equal massive opioidic reactions. ,  These two can act like a drug in the system, altering both our mental state and our physical. ,  Not to mention, we start uncontrollably craving these foods due to the opioid-like release. ,  Can you think of a comfort food that doesn’t contain gluten or dairy?   It makes us feel nice, but once its effects wear off, we start to crave them again.
  • Vitamin D is implicated in easing and preventing autoimmune disease. ,  The absorption of Vitamin D is inhibited by acidic animal products like milk, or excessive consumption of calcium.

Below are your resources for your own dairy-free research. ,  I would especially recommend you checking out the Udderly Amazing video, which happens to be very science-y and descriptive, as well as The Sticky Truth About Wheat, Dairy, Corn, and Soy.

Until Next Week,

Love Always,

Liz

Resources:

Have a question, comment, story, love letter, or rant/rave to send me?: Liz@DearThyroid.com

We got the link for this paper released by,  the Endocrine Society and wanted to make sure that every thyroid patient had the opportunity to read it: From the Endocine Society, a 50 page statement – “We present the evidence that endocrine disruptors have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity, and cardiovascular endocrinology” the society declared.

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14 Responses to “How To Kick Your Thyroid’s Ass: Dairy Beware, Autoimmune Sufferers Are Onto You”

  1. Marie says:

    Dairy has most certainly exacerbated my autoimmune condition!

    It’s so funny how much people seem to think that there’s no nutrition out there beyond bread and cheese. I have a friend who lives on pasta, grilled cheese and milk and after hearing about my food “limitations” (who is actually limiting themselves here, one has to ask) she has hinted that I might be suffering from an undiagnosed eating disorder. Pshaw!

    After a few years of an undiagnosed Hashitmoto’s, my previously youthful face was red, puffy and covered in inflamed and painful cystic acne. In addition, I had gained about forty pounds. Even though I was eating what I thought to be a healthy and varied diet of whole foods, I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror anymore.

    Dairy was one of the food categories I ended up eliminating. The first was gluten, which yielded some positive results but it was obvious that there was still something irritating me. Dairy was a big one. Probably more so than the gluten, which was surprising and sad. Cheese was one of my favorite foods, but the sacrifice was without question a worthwhile one. Shortly thereafter went grains altogether. Since soy is supposedly so bad (I don’t get reactions to it, but don’t want to take any chances) I use almond milk.

    Anyway, I’m less red and puffy. My face is almost entirely clear. I have lost forty pounds. Over the past two years of eliminations, I have aged backwards several years. I cannot emphasize how important an elimination diet is for those suffering from autoimmune disease!

    If you think that it’s too much effort to undergo a dietary overhaul, think about all the effort you put into being sick. Suddenly, the trade off is not so bad.

    Even healthy boyfriend decided to try my diet and after experiencing some initial withdrawal, he’s amazed that he can still have a full belly and be clear headed and energetic. No more post-lunch time slump! So really, I think it’s a good set up for anyone, you just have to be open to new experiences. I started by telling myself I would only make a temporary commitment but after feeling the difference was never willing to go back.

  2. Kate says:

    After viewing some of the Udderly Amazing video and reading this weeks HTKYTA, I am beginning to understand for the first time the issues faced by not only my daughter with thyroid disorder, but also some of my students with autism who are benefiting from casein-free and gluten-free diets. It really does make sense when you examine the science related to casein’s role in human digestion and health. Thanks for the great resources that support your point in this weeks article.

  3. Sz says:

    Oh how I <3 you!

    We are consumption twins. It's working. (gluten-free, dairy-free, mostly-raw, meatless, low sugar, low/no grain, soy-free, nothing AT ALL processed, and 95% organic). WOOT.

    (Today's apple fries at the fair don't count. Bleck fried foods bad. Never again. Till next year.)

  4. endochick says:

    My daughter was allergic to dairy and soy for the first 2 years of her life. She’s since grown out of both, but I’m lactose intolerant. I use lactose free milk in my morning cereal, but don’t drink milk. And I seldom eat cheese products. I eat a mostly raw-foods, meatless (except for chicken), mostly-raw foods, whole grains, diet and people look at me like I’m an alien. I tell them it’s for my health, and that really makes their eyes roll into the back of their heads! I guess if you are unwilling to “Biggie Size It” anymore, you’re not in the “in” crowd. And that is perfectly fine with me :-)

  5. endochick says:

    Oh, and I’m 95% organic, as well. Healthy for the environment and the body!

  6. You go, girl! This is one of the best articles I’ve ever seen on the evils of dairy. In my practice, I’ve lost count of how many women come in with varying health problems who are cured within a week of getting off dairy. Sometimes wheat is also a culprit, but Thyroid issues are ALWAYS present. Cows get their Calcium from grass … why can’t we understand that greens are the best source?

    Also wanted to add that a study in Norway definitely linked high dairy consumption with juvenile diabetes. The higher the number of dairy antibodies in the child’s body, the higher the risk of diabetes. Norway has the highest consumption of dairy in the world and also has the highest rate of juvenile diabetes in the world. Coincidence? I think not.

    Sorry to ramble. Love your site! Thanks so much for the energy and effort you put into it! Rawk on!

