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Plant-based Foods: Removing Dairy and its Benefits

Shiny Surendran is a sports nutritionist and is the first Indian to be certified with a Graduate Diploma in Sports Nutrition by International Olympic Committee. She has helped athletes across India in optimizing their performance.

In this, we take a look at dairy and its real impact on our health. Dairy is a staple part of our diet and has been marketed across generations as a necessity in daily requirements. Very rarely have we taken a pause and questioned the actual benefits and impacts of milk and milk products and its impact on our body and the environment at large. Turns out milk and the process associated with dairy has costs that may outweigh the benefits. 

Lactose intolerance

As awareness around it increases, more people are waking up to the realisation that they may be lactose intolerant. Although mostly asymptomatic, 90% of Asians are estimated to be lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance may present itself as mild to moderate indigestion and bloating at times, but has long-term and lasting implications on overall health and well-being.

Shiny speaks about her own experience of being lactose intolerant. She faced a lot of digestive problems, bloating and brain fog. Quitting dairy, according to her, was one of the best things she could have done. It brought about a huge difference to her general well-being. She felt a visible change in her physical system and even her asthma was cured.

The conditioning has been so deeply ingrained and so well accepted that the demand for dairy is constantly on the rise. To meet this growing demand, cows are injected with hormones. The remnants and traces of it are passed onto people who consume the products. These can cause digestive issues and hormonal imbalances. 'Even organic dairy milk contains the mother's cow's hormones which cause hormone imbalances and triggers IGF growth pathways,' adds Arthi, STRIVE founder.  During her practice, Shiny had a shocking realisation that most of her clients were lactose intolerant. The clients required a genetic test to learn that they were lactose intolerant. It might be best to move away from dairy rather than choose 'lactose-free' products.


PCOS / PCOD

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder in reproductive women. It is a common diagnosis in women presenting with infertility. PCOS is a syndrome, not a disease. It is a lifelong condition that continues far beyond childbearing years. Symptoms of PCOS include Irregular and delayed periods or no periods because of lack of ovulation, Excess facial hair (hirsutism), acne, thinning scalp hair because of higher levels of male hormone and multiple small cysts on the ovaries seen in an ultrasound. One out of five women in India is estimated to be suffering from PCOS. (Source)


Inflammatory foods such as a dairy and meat have a direct impact on asthma, thyroid and PCOS. The high steroid and hormone dosages in cows and transferred to people through milk can be detrimental to those who suffer from hormonal imbalances like PCOS and thyroid. Shiny clarifies that we have no clue as to how the cows are reared. There can be cases of cross-breeding and hormone injections to get the maximum milk yield from cows. The quality of feed, pasteurization and IGF growth factors can also disturb the hormones. Making dietary changes, consulting a doctor and leading an active lifestyle are ways in which we can combat the impact of PCOS. 


Way forward

Changing the positioning of milk and milk products on our dietary spectrum is the first step. We should consciously revisit and evaluate the adage that milk is the best source of protein and calcium.

Shiny shares anecdotes from her clients to drive home the need for shifting away from dairy. The first change that clients notice is weightloss and improved gut health. Quitting dairy and whey has helped clients reduce the occurrence of acne and reverse the effects of PCOS. One of her clients who was struggling with his diabetes for 20 years, saw astounding results after just removing dairy from his diet. 

We recommend shifting to a more plant-based diet while consciously moving away from dairy and related products. Plant-based diets immediately improve your gut health and an improved digestive system helps with better absorption of nutrients. Shiny says proper hydration and a plant-based diet have given athletes results, helping them perform better and also get more out of their sleep, rest and recovery. The shift isn’t easy and takes at least a month to start showing observable results. Shiny recommends sticking with a plan for 90 days for making it sustainable. While taste is a subjective preference, as per science, the benefits of making a shift are irrefutable.

Shiny is a CHENNAI based holistic nutritionist, author, entrepreneur and an unshakable optimist dedicated to helping people understand that being healthy and fit isn’t just a fad or a trend but a lifestyle. This article is co-authored by Shiny and Team STRIVE.

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