Almost every time a friend asks if I have milk and I offer almond milk I can expect to receive some pretty sour looks. I'm one of the few among my friends committed to investing in a non-dairy milk. When I first tried almond milk I thought it tasted strange. So why did I stick with it? Eventually, I adapted and the transition from cow milk to non-dairy milk seriously improved my health. 

Medical professionals have progressed in providing people with new information about items we consume but shouldn't, and items we don't consume but totally should. Cow milk is one of those things that have been utterly (pun intended) normalized, especially within western society. But are the risk factors worth it?

yogurt, milk
Halle Davis

Dr. Rodriguez MD, board certified gastroenterologist from San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield, California, sat down with me to discuss and provide insight to the normalization and health issues associated with drinking milk. Some of the answers may surprise you.

Dr. Carlos Rodriguez: Nature intended for milk to be consumed only during weaning stages. Humans are the only mammals to drink another mammal's milk and drink milk after weaning. Our bodies are not more tolerable or different from other mammals. Indeed, this can be the cause of some autoimmune conditions that only affect humans. Considering this notion, our bodies react to similar but different antigens (toxins) ingested from other animals.

Spoon: When is the ideal/ healthiest time to stop drinking milk?

CR: The best time would be around six months when the body is better able to digest solid food and the immune system is more matured. A large percentage of humans become lactose intolerant by age five and over 50 % of humans are lactose intolerant by age 50. 

Spoon: Are there any health benefits in drinking milk?

CR: The health benefits of drinking milk are mostly seen in newborns. In adults, it is a great source of protein and calories as well as calcium.

Spoon: What are the short-term and long-term effects of drinking milk?

CR: The short-term effects of drinking milk may include gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. The long-term effects might include chronic inflammation and autoimmune disorders.

Spoon: Is this limited to cow milk, which is most popular in western society, or can this be extended to milk of other livestock such as goat milk?                                                 

CR: Milk from all animals are the same in regards to the potential allogenic effects on humans. Some animal milk, such as a goat, may have easier digestible lactose and thus be able to be tolerated better. However, these animals are generally treated with hormones to produce more milk and antibiotics, which both are then passed on to humans.

So there you have it. Milk is for babies.

However, Dr. Rodriguez went on to say there are many smart alternatives for adults. Soy milk has plenty of proteins and nutrition. Other types of milk like almond, coconut, and rice milk vary some in the amount of proteins and calories. Most of these milks have been fortified with calcium and Vitamin D and other proteins and minerals.

From personal experience, the transition from cow milk to almond milk played a significant role in my health. I have a chronic disorder that includes painful inflammation and can be heavily influenced by weight and diet. Four years ago, I was advised to switch to a milk such as soy, almond, etc. Four years later, and my symptoms have entirely subsided and have been inactive.

The negative health effects milk has on humans, once it's no longer needed after infancy, is a heavily supported theory. So next year, when you're leaving cookies out for Santa, maybe leave him a glass of coconut milk, because he may be drinking the cow milk you left him just out of courtesy.