Paleo and Dairy

The general consensus among Paleo dieters is that dairy is a Neolithic food, and so milk, yoghurt and cheese are not allowed (although butter, ghee and sour cream are still consumed by most Paleo dieters). Even the Primal faction of Paleo, which is more relaxed, suggests caution when it comes to dairy. The main disapproval for dairy on Paleo is its lactose and casein, both known allergens and inflammation agents.

The idea is that when you go Paleo, you’re supposed to eat brassica vegetables & spinach daily, eat the heads & bones of sardines, and that your gut will take care of absorbing calcium better now that you got Paleo. Even with all that, a Paleo dieter gets about 60% of the RDA for Calcium daily, but then they come and tell you that the US RDA number is unnaturally high and was measured against modern dieters, not Paleo ones. Funny how the die-hards don’t use the same argument for all the other vitamins!

Honestly, these suggestions are kind of laughable. Who eats broccoli daily, and who eats sardine heads daily? And what about all of us who came from the Standard American Diet (SAD) and have leaky and damaged guts after years of eating grains, and we can’t absorb nutrients as well yet? My teeth were transparent like glass when I first found Paleo!


My home-made lactose-free goat yoghurt rocks with raw honey, berries, nuts!

To get adequate calcium and phosphorus on the Paleo diet one must drink slow-cooked bone marrow broths from grass-fed cows or wild game. It’s the main way to get any serious amounts of minerals and vitamins, and I suspect that this was the main way our dairy-free Paleolithic ancestors were getting by too (and by eating eggshells too).

But the problem is that the vast majority of Paleo dieters don’t take the time to cook bone broths (or eat offal). A lot of people come to Paleo for weight loss and not for its amazing health benefits, and so they omit such basic requirements. They simply remove foods from their diet (e.g. grains, beans, sugar etc), but they don’t add other foods that are needed (e.g. fermented foods, offal, broths etc). That’s not Paleo that they’re doing! It’s SAD-lite!

Now, in all fairness, the Paleo arguments about lactose and casein are valid. Lactose is a complex poly-saccharides sugar (gut bacteria love these, as lots of it goes undigested in our bowels), and bovine casein is even more difficult to break apart, since the right enzymes are usually not present in our stomach (because the milk was pasteurized, and its enzymes were nuked).

But there’s a workaround, and it’s what I’ve been using myself with great success (for my gut, bones, and teeth). Remember, Paleo is a template, not a hard-line religious dogma. This has been more evident lately, as more and more Paleo dieters have been adding more kinds of foods in their diet, as long as their bodies seem to tolerate them. Dairy seems to be popular in the Paleo world as of late too, but this is my regimen on how to get the most out of dairy, without accumulating any of its negative effects too.

Step 1: Don’t eat bovine dairy, but go for goat/sheep dairy. Goat/sheep’s casein chemical structure is closer to that of humans’, so we are able to digest it way easier than cow casein. Some people who are allergic to cow casein are able to have goat/sheep dairy without a problem! There are some cows that produce the “right” casein, but these cows are not bred much anymore. We are the victims of 10,000 years of cow un-natural selection! Buffalo have the right casein, but who can milk a buffalo?

Step 2: Limit lactose. Go only for harder goat/sheep cheeses (which contain only traces of lactose), and make your own, home-made, lactose-free, multi-probiotic goat/sheep yoghurt (fermented for 20-24 hours so the bacteria have time to consume most of the lactose & galactose sugars). Or even better, kefir, which is more potent than yogurt!

Step 3: From cows, only have grass-fed butter or ghee, and sour cream (if you can tolerate cow casein). Sour cream usually has very little lactose left in it (this is the lactose-free one I personally buy). If I could find butter/sour-cream from goats or sheep (or buffalo/bison), I’d switch in a second!

Step 4: Never drink pasteurized animal milk, unless it’s raw goat/sheep milk, *and* you can trust the farm you bought that milk from! Raw milk can indeed be dangerous, so you must be sure that what you’re drinking is safe. Preferably, go for coconut milk instead, and use it mostly for cooking.

Step 5: Don’t forget the bone broths! A lot of other bone-related minerals are found in bones/marrow that can’t be found in dairy! You can also get almond & coconut drinks that are enriched with calcium.

Alternatively, you can buy a vitamin that includes Ca+D3+Mk4+Mg (all elements are needed to absorb calcium), but such a pill is not ideal either. For example, phosphorus is as important as calcium for bone health, but it’s very rare to find it in most vitamin pills. Eating real food is still the preferred way to get mineralized.

3 Comments »

Ivan wrote on January 5th, 2012 at 10:29 AM PST:

I am now over three months in the paleo programme myself and I have never felt better. I lost 10 kg (20 pounds) (from 94kg to 83.5) and my bloodpressure has dropped from 18/10 to 13/8. I take half a pill of Loordan each day. But more importantly, my diagnosed fibromyalgia symptoms have almost completely disappeared. I now sleep till 7 o’clock or later (it used to be 4am) and am pain free in the morning. No more hideous headaches and my digestion is just fine (it used to be either too soft or too hard but never ok). I physically feel much stronger.
During the seasonal festivities at the end of the year, I have sinned, too often I guess, and some of the symptons (muscle aches and headaches) mildly returned, but after three days of rigorous paleo, they were gone again. This proves that my issues are food related.
I do the cooking at home, and I often use (Belgian!) beer as an ingredient, and yes, I sip from a glass of whiskey while I’m cooking. All this doesn’t seem to affect anything.
Up to now, I haven’t taken any vitamines and I do worry about the long term effect of paleo. Am I missing out on some essention minerals or vitamins of which the effects perhaps only will show years in the future? That’s one of the reason I don’t feel that bad about a sin against paleo from time to time: perhaps this is just my body telling me ‘you need this’?! With a full time job and 3 young children, there is simply no time for me to delve deep into the paleo principles. I follow the diet instinctively, from thet gut (sorry for the pun), and it seems to work just fine.
I strongly advise anybody with a chronic condition to try out the 30 day paleo programme. It may change your life.


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Eugenia wrote on January 5th, 2012 at 11:44 AM PST:

So great to hear you’re feeling even better now! 🙂

>Am I missing out on some essential minerals or vitamins…

If you are not cooking with bone marrow broth, coconut oil, eating offal and a bit of live yoghurt, or you aren’t supplementing with D3, Mg, krill oil, or a multi-vitamin, I think you probably do.

Thousands of years of selection for veggies and animals, mining, and the creation of dams/cities/agriculture that stops the rain from carrying out minerals in our drinking water reserves, means that we do need additional supplementation. Today’s foods and water are not as nutrient-rich as they were 10,000 years ago or earlier.

I’d substitute the beer for dry wine for cooking btw. I know it’s not the same, just make sure its gluten don’t have adverse effects on you.


Ivan wrote on January 5th, 2012 at 11:37 PM PST:

Since the mad cow disease a decade or so ago, offal has almost completely disappeared from the butcher’s shop here in Belgium.
What you write about minerals and supplements makes sense. I’ll look into it.


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