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Does dairy cause joint inflammation and pain?

bucket of coconut yoghurt

Does dairy cause joint inflammation and pain?

It is purely anecdotal, but I have noticed that every time I eat dairy, even lactose-free dairy, my knee, and hip joints get sore and stiff the next day. Is there any evidence for the claim that dairy causes joint inflammation, stiffness, and pain?. . Maybe!

One article suggested that if you are ALLERGIC to dairy, the dairy proteins can cause joint pain in otherwise healthy individuals. This happens because of increased histamine and other chemicals in your body. (1) Histamine causes inflammation of the joints which can put pressure on the areas surrounding the joint, causing pain a few hours or even a day after consuming dairy. (1)

You can get tested for a dairy allergy, where a small amount of casein and other dairy proteins is injected under the skin, and if you get a reaction on your skin, you are likely to be allergic to dairy. (1)

Does dairy cause joint inflammation in osteoarthritis and evidence against?

Other articles point to the fact that dairy could be one of the culprits of osteoarthritis, the type of arthritis that develops as we age from wear and tear. (2) Avoiding dairy and fruits and vegetables of the nightshade family (tomatoes, eggplants, etc), can lead to a pain-free life. (2)

However, some physicians claim that dairy will have no effect on arthritis, citing a study performed by Dr. Panush, regarding people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on a dairy-free diet. Those who ate dairy-free did no better than those who did eat dairy products. (3) Furthermore, 2014 research found that women who drank more milk had less osteoarthritis than those who did not. (3)

Anecdotal – it works for me!

It is confusing, but all I know from my own experience is that eating dairy products makes my joints stiff and sore. Perhaps it is an allergy and I should go and get tested. For now, I am loving my coconut yoghurt and almond milk. If you have lactose intolerance or are otherwise adverse to dairy products, perhaps you will understand the glee of opening up a bucket of white creamy yoghurt that is completely dairy-free, and oh, so, tasty.

texture and colour of coconut milk

Coconut milk yoghurt has more calories in it than regular or light dairy yoghurt, however, if you are eating a vegetarian diet, you are not consuming very many calories daily, so you can afford to splurge on some delicious coconut yoghurt dessert. It is absolutely delicious!

Well tolerated dairy for those who are lactose intolerant

If it is the lactose in dairy that causes the joint aches (or if the sensation actually represents more calcium being absorbed), there is some dairy that is often well tolerated by lactose-intolerant individuals and can help to reach your daily dose of calcium. Greek yoghurt is one alternative to coconut yoghurt that has more calcium, low-fat cheese is another well-tolerated source of calcium. Although you might have legitimate concerns about the saturated fat in cheese and its effect on cardiovascular health, I do recall a study that said that eating cheese is not related to heart disease.

Dairy free cheese

Another recipe that might entice you is one for dairy free cream cheese. I was looking for something savoury to have on toast as a mid morning snack and found this recipe for dairy free cream cheese.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups of pine nuts
1 Tbs. coconut oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 very small clove of garlic
1 Tbs. minced white onion
2 Tbs. of water.

Directions

Blend all ingredients until smooth. This might take some coaxing with a blender, or you can use a food processor or hand held blender instead. Put in a small container and freeze for 2 hours to help set the coconut oil and achieve the right texture. After 2 hours in the freezer, move to the fridge and use within five days.

What is it like? Would you like to know?

Again, the coconut flavour really comes through and the garlic is also very pervasive. The texture is very nice though. It is not melted cheese on a piece of toast, but it is definitely a good substitute.

Give the cows a break! Stop drinking mucus 🙂 hehe. . . Free the coconuts 🙂

Another possible explanation for joint pain after eating dairy

In this article, I hypothesised that eating dairy was causing the pain in my joints and bones. The research suggested at the time that this could be possible if one had an allergic reaction to some of the components of dairy, say casein. The research also did not point to a particular explanation for the fact that dairy might cause joint pain.

Maybe it is a vitamin D deficiency?

My reading on vitamin D makes me want to suggest another hypothesis. There is evidence for the fact that vitamin D deficiency can cause pain in the bones. I now believe that perhaps the pain in the joints that can come from eating milk or other dairy products may be caused by the problems of absorbing calcium without sufficient vitamin D in the system.

The only way of testing this hypothesis is to do a research study. I wish I could! Does anyone want to donate some capital resources to make the research possible?

I could test this hypothesis by seeing if the joint pain occurs after drinking dairy milk after a month or so of supplementing vitamin D. It would be barely scientific though!

It might be a vitamin D deficiency that is causing the pain in your joints and bones. And the fact that it happens more after you eat calcium might be a result of the way vitamin D (or lack thereof), helps your body to absorb calcium (in dairy, for example).

Thoughts?

References

1. Do certain dairy products cause joint pain and inflammation? 2014. Diane Marks from Livestrong.com http://www.livestrong.com/article/437115-dairy-products-that-cause-joint-inflammation-pain/ [Accessed 2/4/2016]

2. Foods and arthritis. Physicians Committee for responsible medicine. http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/foods-and-arthritis [Accessed 2 April 2016]

3. Arthritis food myths. Larry Linder. 2015. From arthritis.org http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/anti-inflammatory/food-myths-arthritis.php

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