My mother was a saint. No lie. She wasn’t perfect, but pretty darned close. When I was a kid, I had eczema. Serious eczema. It was so bad, that as a wee little one, I would tear the skin on my feet open from scratching. Large and painful cracks would develop which made walking (or just living) miserable. The creases inside my elbows and knees were an inflamed itchy, bloody mess. When I was in elementary school, my mother would come to school during lunch break to rub a thick black salve on my feet which would, theoretically, make things better. What made the pain and itching less was the tenderness of my mother’s touch. The black salve never really worked though I truly loved the daily foot rubs.
The eczema continued throughout childhood, my teenage years and into college when it worsened to the point that my entire body was covered in welts, including around my eyes, ears, and even my nipples (sorry fellas). Eventually, this eczema drove me, quite literally, insane. I was an inflamed, miserable mess and in November 1981, my dad drove to my college dorm, packed up my belongings and took me home where I was forced to calm myself down enough to begin healing. I did heal somewhat, but the eczema continued into my early adulthood, until I got pregnant two years later.
After I became pregnant with my first daughter, the bloating I had also dealt with throughout my teens and early adulthood, became intolerable (I really sound like a hot mess, don’t I?) Not having a lot of confidence in doctors’ abilities to solve my issues, I began investigating on my own. What I discovered was that the cause of my bloating and discomfort was MILK! Yes, milk. Back in the day, no one talked about lactose-intolerance or auto-immune, but I was plagued by both. What was talked about was how critically important it was for all humans to drink milk or we would become calcium-deficient and suffer horrible health consequences. What hogwash!
Eczema is an immune related issue that was and still is, very misunderstood. Milk is inflammatory and causes allergies to go from borderline to dramatic (and for me, this meant bloody welts and near insanity). Lactose-intolerance, on the other hand, is widely known and diagnosed (sidebar: why do they call it lactose-intolerance since over 70% of the world’s population is intolerant? I’d vote for calling the 30% who can handle it - lactose-tolerant). Like magic, upon giving up milk during early pregnancy, the eczema, bloating, and allergies all went away, never to reappear. What’s the lesson here?
The Standard American Diet (SAD) – designed and promoted by our government (and many, many doctors who receive little to no nutritional training in medical school), dense with conflicting interests of industrial farming and dirty politics, promotes the consumption of milk and milk products to not only infants, but to folks of all ages. “Milk, it does the body good”, “got milk?” are just two of the pervasive marketing ads that have been drilled into the American psyche for years.
As a post-menopausal woman, I’m now bombarded by questions about how to get enough calcium so I don’t develop osteoporosis or brittle bones. Oh, stop the madness! I eat a plant-based, whole-foods diet. Where do I get my calcium? From green vegetables – kale, broccoli, cabbage, to name a few, beans, sesame seeds, almonds, and so on. If you want to avoid osteoporosis, add weight-bearing exercise (Chutkan 113) like lunges, squats, walking, and running. But you do NOT need to drink milk or consume even one bite of milk products now or ever.
I eat a plant-based, whole-foods diet, so yes I am recommending that you get rid of all milk and milk products in your life, including yogurt and cheese. But I’m not doctor, so follow your instincts and what your doctor tells you. OR, do like I did 34 years ago and experiment yourself. Eliminate suspect foods from your diet, clean-up your diet during a detox (I will be running my Intermittent Fasting Workshop Series at the end of January which might be a good time to begin your experimental journey), and then slowly add things back. If your symptoms disappear and then reappear as you add foods back, you have your answers. Read all you can on nutrition and learn to be skeptical (really, this is the most important piece of advice I have).
Above all else, be your own healer. The human body is amazing and resilient. End note: if your mother (or anyone else, for that matter) is willing to give you regular foot rubs (with or without black salve), say yes!
If you want to explore this topic, here are some reading materials that will help you:
Chutkan, The Bloat Cure
On calcium, visit National Institutes of Health website: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/#h3
For more information food related marketing and its influence on society, read Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss Random House 2013
For more information on eczema and auto-immune conditions, read The Microbiome Solution by Robynne Chutkan Avery - Penguin Random House 2016
For more information on the dairy industry and the impacts of milk products, specifically cheese, read The Cheese Trap by Dr. Neal D. Barnard
If you cannot imagine living without cheese and want to explore making nut-based cheeses, read this CHEESE is nuts! by Julie Piatt published by Avery - Penguin Random House 2017
(this is a re-post from my blog December 2017)