I scream, you scream.
I love ice cream. Don’t you? The true American genius. An aristocratic food. As American as the apple pie beside which it plops in regal splendor ‑ a la mode. To even categorize it as food is somehow inadequate. It resides alone as the epitome of delight.
More than any other food I have experienced, ice cream leaves us craving that next bite (or pint, if the substance at hand is Vermont’s own Ben and Jerry’s).
Allow me a digression for a brief nostalgic moment. You see, I hail from Vermont, the land of Ben and Jerry ‑ a pair of ex‑hippies who decided that “on the other hand the examined life doesn’t pay well”. So they built a better ice cream and created a fortune while managing to make eating ice cream politically correct. Touche!
Well, it won’t surprise you to learn that such adoration ultimately leads to dangerous infatuation. Thus, at one time, I saw the world in terms of ice creams. Specifically, people could be thought of in terms of flavors. Janet, with her red hair and freckles, was undeniably peppermint stick. Rebecca, typical of many brown haired blue eyed Irish beauties, was mint chocolate chip. Sam, with his subtle and surprising humor was butter pecan. Have I lost you? Picture Jackie K. Onassis? An elegant French vanilla, perhaps? Tom Cruise? A rich Dutch chocolate. John Wayne: Rocky Road. No doubt. What flavor are you?
Remember your dear old aunt Matilda chasing you around the house with a teaspoon of cod liver oil all the while chortling something about all good medicine tastes terrible. Even Mary Poppins understood this principle and offered her charges the famous “teaspoon of sugar” to help the medicine go down. (This health indiscretion is the little known reason why she was only “practically perfect in every way” instead of absolutely perfect…)
Both auntie and Mary were right. And so are millions of Chinese.
The Chinese appreciate the “bitter pill”. In traditional Chinese medicine, bitter is a food flavor that is known to stimulate liver chi (energy, health) but here in America, a bitter substance is hard to find. (Coffee comes closest until one adds cream and sugar.) However, do not despair. Your local health food store has the real thing: goldenseal and echinacea are only two of a marvelous host of herbal remedies that waste no time in awakening your atrophied taste buds for bitter. Try them, you’ll like them (after a while…).
Well, people are built differently. Some of us can swallow any bitter pill providing we are convinced it will help us. Others gag even on vegetables. I have always known more about health food than gourmet cooking and thus it was that after friends would eat my cooking their assessment would invariably be: “Thanks for the good (for you) meal”. Always lots of leftovers. In those days, I would salvage my social calendar by serving ice cream for dessert. That happens less frequently now. I have become firmly anti‑diary.
I have seriously considered posting a large warning banner above my office door proclaiming: “Abandon dairy all ye who enter here.” I have held off because I fear it would put me out of business. More than 75% of my patients who suffer from allergies, asthma, gastritis, colitis, dermatological problems, fatigue, PMS and auto‑immune diseases in general do significantly better on a dairy free diet. I know that sounds unAmerican, but consider the pros and cons of dairy.
Pros: Tastes good and is a fair protein supplement. Note: I did not say calcium supplement because milk is not a good source for calcium owing to its not being easily absorbed (see below) and what is absorbed is quickly excreted. This is because calcium is biochemically tied to phosphorous which takes the calcium with it when metabolized and excreted. So, although there is lots of calcium in milk, most of it is not available for your bone-building. Far better sources of calcium are the leafy green vegetables which are relatively lower in calcium but have no phosphorous to steal away the calcium.
There are a variety of problems inherent in cow milk products (especially the frozen ones which are high in sugar and fat!). These include: 1) inhibition of normal food digestion; 2) inhibition of vitamin and mineral absorption; 3) reduction of compromise of acid barrier and 4) rendering the gastro-intestinal tract unable to support health microorganisms like acidophillus.
Now these are serious charges which fly in the face of what we have been taught (by who? By the dairy lobby.) So consider the following simple argument: Dairy is a powerful antacid. (Remember the doctor telling you to take a glass of milk for that heartburn?) Acid is essential not only to digest but also to absorb nutrients. (Without adequate stomach acid, one can not digest, absorb and assimilate the essential nutrients including minerals and vitamins (esp. B 12) because acid chews up protein bonds as well as allowing minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper etc to separate from the food or pill it is attached to in order to pass into the blood stream. Thus it is that dairy undermines healthy digestion of foods resulting in a form of malnutrition. Simple as that.
Consider grandma in the nursing home. You send her almost $60 of multi‑vitamin and mineral pills each month but she takes those with her antacid! In negating her acid, she forfeits the ability to absorb the essential minerals and vitamins. Without minerals and vitamins, many illnesses manefest including but not limited to: osteoporosis (low calcium and magnesium), hypertension (low magnesium and potassium), acne (low zinc), PMS (low magnesium and Vit B6), fatigue and depression (low Vit B12 and magnesium). The list goes on but logic screams that as important as eating the right food is, of course, being able to digest it.
So, that is my opinion: No dairy. At least for a one month trial. Then see how you feel. Remember: the field is rife with controversy fueled in part by the wealth of the dairy lobby (third most wealthy and influential of all the agricultural lobbies behind other proponents of addictive substances: tobacco and sugar). Still, abstention is worth a try.
Perhaps you wonder at my magnanamousness in offering up such a valuable clinical pearl (”Avoid dairy!”) designed to render my medical service obsolete. Not to worry, no such magnamanity. I expect a few of you will swear off the toxin but many good folks will continue their self‑repentant pilgrimage to my office where they can confess with impunity their latest culinary indiscretion. (”The only dairy I take is in my lattes…”) I comfort them as follows: “There. There. What you have done is neither bad nor good; nor is it worthy of such ponderous guilt. As with every other human action, what we eat simply has an effect. You are in a position to evaluate the consequences of your consumption and to freely choose your preferences. Go in peace.”
The only advice I feel strongly about is one passed on to me by a wise Swiss doctor, Otto Wolff, who mused cryptically: “It’s the little sins that kill you.” He was referring to the fact that to a great degree the body tolerates rare binges of a toxin, say ice cream, better than it does daily more moderate dosages. The latter, “little sins”, are toxic enough to undermine health but not blatant enough to alert the immune system to fight back and detox. So I tell people, if you have to eat ice cream, do it with gusto and appreciation but only on rare occasions.
Remember, the three rules of nutrition are
1) appreciation (often a form of grace before the meal will aid digestion. As Tenneyson wrote: “There are more things wrought by prayre on earth than man dreams of.”);
2) chew, chew, chew (stack the cards in favor of digestion and;
3) pay attention to the quality of what you eat.
Just as the process conditions the result, ultimately, how you eat is as important as what you eat.
To your Health!
Bradford S. Weeks, M.D, © 1993
The non-dairy option?
1 double handful of raw soaked almonds
1 quart water
2 Tablespoon raw honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Blend to make a rich and delicious “milk”.
Filter through a nut milk bag (optional)
Survive and Thrive!