Should We Eat Dairy? Evolution of Dairy & Dairy Intolerance

Dairy - a controversial food group. Ya either love it, hate it, hate to love it, get gassy from it, are “DF”, or don’t care. In our journey figuring out our own health, we’ve spent periods of time using dairy for growth (good ol’ chocolate milk days), avoiding dairy, consuming low fat dairy… Never truly understanding the history or role of dairy, nor the different types. Should we even be eating dairy? The main arguments against consuming dairy can be seen on the image below.

1. We didn’t evolve eating dairy 2. Milk should only be consumed by infants, to promote growth RE: 2 —> Milk contains a sugar called lactose, which requires the enzyme lactase to break it down to galactose & glucose for absorption. Babies make lactase to digest the lactose in their mother’s milk. But after early childhood, humans (for most of our evolution) lost this ability to make lactase. And without lactase, we can’t properly digest lactose in milk. So… again… should we consume dairy? Perhaps it’s not an easy ‘yes’ or ‘no’… *insert the dairy series* ... first, let's analyze dairy intolerance.

On dairy intolerance. Intolerance to dairy is common. Many of us have some adverse reaction to dairy, even if we choose to ignore it. Some don’t. Regardless, our different reactions, in part, can be better understood when considering the history of dairy — Humans began drinking milk ~7000 years ago, which is a small % of the 300,000-year history of our species. The first humans to drink milk were farmers in Eastern Europe; Some brave souls willingly sucking on udders 🙉😅. Dairy provided a large selective advantage from a survival standpoint since milk is a calorically dense food. Evolution kicked in & some people began to keep their lactase enzymes active into adulthood (lactase persistence), allowing these people to drink milk without side effects. While the lactase persistence trait was favored by evolution, some countries have developed better genetic makeup for tolerating lactose than others. For example, lactose intolerance rates for some northern European countries is as low as 5% —> These groups consumed more milk to obtain calcium since they lacked sun exposure (Vitamin D) in comparison to countries near the equator. In contrast, some Asian communities have intolerance rates over 90%, indicating many humans still experience symptoms and allergies to milk proteins.

But, perhaps it’s the processing of dairy that’s evolved over time, as well, and this should be considered when determining whether one tolerates dairy.

Below, you’ll find more posts in the dairy series. Read about…

The evolution of dairy & dairy intolerance

Difference between raw, pasteurized, & homogenized dairy

Why drink raw milk: benefits of & nutrients

Origins of pasteurization & the war against raw milk

Safety of Raw Milk?

A1 vs. A2 milk? Is A2 healthier?

Raw dairy farmers: how to find raw dairy & what to ask your farmer

Should you eat raw dairy on carnivore? How to test for dairy intolerance

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