For most of us, as children, a glass of milk was the norm each morning. On hot summer days, curd becomes a part of almost every meal. Some people cannot imagine starting the day without a cup of steaming hot coffee.
Is dairy an unavoidable part of your daily diet too? Should you ditch dairy if you are healing from Hashimoto's thyroiditis?
Dairy products have numerous health benefits and contain essential nutrients needed for the body. But they don’t sit well with people who are allergic to lactose and casein. In such cases, it may be necessary to eliminate milk and milk products.
If you are confused about the benefits versus risks of consuming dairy, here is a one-stop guide for you:
Benefits of dairy foods:
Dairy products are foods that are made from the milk of mammals. Some of the most common dairy foods include ghee, butter, yogurt, cheese, and paneer. These foods are rich sources of calcium and essential nutrients. Calcium is the mineral that predominantly builds and strengthens the bones. Hence, consuming dairy regularly ensures the bone health of your body.
Among these, ghee is the most beneficial. It aids the digestion process and restores lost appetite. It rejuvenates the skin and reduces your body heat. It also adds good cholesterol to your body.
Why should you avoid dairy?
With all that being said about dairy and its benefits, why should you avoid it?
Let's break it down.
Dairy continues to be an integral part of Indian peoples' lives even today. However, there are important changes to consider in the situation.
Earlier, the cows were grass-fed and the milk supplied was of good purity. Now, due to mass production, cows are given hormonal injections to produce certain liters of milk daily. In these situations, you cannot guarantee the quality of the milk that reaches your home.
Another option is to opt for tetra packs of milk. These products are loaded with preservatives and have a shelf life of several months. Such packaged milk is better avoided.
What do dairy products do in the body?
Some people react more to dairy products than others. There are two main causes of this - lactose intolerance and protein sensitivity. Let’s explore them in detail.
Lactose is a natural sugar found in milk and milk products. When you consume dairy products, your body needs a particular enzyme called lactase to digest lactose efficiently. But some people may not have adequate lactase in their body either due to inherited genes or less production of lactase. Around 75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. Digesting milk properly might be difficult if you don't have sufficient lactase enzymes in your body. As a result, digestive problems such as bloating, acid reflux, and diarrhea develop. This is called lactose intolerance.
In general, people dealing with thyroid issues tend to have lactose intolerance. In a study, 83 patients suffering from Hashimoto's thyroiditis were given tests for lactose intolerance. And 75.9% of them were diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Implementing a diary-free diet for weeks improved their symptoms and decreased their TSH levels.
Dairy products contain two types of protein mainly - Casein and Whey. Casein contributes about 80%, whereas whey contributes 20% approximately. The structure of casein is similar to the structure of gliadin, a type of gluten protein. Therefore, people who are sensitive to gluten might be sensitive to dairy also.
Since the structure is similar, your body might see casein as a foreign invader. This increases the immune reactions and inflammation in your body. Hence, it is better to avoid dairy completely if you are dealing with autoimmune conditions.
Many people fail to differentiate lactose intolerance from protein sensitivity as the symptoms are more or less similar in both cases. But one needs to understand why they are developing an intolerance to dairy products. Understanding the exact root cause from a thyroid expert will help in the effect of the proper treatment.
Should you ditch dairy altogether?
Now the big question is - does this mean paneer, cheese, and ice cream are all out of your diet? The answer differs from person to person
People who avoided dairy because of Hashimoto's autoimmune thyroiditis experienced an improvement in their symptoms and disease severity.
First, you need to understand to which level you can tolerate dairy foods. Some people can tolerate ghee and butter better compared to milk. This is because lactose is present in lesser amounts in ghee. Others do well with fermented milk because of the probiotics present in it. The best way to see which products suit you is to experiment with your diet and see how you feel.
In general, it is better to avoid dairy foods at least for 2 months if you are suffering from autoimmune Hashimoto's thyroiditis. However, this does not mean a sudden and drastic change. You can opt for alternative milk options and enjoy coffee and smoothies with a twist.
Alternative milk options:
We have discussed the potential risks and benefits of consuming dairy. If you want to eliminate dairy but continue to use milk, you can explore alternative options other than the commonly used cow or buffalo milk. Check out one of these instead:
Goat milk contains less lactose compared to cow's milk. However, it contains the same casein protein found in cow's milk. People who are allergic to casein protein in cow's milk might also get allergic to goat's milk. Raw goat milk is even more dangerous than pasteurized goat milk as raw goat milk might contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli.
Lactose-free milk is nothing but the milk from which the lactose is removed. Lactase enzyme is added to the milk containing lactose. This enzyme breaks lactose into glucose and galactose to become easily digestible. Although it is convenient, some people may be intolerant to lactose-free milk as well.
Almond milk can be easily made at home, and it is one of the best choices. Store-bought almond milk can have added sugar and preservatives.
Almond milk is highly nutritious and promotes healthy skin when consumed regularly. It helps in weight management and has abundant Vitamin D and calcium. Almond milk ensures heart health, muscle, and bone strength. Almond milk is lactose-free and dairy-free, so it can be metabolized easily.
Coconut is widely used in Indian cooking, but little do we know about its medicinal values. Dr. Josh Axe, U.S. Nutritionist, observed, examined, and concluded that coconut milk is next to breast milk and has to be promoted more. It is also called a miracle liquid because of its untold benefits.
Coconut milk or coconut cream is made by grinding the meat of the coconut. This particular milk develops and builds the immune system to fight against harmful diseases. Contrary to popular belief, coconut milk lowers cholesterol levels and prevents cardiac disease. Consuming it raw and fresh maintains good hair and skin. It is also lactose-free, dairy-free, and suitable for vegans.
At Jeevam Health, we recommend almond milk and coconut milk to our community compared to other alternatives. Both are plant-based, lactose-free, and casein-free, so they can be helpful in Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
There is a lot of nut milk that is popular such as cashew milk, hazelnut milk, macadamia nut milk, etc. Some of these options are more expensive and may not be feasible for daily use.
Dairy products have multiple health benefits. But while dealing with Hashimoto's autoimmune thyroiditis, it may not be a good choice. Dairy products can trigger symptoms and worsen the disease.
Conversely, avoiding dairy can aid in recovery and improve digestion. Gluten and dairy are two tricky foods that make the treatment easier once cut off. While making this change, it is a good idea to consult an expert who can take you through the process of incorporating alternate options in your daily diet.
At Jeevam Health, we conduct a comprehensive process of root cause analysis to determine the factors contributing to each case of thyroid disease. In cases with gluten insensitivity or lactose intolerance, we also provide a diet plan for you to follow for better health.
Join the Jeevam family today to understand your body and disease better.