Getting Adequate Calcium is Important For Your Health - Our Experiment With Eating More Dairy

I have avoided dairy foods off and on throughout my life, believing dairy to cause phlegm, sinusitis, allergies, and acne, along with constipation.

Interestingly, for myself, these symptoms never abated while avoiding dairy.  In fact, most recently when eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet, and having avoided all dairy foods for over five consecutive years, these and other symptoms worsened.  YET, I still held this belief in my mind that dairy was a problem!

This is how our minds can trap us and go against us rather than be our ally!

Don and I had decided to experiment since switching to our hypercarnivore diet.  We were eating dairy foods at first, later deciding to see what changes we would experience from eliminating them.  We continued to have some butter, heavy cream, and occasional half and half, so it wasn't totally dairy-free other than roughly week-long stretches without any here and there.  We were curious to see if eliminating, and now adding them back would impact his decades long issue with psoriasis.

Initial progress eliminating the bulk of plant foods was very hopeful.   However, Don's psoriasis seemed to actually improve more when consuming dairy, versus when minimizing or eliminating it.

We began to include our primary dairy staple, homemade yogurt again.  Don also drinks milk.  I do as well, but less so, and I heat it first.  We are consuming commercial grade dairy products.

Since Don is nearly finished with The Hypercarnivore Diet, he began to research the effects of calcium further, and give this experiment a little more time to possibly add his results to the book.

What have we noticed while now consuming commercially available non-organic, pasteurized dairy product ~ the sin of all sins in the food world according to most vegans, and 'clean food' eaters alike?

Well, I'll share, but first lets look into calcium, just a bit.  Don will have more research referenced in his upcoming books for the science-based readers.  Here is just a reintroduction to what we now believe is a very important mineral for human health.

In terms of elements, 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of six elements: Oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorous.  Only .85% is comprised of five more elements:  potassium, sulphur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium.  The primary tissues are water, fat, muscle, and bones. (Wikipedia)

Calcium is the most abundant stored nutrient in our body, with 99% of it being stored in our bones and teeth.  The remaining 1% circulates as extra cellular serum calcium.  This one percent is tightly regulated, and remains pretty constant as a result.  Anything that is 'tightly regulated' in the body means it is very important to maintain levels within a very small range.  The body responds swiftly to the slightest drop in serum cholesterol, immediately pulling calcium reserves out of storage from one of three different organ systems to prevent hypocalcemia.  These three organ systems are the kidneys, the intestines, and bones.

As explained in The Role of Calcium in Human Aging, an abstract written by Judith Beto, published in The National Institute of Health Journal, Jan. 2015, if you were to consume 1,000mg of calcium, then hypothetically, 800mg is used in the tissues, and 200mg would be used to maintain serum calcium.  The kidneys are the main pathway in which calcium can be released or absorbed through filtration and urination.  Excess calcium can also be pulled out of the intestines, and processed through the kidneys.  If there is a deficiency of calcium in excess of the on average 150-200mg available through our "flexible bone pool", then calcium is taken from the bone matrix to maintain serum calcium.  As per Beto, "Replacement of "borrowed" calcium does not always insure similar bone composition."

Calcium supplementation, and diary consumption have come under immense scrutiny and challenges. Similar to another highly demonized nutrient, cholesterol, it is widely used throughout the body, in many important functions, including ~ and as proven in research according to the above abstract ~ muscle contraction, nerve transmission, vascular contraction, vasodilation, intracellular signaling, and hormone secretion.

In 11 Impressive Health Benefits of Calcium, by Jose Adams,

Calcium health benefits includes promoting weight loss, supporting normal cardiac function, reducing colon cancer risk, help prevent kidney stones, helps to balance body pH, essential for transport of nutrients, helps to temper symptoms of PMS, essential for proper skeletal development in unborn babies, helps prevent osteoporosis, and helps prevent diseases of the mouth.

Both of these articles have further references.

Pretty impressive list of health benefits from the most abundant metal mineral in our bodies!

One point I found especially interesting was that as a nutrient transporter,  a deficiency of calcium can prevent the uptake of other important nutrients, even if consuming adequate amounts of those nutrients.

Calcium deficiency can also be a missing nutrient for those avoiding dairy, and who stall on weight loss, even  on low-carb, ketogenic, and whole-foods, plant-based, vegan diets. Insufficient intake of calcium stimulates production of parathyroid hormone, which is another hormone that gets stimulated under starvation conditions, causing us to store fat in lean times.

The best sources of calcium are dairy foods.  Sardines and salmon consumed with the bones, or bone broths are also excellent sources.  Calcium is found in shells and bones.  Perhaps throw some egg shells into your pot while making bone broth.  I've done it.  It comes out more milky white looking.

Plant foods containing calcium may not be nearly as bioavailable.  The phytates in many plant foods, such as whole grains. beans and legumes, and nuts and seeds can further inhibit absorption of calcium.  What is worse is that many plant foods are also high in oxalates.  This coupled with a deficiency of calcium can lead to a host of issues.  Oxalates are in most foods, but higher in some, including spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, almonds, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and berries.

