Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on February 25, 2023
Dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt are staples of the Western diet, consumed by millions of people worldwide. However, in recent years, there has been growing concern about the potential link between dairy consumption and inflammation in the body.
Does dairy cause inflammation? While some studies suggest that dairy may have anti-inflammatory effects, others suggest that it may contribute to inflammation in certain individuals.
In this article, we’ll explore the latest research on dairy and inflammation, and examine the potential health implications of dairy consumption.
Does Dairy Cause Inflammation?
The relationship between dairy consumption and inflammation is complex and still an area of active research. Some studies suggest that certain components of dairy, such as casein and whey proteins, may have anti-inflammatory effects, while others suggest that dairy may contribute to inflammation.
The individual response to dairy may vary depending on a range of factors, including genetics, gut health, and underlying health conditions.
Is dairy inflammatory? Not all dairy products are created equal. For example, full-fat dairy products may contain more saturated fat, which has been associated with increased inflammation. On the other hand, low-fat or non-fat dairy products may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect.
Dairy Inflammation Symptoms
Symptoms of dairy inflammation can vary from person to person. But, some of the most common signs of inflammation may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Skin rash or hives
- Runny nose or congestion
- Joint pain or stiffness
- Brain fog or difficulty concentrating.
These symptoms can be caused by a range of factors, including lactose intolerance, a dairy allergy, or an intolerance to certain proteins in dairy products. If you experience any of these symptoms after consuming dairy products, it may be worth speaking with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause.
Now, let’s take a look at individual dairy products for a more definitive conclusion.
Does Milk Cause Inflammation?
One study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2016 found that consuming low-fat milk was associated with reduced levels of certain markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), in overweight and obese individuals with metabolic syndrome.
However, a different study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2015 found that consuming high-fat dairy products, including milk, was associated with increased levels of certain markers of inflammation, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), in healthy individuals.
Is milk inflammatory? High-fat milk is more likely to cause inflammation than low-fat milk. Low-fat milk may also have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Does Cheese Cause Inflammation?
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2015 found that consuming high amounts of butter and cheese was associated with heightened levels of inflammatory markers in healthy adults.
Another study published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2016 found that replacing saturated fat from cheese with monounsaturated fat from olive oil resulted in a reduction in inflammatory markers in healthy adults.
Is cheese inflammatory? High-fat cheese is more likely to cause inflammation. Cheese containing monounsaturated fat from olive oil may lower inflammation.
Does Yogurt Cause Inflammation?
One study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2017 found that consuming low-fat yogurt was associated with reduced levels of certain markers of inflammation in healthy women.
Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2016 found that consuming probiotic-containing yogurt was associated with reduced inflammation in healthy individuals.
However, a different study published in the European Journal of Nutrition in 2018 found that consuming high-fat yogurt was not associated with any significant changes in markers of inflammation in overweight and obese individuals.
Is yogurt inflammatory? High-fat yogurt is less likely to be inflammatory than other dairy products that are high in fat. Low-fat and probiotic yogurts also possess a mild anti-inflammatory effect.
Does Butter Cause Inflammation?
One study published in the Journal of Nutrition in 2015 found that consuming high amounts of butter was correlated with increased levels of inflammation in healthy adults.
Another study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2017 found that replacing saturated fat from butter with polyunsaturated fat from vegetable oils resulted in reduced levels of certain indicators of inflammation, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), in adults at high risk for heart disease.
A third study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2010 found that consuming moderate amounts of butter was not associated with any substantial changes in markers of inflammation in healthy women.
Is butter inflammatory? Regular fat butter has mixed results with some studies suggesting it can increase inflammation, with others suggesting there is no change. If consuming butter where the saturated fat is replaced with polyunsaturated fat from vegetable oils, there is a mild anti-inflammatory effect.
Does Ice Cream Cause Inflammation?
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2015 found that consuming a high-sugar, high-fat diet was associated with increased levels of inflammation in overweight and obese individuals.
