Can You Eat Dairy On The Carnivore Diet?

12 min read

What you’re getting yourself into

Looking at the common digestive issues with dairy, and strategies you can use to integrate it in a carnivore programme.

The carnivore diet has grown steadily from the fringes of the dieting landscape, propelled by miraculous transformations from people who’d accepted that a state of inflammation and lethargy was just their lot in life.

By ditching plant foods, they’ve discovered that they can keep autoimmune disorders at bay and not just recover their former unsuppressed selves, but rise to operate at a level that they never believed they were capable of.

But is it too simplistic to say that plant foods are the only sources of inflammation, and the only ones that need purging for you to realise your best self?

I’d argue that the “plant is bad and meat is good” paradigm is a little clunky, and that some carnivorous foods can still cause problems in those who don’t have the metabolic prowess to wade off inflammatory ingredients.

This is why I’ve wrote that I don’t think pork or chicken should be the centerpiece of a carnivore diet. This is mostly due to the fact that they’ll typically contain undue amounts of Omega 6, which is inherently prone to oxidation, inflammation, and is obesogenic.

You don’t need to avoid them, but you should certainly consider moderating them.

So I’ve figured it’s time to tackle the question of the many types of dairy, and what place they hold in carnivore cuisine.

This is bound to be a contentious topic, since cheese is the sole reason that vegetarians can’t commit to becoming vegan. People don’t give it up easy. So strap in.

Is Dairy Ancestral?

when was dairy invented

One of the defining points of carnivore, and the driving force behind its potency as a diet, is the fact that it is the closest thing we have to the ancestral cuisine that stretched across our multi million year run in the paleolithic.

To put things simply, we are biologically attuned to seek out, digest, and utilise certain foods. Just like any other species. The foods we ate across the paleolithic, 99.5% of our existence as a species, will be the foods that work the best for us now.

We ate plenty of mammoth meat across this timeline, and since mammoth meat is basically red meat, we should be able to thrive on red meat, rather than getting our arteries clogged and succumbing to terminal constipation.

Modern foods, especially ones that bare little to no resemblance to our ancestral options, are likely to be incompatible with our biology. French fries, for instance, are a mix of starches and seed oils. They contain concentrations of sugar and Omega 6 far in excess of what we’d be expect to find in the pre-agricultural wilderness. So they offer a boatload of inflammation and a scarcity of nutrition along with calories.

Ancestral foods are predisposed to help us thrive, modern foods are likely to be the ones that sabotage our efforts.

So the question is, where does dairy fit in?

We can pretty much rule out any dairy before humans started domesticating other species, since the act of milking does require two reasonably willing parties. So any visions of paleolithic cavemen powered by raw milk would have to be put to the side.

Sheep, goats, and cattle were domesticated with the commencement of agriculture and the beginning of the Neolithic around 11,000 years ago. There’s little evidence of specialised dairying in the early Neolithic, but by 7,000 years ago, dairy production was a common occurrence throughout Europe.

Despite not being particularly ancestral, dairy has still been around long enough for 35% of the global population to have the lactase enzyme necessary to digest lactose, the main carbohydrate in milk. The enzyme is particularly prevalent in traditionally pastoralist peoples, like those of Northern Europe, and makes the use of dairy considerably less taxing on digestion.

Unfortunately, that still leaves 65% of the planet to struggle handling most forms of dairy, and be in dire danger of disaster pants if they indulge too liberally.

That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, but it does make a thorny subject for carnivore recruits eager to find out what it would be like to digest a meal without needing to make a quick dash for the toilet.

And lactose is not the only issue with dairy. But let’s get the good press first.

The Benefits Of Dairy

benefits of dairy on carnivore

While dairy isn’t technically ancestral, it still closely resembles the foods that we did use as staples across the paleolithic. That alone elevates it to superfood status.

High Quality Protein – Dairy naturally contains all the essential amino acids needed to support muscle growth and the other less relevant stuff.

Saturated Fat – Dairy contains high amounts of saturated fat, assuming you’re not making the dreadful mistake of choosing the low-fat monstrosities. Since saturated fat increases testosterone, pumps up the metabolic rate, acts as a stable energy storage, and has been exonerated of all charges, this is entirely a good thing.

Fat Soluble Vitamins – Dairy contains varying amounts of the vitamins A, D, E & K.

Calcium – A primary source of calcium, which you can weaponise towards getting indestructible bones.

Phosphorous – Adds to your titanium bones while also aiding cellular function.

Vitamin B2 – Riboflavin is critical for mitochondrial function and energy production.

Probiotics – Fermented options like kefir, greek yogurt, and blue cheese contain strains of bacteria that can support gut health and the immune system.

Then there’s the small matter of raw milk, which retains more nutrients thanks to not getting zapped. Alongside the survival of probiotics, the higher concentrations of vitamins, the preservation of the structure of proteins and fats, unpasteurised dairy also contains the lactase enzyme that’s sorely missed by so many.

The safety of raw milk is a contentious subject, but it does bare saying that raw milk from designated raw milk farms is wildly different to pre-pasteurised milk in standard dairy farms. The conditions are much better, and safety standards are usually much more rigorous. Recent studies have found that raw milk dairy is a low risk food that’s only continuing to get safer.

