New Reasons to be Dairy-Free
In macrobiotic thinking, milk is a more yin or expansive food. Milk is a food for growth; it promotes rapid development of the newborn. Mothers milk is suitable for the earliest stages of life, but once teeth come in and a baby is able to eat grains and other vegetable foods on his own, milk is no longer necessary nor beneficial. It is at that time that the natural process known as weaning occurs, in which the young graduate to the next level of eating.
This process occurs throughout the animal kingdom. Once animals are weaned, however, they do not continue drinking milk. Man is the only species that continues taking milk beyond infancy, and the only species that takes the milk of other aninals. In macrobiotic thinking, this practice is harmful both physically and spiritually.
The association between regular consumption of dairy products and a plethora of human diseases has been documented in numerous studies around the world. Now, modern science is providing consumers with additional reasons to avoid dairy foods.
Compared to animals living freely in nature. modern farm animals are often sick and weak. They live in artificial environments, under unnaturally crowded conditions, and are fed a highly synthetic diet. In order to keep these animals alive and free of infection, they are routinely fed antibiotics. Antibiotics are extremely yin: they are also given to livestock to stimulate growth. Since they are yin, antibiotics are effective against bacteria, which among microorganisms, are more yang. They are not effective against viruses, which are more yin than bacteria. Yin and yang attract and interact with one another, whereas two yins repel and do not interact.
Just as no two people are exactly alike, no two bacteria, even within the same strain, are identical. Certain microbes within a given batch will be more yin, others more yang. The more yang varieties of bacteria will be killed by an antibiotic, whereas like viruses, the more yin varieties will not be affected. These latter bacteria, which react more like viruses, are said to be "drug resistant."
When antibiotics are applied, non-resistant bacteria are killed, while resistant bacteria survive, multiply, and even pass their resistance on to other microbes. As time goes by, an increasing number of common bacteria are evolving resistance to antibiotics. The reason for this is twofold: indiscriminate use of antibiotics by the medical profession, and the use of antibiotics in livestock. In an article entitled, The End of Antibiotics?, Newsweek stated the problem as follows:
Resistant infections killed 19,000 U.S. hospital patients (and contributed to the deaths of 58,000 more) in 1992. "Many of the diseases we thought we had under control are coming back," says the CDC's Mitchell Cohen. That's because a host of common bugs now resist one or more antibiotics. Strains of pneumoccus, which can cause ear infections, meningitis, pneumonia and blood infections, became resistant to penicillin and to four other antibiotics in just the last six years. Some 20 percent of TB microbes resist isoniazid, the treatment of choice, and gonorrhea microbes resist penicillin.
Regarding the role of dairy and other animal foods in the spread of drug resistant bacteria, the Newsweek article stated:
Antibiotics in farm animals leave behind drug-resistant microbes in milk and meat: with every burger and shake, supermicrobes pour into your gut. There, they can transfer drug-resistance to bacteria in the body, making you vulnerable to previously treatable infections.
Another new drawback to dairy food has occurred as a result of recent government approval of genetically-engineered bovine growth hormone, or recombinant BGH. Genetically-engineered growth hormone is now in use, and much of the milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, and infant formula consumed in the U.S. will soon contain it. None of these foods will carry a label warning consumers that rBGH was used in their production.
The production of' milk is a yin or expansive function. Cows injected with rBGH produce up to 20 percent more milk. Because it stimulates lactation, rBGH must therefore be extremely yin. Cows who receive rBGH are more prone to fatigue, weight loss, and mastitis, an infection of the milk-secreting udder. Researchers note up to an 80 percent incidence of mastitis in hormone-treated cows. Antibiotics are the treatment of choice for mastitis: the use of rBGH will necessitate the use of even greater amounts of antibiotics and accelerate the development of drug-resistant microbes. A Government Accounting Office report on rBGH stated: "The increase in mastitis levels reported in the rBGH studies suggests that the potential for an increase in milk antibiotic levels is very real." The use of rBGH in dairy cattle may also lead to contamination of milk with pus and bacteria.
Over the years, epidemiological studies have associated consumption of' milk and other dairy products with breast cancer. The use of rBGH may increase this risk. Dr. Samuel Epstein, a noted environmental medicine specialist at the University of Illinois, stated in an article in the Los Angeles Times that rBGH increases the level of insulin-like growth factor-1, or IGF-1, in cow's milk, and that:
IGF-1 induces rapid division and multiplication of normal human breast epithelial cells in tissue cultures. It is highly likely that IGF-1 promotes transformation of normal breast epithelium to breast cancer. IGF-1 maintains the malignancy of human breast-cancer cells, including their invasiveness and ability to spread to distant organs.
In nature, every action produces an opposite reaction. Every front has a back, and the bigger the front, the bigger the back. The risks associated with the use of rBGH in milk, together with the dangers resulting from a greater use of antibiotics, should cause many consumers to think more seriously about the quality of the foods they are eating and turn to more natural, vegetable-quality alternatives to dairy products.
Source: This essay is from personal notes and lectures during the summer of 1994.
From Contemporary Macrobiotics
By Edward Esko
© 2000 Edward Esko