Another study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2013 found that consuming a high-sugar, high-fat diet was correlated with heightened levels of inflammation in healthy individuals.
Is ice cream inflammatory? The issue with ice cream seems to be less about the dairy itself and more to do with the sugar, which has an established link to inflammation.
Health Benefits of Dairy Products
Dairy products are a rich source of several essential nutrients that can provide a range of health benefits, including:
- Strong bones: Dairy products are rich in calcium, which is essential for bone health and can help prevent osteoporosis.
- Healthy teeth: Dairy products are also a good source of phosphorus and other minerals that are important for strong and healthy teeth.
- Improved muscle function: Dairy products are a good source of high-quality protein, which is important for maintaining and building muscle mass.
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease: Some studies have suggested that consuming dairy products may be associated with a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Improved digestion: Some types of dairy products, such as yogurt, contain beneficial bacteria that can help promote healthy digestion and a healthy gut microbiome.
Alternatives to Dairy Products
There are several good alternatives to dairy products for people who are lactose intolerant, have a dairy allergy, or choose to avoid dairy for other reasons. Some good alternatives to dairy products include:
- Plant-based milk: Plant-based milk, such as almond, soy, oat, and coconut milk, is a popular alternative to dairy milk and is widely available.
- Nut butter: Nut butter, such as almond butter and peanut butter, is a good source of healthy fats and protein and can be used as a spread or in recipes.
- Coconut yogurt: Coconut yogurt is a dairy-free alternative to traditional yogurt and can be used in the same way.
- Non-dairy cheeses: There are several brands of non-dairy cheese on the market, made from ingredients such as nuts, soy, and coconut.
- Tofu: Tofu is a good source of protein and can be used in a range of dishes as a replacement for dairy.
- Avocado: Avocado can be used as a healthy and creamy alternative to butter in recipes or as a spread.
How to Lower Inflammation Naturally
If you want to know how to reduce inflammation naturally, here are four great strategies.
- Cut out inflammatory foods: Minimize the intake of foods that cause inflammation, including processed and high-sugar foods, refined carbohydrates, and fried foods.
- Eat more natural foods: Incorporate an anti-inflammatory diet that’s rich in foods that fight inflammation such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats.
- Change your routine: Implement lifestyle modifications like regular exercise, stress management, getting enough sleep, and quitting smoking to help control and manage inflammation.
- Use proven supplements: Utilize anti-inflammatory herbs and spices such as curcumin, garlic, and ginger.
Here are three well-research natural anti-inflammatory supplements to start with.
Turmeric possesses a potent anti-inflammatory called curcumin, which has been shown to block certain molecules that contribute to inflammation in the body. Curcumin may also help to reduce oxidative stress and boost the activity of the body’s antioxidant enzymes, further reducing inflammation.
- Learn More: 10 Best Turmeric Curcumin Supplements for 2023
Apple cider vinegar may help to lower inflammation by reducing the levels of certain inflammatory indicators in the body. It also has antibacterial properties that can help to reduce inflammation in the gut and other areas of the body.
- Learn More: 10 Best Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies for 2023
Elderberry has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties due to its high levels of antioxidants and flavonoids. These compounds may help to reduce inflammation in the body by inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines.
- Learn More: 10 Best Sambucus Elderberry Gummies for 2023
Dairy and Inflammation: Final Thoughts
Is dairy inflammatory? The answer is, it depends. High-fat products are more likely to cause inflammation, while low-fat products may provide anti-inflammatory effects.
Ultimately, the decision to include or exclude dairy from your diet should be based on your individual health needs and goals, and whether or not dairy causes inflammation for you.
It’s important to speak with a healthcare professional to determine whether dairy consumption may be contributing to inflammation or other health issues and to develop an individualized nutrition plan that meets your unique needs. As with all dietary and lifestyle choices, balance and moderation are key to promoting overall health and well-being.