Not eating dairy? Why, please?

I’ve noticed a couple of posts where ladies have said they aren’t eating dairy, why please? I was advised not to eat unpasteurised cheeses etc while on chemo, but no one has said anything about diet or restrictions after chemo. (I’ve done chemo and mx, radiotherapy to start end of summer).

Hi Ali,

This is one of the more contentious areas, where opinions vary widely and the scientific research is often inconclusive or confusing. When it comes to any dietary changes, the general rule of thumb has to be discuss it with your own team first. When I was first diagnosed someone VERY intelligent told me I shouldn’t eat any dairy products (based on the work of a Dr Janet Plant (not a medical doctor by the way), which attracts strong responses for and against; if interested you would need to read it for yourself and make up your own mind). I asked my oncologist who said, in his view, so long as I ate a varied and reasonably balanced diet I’d be fine (subject the constraints during chemo which were mostly about food poisoning risk) and that in his opinion, during treatment I should drink full fat milk! So far as I can understand, a lot of the logic behind not having dairy products is about certain hormones given to cattle, which is something that is not practicsed in the UK. I continue to drink milk (though not full fat now!), eat butter, cheese and yogurt and am quite at ease about it. Other people choose not to, and I respect that.

We each have to find our own way thruogh the minefield of contradictory and confusing information out there about what might or might not help or hinder. Lots of people choose to make some changes to their fiet or lifestyle, which is as much about taking control as anything else. There is some dodgey and dangerous stuff on the web, so I’d say never make any changes unless you’ve checked them out first.

There are some ladies who post on here who are really knowledgeable about research into dietary stuff, so maybe one of them will be along soon. But in the end, only you can decide whether or not to eat dairy (or anything else), and whether or not in a worst case scenario you will worry that the deicsion you made contributed to the outcome.

All I can say nearly two years on fom diagnosis, I worry a lot less about this sort of thing and have found what works for me by way of little ‘tweaks’ to diet and lfiestyle. I’m sure you will find your way through it all too.

Ali, I think there are basically two reasons that people avoid dairy:
(1) Some people are concerned that cows milk contains oestrogen which might stimulate ER+ BC to grow in humans. Some are also concerned that cows milk may contain antibiotics which might compromise the immune system of human beings.
The truth is that cows are not fed hormones in the UK (it’s against the law), but there is still concern about oestrogen in milk, because cows can be milked while pregnant. Consequently, if cows are milked during the final trimester of pregancy, oestrogen levels can be quite high (although nodbody knows if bovine oestrogen crosses the species barrier). There is also a debate about whether antibiotics can pass into milk/have any effect on humans, so the simplest way of avoiding this, without cutting dairy is to opt for organic dairy products (as organic farmers do not milk cows in the final trimester).
(2) Other people avoid dairy because they are following something called the China diet (people believe in this diet because it appears China has low levels of BC). But some think the China diet could actually be harmful because it contains high levels of soya,which contain phytooestrogens that could stimulate ER+ BC. Also the China diet is low in protein, which could lead to dietary deficiencies, and weaken people with already compromised immune sytems. Other critics have said that if the Chinese diet does offer protection against BC, that advantage is most likely gained during childhood. The theory is that feeding children phytoestrogens, de-sensitises their cells to the effects of hormonal stimulas later on. The other point to mention is that while China have low levels of BC, they also have the highest levels of stomach cancer in the world.
Personally I think faddy diets are unhealthy. I try to eat lots of fruit and veg, and my protein comes from eggs, fish, skinless chicken, pulses, and low fat milk and cheese (to limit fat). I also have organic, because I dont want to risk additives.

Thank you ladies. My teenage son has type 1 diabetes so we already have a carb conscious healthy eating (with treats) diet in place, and therefor possibly a mild obsession with food and diet. I must admit that my first thought on reading a non-dairy comment was “CHEESE!!!” as it’s a favourite of mine… my best friend is lactose intolerant so I know how difficult a diet it is to follow. So much to think about!

Hey Ali,
Just found this thread and like yourself was sent helter skelter on a research journey about this and other factors. Like the two posters above have said it is up to you (on the advice of your oncologist) whether or not you choose to eat diary, personally I drink lactose free semi skimmed milk (why? because lactose is a form of sugar and I believe sugar feeds cancer so in attempt to cut out sugar I have lactose free products which actually don’t taste any different to the full fat stuff and you can get cheese and butter also lactose free) also I found normal milk to give me wind! I dont suffer with that anymore lol I’ve cut out caffeine (seems to make my hot flushes worse) and also sugar in both decaf tea and coffee. I drink a pint of organic green veg/fruit juice a day (because I just would not be able to consume that amount in veg and fruit a day otherwise) and have done so for the past year, I feel better for it and I believe it is in someway helping me stay stable also I loosely follow the diet, of a lady called Kris Carr of Crazy Sexy Cancer (please send me a private message if your interested). I say loosley because I still eat freerange eggs, oily fish, and freerange chicken, like lemongrove I also buy organic whenever I can to avoid additives and crop sprayed food. Like Revcat said it is both confusing an conflicting the information you will find but at the end of the day its up to you to choose what you eat again always check with your oncologist first with any dietry or supplement changes (I always go to my appointments with a list as long as your arm lol). Good luck with everything and please try not to get hung up on this issue it drove me round the bend initially but I’ve since calmed down a lot and now allow myself to eat the occassional muffin or chocolate bar.
Love and light sarah x