  7. Yes! I also own that book. The study I saw was in Dr. Gabriel Cousin’s There is a Cure for Diabetes and referenced Finland and Norway. Both have very high rates of diabetes. It would be interesting to see how high rates are for other autoimmune diseases in those countries. I bet the rates are higher than in other countries.

  8. lizschau says:

    Marie,

    you really are my kind of woman. :) i can relate to sooo much of what you’re saying here.

    first, i have encountered the same problem with people viewing the way i eat (gluten-free, dairy-free, mostly-raw, meatless, low sugar, low/no grain, soy-free, nothing AT ALL processed, and 95% organic) as an eating disorder. i’m sure to an outsider it sounds like one. but this is the thing i have to remind people: my body is so intolerant to those things that i have a disease!!!!! (not to say there’s not a genetic component to disease, because there IS, but just that my lifestyle pre-disease was so off-base for my body’s actual requirements that i went into nutritional deficits majorly). also, i tell them this: I CANNOT USE UNHEALTHY MEANS TO GET HEALTHY. it is a logical improbability. therefore, since my goal is WELLNESS and NOT thinness, i have to use healthy means to get there. i have to laugh when i’m receiving worries and nutritional advice from people who eat very poorly because who _really_ has the eating disorder?– the person who eats whole, fresh, nutrient-dense foods, or the person who eats hamburgers and milk shakes twice a week? puhleaseeee. ;) it is viewed as a mark of neurosis in our culture to pay attention to what our body is actually telling us. and it is especially a mark of neurosis to pay attention to the warning signs as a cause for prevention.

    and that’s so great that your lifestyle choices have rubbed off on other people.

    i agree with you completely on the elimination diet. i would recommend one for most of the major autoimmune allergens: dairy, wheat, gluten, nightshades, salicylates, grains, nuts, sugars, etc. i’ll go into some of those in upcoming HTKYTA’s. the thing for me is this: i refuse to live with the full-blown symptoms of a disease if i can have even the slightest say. i’m not saying eliminating dairy, for example, has made my disease magically disappear, but yes, i have been able to reduce my medication, and my levels are balanced, and i don’t have all of the debilitating symptoms i had at the onset. if that means i don’t eat mac n’ cheese and i carefully monitor everything i put in my body, then so be it.

    thanks so much for your readership and comments!! i LOVE your attitude! :)

  9. lizschau says:

    hi mom :)

    yes, the link between food intolerances transcends thyroid and autoimmune disease and as we know, can also affect others with lower immunity, such as some Autism Spectrum people/students. glad it makes sense.

  10. lizschau says:

    Sz,

    we love you too!!!!

    and i know, right? it works well. you feel good, your numbers are stable? it’s worked wonders for me. no, it’s not 100% or a cure-all, but i’m eating foods my body actually likes and can use and isn’t rebelling against.

    and hey, again… apple fries really don’t sound so terrible. ;) even your cravings are pretty healthy.

    thank you for your readership and comments and support!! :)

  11. lizschau says:

    good for you!! yeah, i mean, you can’t always find everything organic, but i really maintain the highest standards for the things i put in my body and i buy organic almost all of the time. good to hear you do too!

    :)

  12. lizschau says:

    Pamela,

    wow, that is a huge compliment, coming from a Naturopath. so glad it gets your stamp of approval. ;)

    and you are absolutely correct in the link between dairy consumption and diabetes. have i also read the same in true in Finland?

    thank you SO much for your readership and comments and supportive attitude!! “Rawk on”… love it! :)

  13. lizschau says:

    Pamela,

    just looked it up (Finland) and yes, i was recalling correctly…

    i own this book, so that’s probably where i read it

  14. lizschau says:

    hello there endochick!! i recognize your face from twitter. :) so glad you stopped by. :)

    good for you for paying such close attention to your body and your health. obviously, you’re doing yourself a huge favor and i’m sure you feel so much better for it. and wow, a mother who also pays attention to the way her daughter reacts to food… you’re simply amazing! i respect you so much for that.

    i have alot of theories regarding why dietary choices like ours are seen as so unhealthy (so ironic, isn’t it?). for one, i think prior to a diagnosis, people can’t understand how important paying attention to their bodies is. they also have no reason to understand the impact food has on the body. and also they can’t grasp just how precious good health is and how once you’ve lost it you’ll do ANYTHING to try and regain it. so, for someone who isn’t sick and has no clue a thyroid from a uterus, they don’t care that their tomato has been grown in pesticide-laden soil that is devoid of nutrients and bio-organisms , then fumigated, then washed with a cocktail of chlorine and who knows what else, then packaged in a bunch of plastic and shipped 1,000 miles away. who cares? well, when your body stops working, suddenly you care. big time.

    also, you have an amazing point (at least i think this is your point): this kind of lifestyle doesn’t make money. okay, yes, it makes organic farmers and growers and natural health companies money, but they’re the minority.

    and finally ;), food is such an intimate friend and tool for people. it really is everything to us. and the idea that people would be weaned off the highly-addictive food they’ve come to love and associate with certain times in their lives and past/memories scares the shit out of them because eating that food gives them a temporary high and also a feeling of nostalgia.

    thank you so much for stopping by and we hope to hear more from you!!

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