But I’d highly recommend doing your own research and making sure that whatever farm you have your eyes on is adhering to regulations imposed by an organisation like the Raw Milk Institute.

One serious additional but conditional benefit of dairy is the fact that it’s quite palatable and relatively easy to overeat on. Which is ideal if you’re trying to find ways to pump up the calories during a bulk. Double cream definitely was a saviour for me while I was scrambling to find ways to maintain 5000 calories a day during my peak bulk phase. If I had been able to get my hands on some raw milk, then it would have been even better, due to the fact that I could just drink my extra calories.

Otherwise it can be a challenge to gain considerable weight on carnivore, due to the intense satistion you’re getting from nutrient-dense superfoods. So the likes of double cream, whole milk, and creamy cheese can be game changers for getting the scale moving again.

The Ultimate Cheat Sheet For Building Muscle On Carnivore

The Potential Issues With Dairy

issues with dairy on carnivore

While dairy is jam packed with bioavailable nutrition, there are a few drawbacks that could crop up from using a food that’s evolutionary goal is to maximise growth in infants. Since you’re reading this, I can assume that you’ve at least scraped into your late teens. Technically, dairy isn’t meant for you at this junction of your life.

That’s not to say you can’t use dairy. The Mongols drank plenty of fermented mare’s milk, and they made light work of conquering the world’s largest ever contiguous land empire. Even if they were also known for their rampant diarrhoea after big feasts.

Lactose – The Maasai are a modern pastoralist people in East Africa that include milk as a staple part of their diet. Interesting, despite appearing to drink milk without suffering any digestive issues, they also are predominantly malabsorbers of lactose.

95% of Mongolians also lack the enzyme lactase. Which begs the question, is there more to efficient milk digestion than simply having the right genetics or just removing lactose altogether?

Having in its raw form for the lactase enzyme, or putting through a fermenting process to reduce lactose content, does make the situation easier. Hence the Mongolians and their unpasteurised fermented horse milk. But there is also evidence showing that colonic adaptation occurs with regular lactose ingestion, reducing issues with intolerance.

So in other words, it can pay to put on a brave face and endure the initial troubles if you really want to include dairy in your diet. But unfortunately, there are a few other things that need to be considered, because lactose isn’t the only trip hazard to look out for.

Sugar Content – A litre of whole milk contains 47 grams of sugar. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem for you, but it would mean the end to ketosis. Which for me, makes it problematic.

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Casomorphins – The casein in dairy breaks down into these opioid molecules that can be mildly addictive, which might not be what you want if you’re jumping on carnivore to extinguish your cravings and remove any emotional shackles to food.

Casein – Certain breeds of cattle contain A1 casein, which has been shown to cause gastrointestinal distress and brain fog.

Histamine – Fermented dairy like hard cheese will have been exposed for a fair length of time, leading to the build-up of histamine, which can prompt allergy-like reactions from those who are susceptible. Such as myself.

The Solutions To Dairy’s Issues

how to include dairy on carnivore

Lactose – Each of the aforementioned issues with dairy comes with solutions that don’t require complete abandonment of dairy products. Lactose intolerance, for instance, could be ameliorated either by sticking to foods that are almost devoid of lactose, like butter, most cheeses, and kefir milk.

And if you’re really bad at dealing with lactose, you can opt for ghee instead of butter, and pick from hard cheeses.

Otherwise, raw dairy will help lactose digestion since it contains the requisite enzyme for breaking it down: lactase.

Sugar Content – Double cream, most cheeses, and double cream will all be practically zero in grams of sugar. The ones that do, bar milk, will still be on the low side, and not likely to cancel the sweet mellow high of ketosis.

Casomorphins And Casein – Casomorphins appear to be exclusive to A1 dairy, and the casein intolerance is also found in A1 dairy. So all you have to do is avoid anything listed as A1 dairy. Since it’s only sourced in a few breeds of cows, you can pick any other animal that we use for milk. Like goat, buffalo, or horse.

Histamine – This is going to be prevalent in aged products, so you can mitigate the issue with cheese by choosing the soft, creamy variety. Get your dairy fresh, and use it while it’s still fresh. Fermented dairy will be more problematic, so you may have issues with the likes of blue cheese, greek yogurt with live cultures, and kefir.

Should You Start Carnivore With Dairy Or Intergrate Later?

carnitine benefits

While most of dairy’s issues do come with ready-made solutions, it becomes a lot easier to identify those intolerances once you’ve established your baseline of optimal health. And you’re going to get there by first engaging in a complete elimination of potential triggers. Dairy is one of them.

For that reason, I’d highly recommend avoiding dairy for the first month of carnivore. That even includes butter. For the second month onwards, you can integrate one type of dairy at a time, and see how you’re reacting to these foods.

If you’re safe enough with dairy, then it’s a wonderful addition of nutrition, flavour, and variety to the carnivore diet. If you have to moderate it, then it’s up to you to gauge whether you can moderate. But you certainly don’t need dairy, so no sleep needs to be lost if your only nutritional options are red meat.

How To Hit All Your Nutrient Needs On A Carnivore Diet

If you have any further questions on how to set up your carnivore diet, reach out to me on Twitter, Instagram, or sign up to my coaching programme below.

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