Dairy: To Consume or Not to Consume

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there on dairy. Some studies suggest it may help with anovulatory disorders, while we are also advised that it produces inflammation and we should avoid it.

Meanwhile, nutrition experts at Harvard School of Public Health recently came out with the Healthy Eating Plate as an up-to-date dietary guideline, and it doesn’t include Dairy as a recommended food group. It advises to limit cheese as a source of protein, while trying to focus on getting protein from fish, poultry, beans and nuts instead. It also suggests to limit milk/dairy beverages to a maximum of 1-2 servings a day, while making sure to drink water instead.

The Healthy Eating Plate was created by Harvard scientists to address the flaws in the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guideline, which was created with the influence of food industry lobbyists and it recommends a minimum of 2-3 cups of dairy per day depending on your age.

So what’s the deal anyways? Should we consume dairy or not? Here is a Chinese Medicine  perspective…

According to Chinese Medicine, your recommended diet depends on your constitution. So high quality dairy can be beneficial for some while harmful for others. According to Chinese Medicine, good quality milk helps build Qi vitalityBlood and Yin, which is related to energy as well as body tissue and fluids. For example, it could be particularly beneficial for those who have a lower body mass index, and have a constitution that tends towardDeficiency and Dryness. This type of constitution can present with symptoms such as thirst, restlessness, insomnia, headache, nightsweats, hotflushes, dizziness, constipation, light menstruation, or low back ache to name a few.

However, dairy can also be difficult to digest, particularly for those who’s constitutions tend toward weak digestion, with mucus issues known as Damp and/or Phlegm Stickiness. Some symptoms that Damp/ Phlegm Stickiness can manifest as are excess weight, poor digestion, bloating, low immunity, asthma, allergies, sinus issues, tumors, cysts, constipation, loose stool, low energy or yeast infections.

So according to TCM, dairy is neither good nor bad- it depends on the context and your licensed TCM practitioner can help determine whether it’s beneficial for your body or not. In any case, high quality dairy includes the organic and/or grass-fed kind and we always recommend everything in moderation. Hence, dairy should be avoided altogether if deemed harmful to your constitution, whereas even if it is beneficial for your body type, it’s not a free for all- because of its cloying nature, it should always be consumed mindfully in conservative amounts.

One might say that TCM is ‘old school’, seeing as it’s thousands of years old, but it comes as no surprise that it is in alignment with what modern Harvard scientists have to say about diet and dairy consumption. TCM wisdom stands the test of time!

Dr. Alda Ngo

Alda Ngo