Oxalates are little crystalline molecules in the plants, serving the function of self-preservation for the plant as it attempts to ward of predators from eating it before bearing fruit.  Plants want you to eat their fruits, then deposit their seeds back into the soil to begin a new cycle of growth, and ensure it's propagation ~ just as all animals and humans are wired to ward off predators, and do what is needed to 'continue one's seed'  through having offspring.

These crystals start small but can accumulate.  They cause inflammation, leading to pain and other conditions, including fibromyalgia or joint pain, nerve pain, and even vulvar pain, or kidney stones.

Children with autism that continually poke their eyes may have a build up of oxalates behind their eyes causing pain, a build up made worse by calcium deficiency.

Spinach contains the highest amount of oxalates.  The calcium that is in spinach and other dark leafy greens gets bound with the oxalates, minimizing or  blocking absorption of the calcium in the spinach.

People are chugging down blenders full of (oxalate containing) green smoothies believing these to be the holy grail of cleansing, healing foods.  Then they wonder why they have joint pain, PMS, and other health maladies.

According to Dr. McDougall's March 2007 McDougall Newsletter:

Nutritionally speaking, dairy foods are essentially "liquid meats"––but worse, because people drink milk, and eat cheese, guiltlessly––often thinking "milk makes my bones unbreakable, helps me lose weight, and makes my skin as soft and beautiful as a baby's tush."  In their haste to sell products, the dairy industry has created an obsession over calcium that has become, in effect, a major contributor to the suffering and death of more than one billion people annually on Planet Earth from disease of over nutrition––obesity, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and diabetes.
I'm not sure how I missed his perpetual appeal to emotions before.  Perhaps my brain wasn't functioning as well while eating all those plant foods.

In 2015, following one of McDougall's advanced Study Weekends, he contracted a viral infection that effected his hearing, and subsequently his balance.  Midnight that day, he walked to the restroom, lost control of his muscles and fell, ending up with fractures he 'knew' without needing x-rays to be of  his lower vertebrae, pelvis, and a spiral fracture of his left femur.  He was 69 at the time.

Quite a lot of damage for eating a diet that is supposedly the ideal diet to ensure bone health as we age.

According to the same newsletter,

In the late 1970s when I was developing the McDougall Diet––after reading the bulk of the nutritional science published since the early 1900s––...

I have to stop right there.  I read this when I was dealing with fatty, enlarged, uneven-sized, and excruciatingly tender fibrocystic breast condition, and Don's first wife was diagnosed with breast cancer after having similar 'dense breast' and fibrocystic, lumpy breast tissue.  That was after years of eating a paleo diet.

I believed McDougall to be of integrity, and trusted his claim about having read "the bulk of the nutritional science published since the early 1900s."

Boy, was I wrong to trust that he would not be negligent in his thoroughness.  He clearly omitted the actual real data, especially with respect to the health benefits of low-carb diets for obesity and diabetes that has been around since at least that long.  Low-carb diets were the treatment of choice for diabetes prior to insulin therapy.  He also failed to acknowledge, as did Ancel Keys in the Seven Countries Study that there were many other countries that were studied where populations consuming high quantities of saturated fats lived long healthy lives, or that heart disease is still a top killer of vegans.

Just read The Great Cholesterol Myth, or Life Without Bread if you want to learn more about the actual studies that have existed all this time, that McDougall seemed to have conveniently, or perhaps intentionally missed.

Continuing with McDougall's newsletter:

––I came to the conclusion that starches, vegetables and fruits were ideal for human nutrition.  I then asked myself, what would be gained and lost by adding other food categories (dairy, meats, poultry, fish, free-oils, sugars, etc.) to this elemental foundation?  In the case of dairy foods, I quickly eliminated the "calcium advantage" because Nature packaged her foods so efficiently that developing a disease due to calcium deficiency is nearly impossible on a diet of plant foods.

Except he's missing a big piece of the nutritional symphony ~ the interactions of various nutrients, the rate of absorption and bioavailability, and the many 'anti-nutrients'  that can block absorption of key minerals, like calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

Like it or not, people want to believe fruits and vegetables, especially all those dark leafy greens are Nature's super foods.  Meat, eggs and milk are the real super foods, and always have been.  It's easy to fall for the hype to the contrary.  I know I did.

McDougall believes a diet of starches and plant foods is adequate, and will provide all you need of calcium.  He doesn't seem to think that borrowing calcium from our bones is a concern.

It takes a lot to unwind from the nutritional dietary dogma that we have been getting pounded with now for decades.

McDougall takes a stab at the dairy industry, claiming they tout all these benefits ~ actual benefits that are backed by research ~ as a marketing ploy.  Well, potatoes may not have labels, but they are not without their own set of problems, like oxalates for one, and solanine, the potentially toxic glykoalkaloid that forms when potatoes are exposed to too much light, seen as a green layer beneath the skin.  I got pretty sick after consuming several 'healthy' potatoes years back, despite cutting away the outer layers of green and the skins.