Eating full fat dairy has been shown to help women with problems ovulating. I don’t want to do anything that could boost my oestrogen levels with an ER+ cancer so am steering clear of dairy altogether. There haven’t been enough widescale controlled studies to prove the benefits of avoiding dairy when it comes to breast cancer - and you won’t find anyone at the hospital advising anything that hasn’t been proven by a widescale study. However, there is a certain logic to why dairy would boost oestrogen. It feels like something I can control. It’s definitely not a good idea to replace with soya though (phyto-oetrogens). There’s a nice oat ‘milk’ called Oatly you can get from Holland and Barrett / Tesco. I make myself a delicious smoothie with it when I fancy something sweet and creamy…
Oat ‘milk’ chilled in fridge
Splodge of almond butter (H&B)
Splodge of manuka honey
Ripe banana
Sprinkle of omega seeds (optional)
4 dates with seeds removed (optional)
Zap everything up in a blender

A good and helpful summary, Lemongrove! (I worked in food science till I retired 3 years ago.) I would add that we grow our own fruit and vegetables, so we get the benefit of fresh produce without the unknown additives.

Info on diet and bc (including dairy) also on CRUK
and in this article

Thanks ladies, I need to work through all this info and maybe get back with questions if that’s ok?? :slight_smile:

A quick question, is it just cows milk dairy or all dairy, eg ewes milk cheese??

Keyfeatures, I respect your view about milk, but just want to remind you that if its the oestrogen in milk you’re concerned about, you can avoid that by opting for organic milk or skimmed milk. Organic Farmers don’t milk cows during the final trimester of pregnancy so the peak of oestrogen is avoided. Also skimmed milk contains hardly any oestrogen, because oestrogen is concentrated into dairy fat.
Ali, I think the concern is confined to cows milk (but others may know better). My understanding is that cows are the only mammals that can be milked during pregnancy, and that is why if they are milked during the final trimester of pregnancy, there could be oestrogen in the milk.
Having said that there was quite a large study in Norway (49,000 people), which concluded that people who consume a lot of milk (particularly during childhood), have a lower incidence of breast cancer (see link below).

I personally don’t agree with cutting out completely any food group. I think a better idea is to have a balanced diet with the best quality food and ingredients you can.
What I wanted to mention that no-one has on this thread and which research is showing is very important when it combes to BC is the importance of Vitamin D. Now as most people know it isn’t available in many food stuffs and because of that and also the lack of sun in this country and the popularity of the skin cancer message, increasing numbers of people are becoming deficient. Dairy food is one of the groups that does contact Vit D, so therefore is it really that sensible to cut it out completely?
My onc is very up on the latest research with regard to vit D and BC and other forms of cancer and she no routinely tests all her patients and finds in up to 90% of women that a deficiency exists.
So all I would say to everyone is think very carefully about cutting out one area because you could also be causing problems with other areas.

Samlee, I completely agree with you, and Vitamin D is especially important for those with bone metastases who take bisphosphonates. Many people who take bisphosphonates don’t realise that they should also be taking a calcium supplement, and vitamin D is important to synthesise calcium.
If people are worried about oestrogen in milk, then organic milk is an alternative.

There’s so much confusing information out there. I have Dr Jane Plant’s book with her recipes. However I found that I couldn’t change my lifestyle to that degree. I’ve now been steered towards the Rainbow Diet but I’d find it really difficult not to have a coffee or a wine and some other foods too. So I’m going to eat healthily but not den y myself the things that I like. I take Vit D and calcium as I have bone mets.
chrisp1e xxx

It’s not just the oestrogen IN the milk, it’s the saturated fat encouraging the production of oestrogen (fat cells produce oestrogen). Although not all oestrogen is the same anyway (E1, E2,E3). Personally I dont’ think dairy is a necessary part of a balanced diet given the huge numbers of humans who don’t eat it and are perfectly healthy. That’s just me. I get calcium from eating oily, bony fish (e.g. tinned salmon) and take a vit D supplement daily (was doing that before BC anyway). But I agree people need to look at their diet holistically. You need to consider all the nutrients your body needs and get them from something.