More than twenty years ago I discovered something: When I stopped having dairy, I stopped having period pain. Since then, I’ve worked with thousands of patients who have discovered the same thing. Stopping dairy can dramatically improve period pain, heavy periods, endometriosis, acne, and PMS.
Stopping dairy can improve period problems, but not always. It depends on the person, and it depends on the type of dairy.
What’s the problem with dairy?
It’s not the fat
When it comes to ovulation and period health, fat is the best part of dairy. Full-fat dairy supports healthy ovulation and fertility.
It’s not the lactose
Lactose is the sugar in dairy, and it can be tricky to digest if you don’t make enough lactase (lactose-digesting enzyme). Lactose intolerance causes diarrhea and digestive bloating, but it does not cause period problems. Switching to lactose-free products could help your digestion, but it won’t help your period pain.
It might be the hormones
Milk naturally contains small amounts of over sixty different hormones including testosterone, progesterone, insulin, and a potent growth hormone called IGF-1. As to how much we’re affected by these tiny doses of external hormones is still open to debate. Some experts have linked dairy hormones to acne.
It’s probably the inflammatory A1 casein
The biggest problem with cow’s dairy is a protein called A1 casein which can form the inflammatory opiate casomorphin or BCM7.
BCM7 then stimulates inflammatory cytokines and mast cells, which affects periods because the uterine lining is full of mast cells. Uterine mast cells release histamine and they release heparin which causes heavy periods.
👉 Tip: Mast cells and histamine also play a role in PMS and PMDD.
Mast cells, histamine, and inflammation can profoundly disturb periods. And that’s why dairy can cause period problems.
Not every person
Some people don’t have the digestive enzyme that cleaves A1 casein to form BCM7. That means some people can tolerate cow’s dairy. Read: The inflammation from A1 milk Is mind-boggling.
Not every type of dairy
There’s A1 casein in the milk of Holstein (Friesian) cows, which are the dairy cows in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. There’s no A1 casein in the milk of Jersey cows, goats, and sheep. Instead, there’s only A2 casein, which does not seem to be a problem for periods or hormones.
👉 Tip: Feel better on a vegan diet? It could be because you’re avoiding dairy and you may, in fact, be able to eat other animal products. Read Calling all vegans. Tell me about your periods.
How do you know if you have a problem with dairy?
If you suffered recurrent tonsillitis or chest infections as a kid, then you have a problem with A1 casein. You’ve outgrown those immune problems, but now the same dairy sensitivity is affecting your periods.
Consider avoiding dairy if you suffer from one or more of following period problems:
Do you need dairy for calcium?
It’s a simple idea:
Dairy contains calcium, therefore dairy is good for bones.
Humans need calcium but we don’t need milk. A recent Harvard study concluded that “humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk.”
Other sources of calcium including green vegetables, almonds, salmon with bones, and goat and sheep dairy.
You can probably have goat or sheep milk products (because they’re A2 dairy). You could try also alternatives such as almond milk or coconut milk.
The bottom line about dairy and periods
For myself, and for many of my patients, I have found A1 dairy to be a real problem. That said, I personally do eat full-fat A2 dairy (goat or sheep), and I advise many of my patients to do the same.
Also, dairy has benefits. It’s a satisfying food, and it provides valuable nutrients such as protein and vitamin K2.