The bottom line is plants do contain toxic compounds.  There are now thousands of people recovering their health on Dr. Shawn Baker's Carnivore diet, which excludes all plant foods.  People are healing from depression, arthritis, migraines, and a host of life long chronic maladies, and losing weight by eschewing plants.  Grills over blenders.

Continuous bloating, gas, and constipation were among my many symptoms eating plates full of plant foods.

I once got pretty sick after eating potatoes that had a slight green tinge, which I cut away before eating.  We only bought organic potatoes.  According to the article by Authority Nutrition in Health Line, Green Potatoes: Harmless or Poisonous?, "The hallmarks of solanine poisoning are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, headaches and stomach pain."  That was what I experienced.  I didn't actually vomit, but I experienced the rest of those symptoms, feeling pretty miserable for several hours.

Dairy foods have been consumed for thousands of years.  Where exactly is McDougall's legitimate proof that our "obsession" with dairy foods has become, "in effect, a major contributor to the suffering and death of more than one billion people annually on Planet Earth..."???

I'll share what I have notices, thus far, with our experiment of adding greater quantities of dairy foods back into our diet.

While we have had improvements in our health from eliminating most plant foods, and keeping total carbohydrate consumption, especially from plant foods below 50g ~ often much lower ~ we were concerned about getting adequate minerals in the diet.

We do take magnesium supplements, and now make sure we get adequate sodium in our diet by adding salt to our drinking water.

Now that I've been consuming at least 2 cups of whole milk yogurt per day, in addition to either some cheese, cottage cheese, or warmed whole milk, I have noticed the following:

  • Better sleep
  • My brain feels more balance.  I was having a song stuck in my head causing me to feel like my brain would not shut down.  I exercise and meditate, which brings some relief.  But it seemed to be pretty constant recently, until adding dairy back.  Otherwise, "I'm a fool to do your dirty work...." was stuck in my head after watching a particular video on a particular topic discussing a particular group of people for which I will not mention at this time.
  • My skin is moister.  
  • My lower legs are no longer so itchy!
  • When I urinate, I go because I have a thought that I need to, not an urgent feeling.  When I do go, I'm impressed with the volume as I didn't feel an urgency.  That is a recent interesting discovery which I shared with Don, and he noticed the same!  And he had a history of prostate issues, with a family history of prostate cancer.  
  • This diet of 'meat and milk' is so darn satisfying, that any slight cravings I did have for something to balance the meat is gone.  I am not even craving berries or fruit right now which is amazing.  I really enjoy eating this way.  
  • I can eat a great meal, and remain satisfied for hours.  Energy, focus, and blood sugar all remain very steady and balanced.
  • Rather than having more phlegm, I have less!  

I was wondering why I had begun to feel so dry skinned, despite the water and fat consumption.  My skin definitely improved once I added animal foods back to the diet.  But for the last few months, the skin on my shins has been especially dry and itch, which I chalked up to shaving issues.  Now, I notice my skin beads up when I sweat.  It's moistening the skin.  Prior, while plant-based, I had a lot of hot flashes.  My sweating now comes on especially after a full meal, and drinking some warmed milk at the end of that meal.  It's hot here, so of course, I'm sweating more.  But it's different.  My skin all over my body beads up, and is so much more moist now.  The itching has also stopped, thankfully.  It would really make me crazy in the evening when I seemingly could not stop itching my lower legs!

Don seems to be seeing a change in his waist and weight.  It's helping him appear more lean.  I will have to wait and see on that front for myself.

And, yes, the drum roll....his psoriasis seems to be improving again too, so far.  We shall continue to experiment!

Uncured, sugar-free kielbasa with raw liver, and homemade yogurt.  Not your everyday breakfast
for most, but it's quite satisfying, and nutrient-rich.  The pork is much higher in certain B vitamins
than beef, such as thiamine, B1.  We eat beef nearly daily.

Sweet Italian Sausage with mustard and yogurt.  The Sweet Italian sausage is so delicious
when eaten with cottage cheese, not pictured.  Oh man, like eating lasagna without the noodles
or sauce!

So creamy and good!  Homemade whole milk yogurt.

That is our experiences so far, adding commercial, pasteurized whole milk products back into our diet to ensure getting closer to at least 1,000mg of calcium per day, ideally more like 1200mg minimum.

Everyone will need to determine what their own tolerance of dairy foods are.  Just remember, there are many variances to consider.  Some people are allergic to one or the other milk proteins, whey or casein primarily.  Others can consume aged cheeses rather than fresh, or vice versa.  Eating whole fat dairy foods is recommended.  Cultured dairy ~ yogurt, kefir, or sour cream ~  is often easiest to digest.

Experiment to find your comfort level.  Just make sure one way or another you are getting adequate calcium.  Making up for lost time may not be an option.  Consuming adequate levels of calcium, and doing weight bearing exercises throughout ones' lifetime is best to ensure you won't be at risk for fracturing your vertebrae, pelvis, and femur bones just from a fall to the floor!