Milk Myths

Milk Myths
Sue Mah

By: Sue Mah

Registered Dietitian,
in collaboration with Dairy Farmers of Canada

MYTH #1: If you're lactose intolerant, you must avoid all milk products.

FACT: You don't have to avoid all milk products if you're lactose intolerant. Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk and milk products. In lactose intolerance, there isn't enough of the enzyme lactase to digest the lactose found in foods. Yogurt and kefir are generally well-tolerated by those with lactose intolerance because these foods contain active bacteria cultures which help your body digest lactose. Also, aged cheeses such as swiss, cheddar, brie and camembert naturally have low levels of lactose. Lactose-reduced yogurt and milk are other good options if you have lactose intolerance.

DID YOU KNOW? People with lactose intolerance who consume some milk products have fewer symptoms than people who consume none at all.

MYTH #2: Cheese makes you constipated.

FACT: No single food, whether it's cheese, rice or bananas, causes constipation. The three most common causes of constipation are: 1) a low fibre diet; 2) inadequate water intake; and 3) a lack of physical activity. Constipation is also related to sudden changes in your daily schedule, stress, pregnancy, certain health problems, medications, and even travelling.

MYTH #3: Milk is full of hormones and antibiotics.

FACT: You can be assured that the Canadian milk supply is safe and wholesome, without hormones or antibiotics. In Canada, it's strictly forbidden to sell and use synthetic growth hormones (such as recombinant bovine somatotropin or rbST) to stimulate milk production in cows. Although this hormone is considered safe for milk sold in the United States, it is not allowed for use in the Canadian milk supply. Also, any sick cow requiring antibiotics must be clearly identified. Its milk must be thrown out until the medication is out of its system. These regulations are enforced and any milk producer breaking these rules faces heavy fines.

MYTH #4: Milk increases mucus especially when you have a cold.

FACT: Milk does not cause our bodies to produce more mucus. Our bodies actually produce between one to 1.5 litres of mucus every day to help keep our nose, sinus, throat, lungs and other tissues moist. Mucus is thick and sticky so it can trap dust and other foreign particles. It also contains helpful antibodies to fight bacteria and viruses that attack both the respiratory and digestive systems.

Many people mistake the temporary feel of milk on their tongue and in their saliva as increased mucus. To prove this theory, a study compared dairy milk with soy beverage since both beverages give a similar feel in the mouth. People who originally believed that milk causes increased mucus reported the same effect with both beverages. This suggests that it's actually the texture of the beverage, not dairy milk itself that is the cause of this perception.

Don't be fooled! Myths spread like wildfire, especially on the internet.

Think twice if:

  • A single food, cure or treatment promises to solve dozens of health problems.
  • The advice given goes against the recommendations of public health agencies and Health Canada.
  • The success stories are based mainly on personal testimonies rather than scientific papers.
  • You need to buy special products, powders or supplements.


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