Disease Proof

Avoiding cow's milk may alleviate chronic constipation in children

The idea that cow’s milk is an essential component of the diet for young children is one of the biggest nutritional myths. Decades of marketing by the dairy industry has convinced most parents in the U.S. that milk and cheese are indispensible for childhood health, but this is simply not true. Cow’s milk was designed by nature to be the perfect food for baby cows – not for human children.

Since allergy to cow’s milk has been postulated to cause of chronic constipation in children, a gastroenterology research team in Spain evaluated a cow’s milk-free (CM-free) diet as a therapeutic measure for this condition. Sixty-nine children suffering from chronic constipation underwent alternating periods of a CM-free diet followed by reintroduction of cow’s milk. During the first CM-free phase, 51% of the children showed improvements in their symptoms. After cow’s milk was reintroduced, 39% of children developed constipation and then improved during the second CM-free phase. The improved symptoms were not the simple result of a cow’s milk allergy in the children who were ‘responders’ to the CM-free diet – there is some other mechanism at work, which is yet to be discovered.1

As discussed in Disease Proof Your Child, several adverse health effects in children have been attributed to dairy products:

  • There is a strong correlation between early exposure to cow’s milk and type 1 diabetes in children.2-8
  • Early (12 months of age) dairy consumption is also associated with excess body fat in children.9
  • Milk consumption in teenagers is associated with acne.10-12
  • Childhood diets rich in dairy products are associated with cancer in adulthood.13
  • Additional conditions associated with cow’s milk consumption include allergies, Crohn’s disease, ear infections, heart attack, multiple sclerosis, and prostate cancer.14

These are serious concerns, especially when you consider the huge amount of dairy products that some children consume, regardless of whether a child is a ‘responder’ with respect to the digestive complaints associated with cow’s milk. Dairy foods may supply needed calcium in those not eating any vegetables, but when you use less dairy and more high-calcium plant foods, you get lots of anti-cancer nutrients in the bargain. The modest micronutrient content in dairy can’t compare to vegetables and is vastly outweighed by its calorie content and associated health risks. Less animal source products and more vegetables is the secret to an anti-cancer lifestyle, and not merely to resolve constipation.



1. Irastorza, I., et al., Cow's-milk-free diet as a therapeutic option in childhood chronic constipation. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 2010. 51(2): p. 171-6.
2. Soltesz, G., Worldwide childhood type 1 diabetes epidemiology. Endocrinol Nutr, 2009. 56 Suppl 4: p. 53-5.
3. Dahl-Jorgensen, K., G. Joner, and K.F. Hanssen, Relationship between cows' milk consumption and incidence of IDDM in childhood. Diabetes Care, 1991. 14(11): p. 1081-3.
4. Savilahti, E., et al., Increased levels of cow's milk and beta-lactoglobulin antibodies in young children with newly diagnosed IDDM. The Childhood Diabetes in Finland Study Group. Diabetes Care, 1993. 16(7): p. 984-9.
5. Virtanen, S.M., et al., Diet, cow's milk protein antibodies and the risk of IDDM in Finnish children. Childhood Diabetes in Finland Study Group. Diabetologia, 1994. 37(4): p. 381-7.
6. Kostraba, J.N., et al., Early exposure to cow's milk and solid foods in infancy, genetic predisposition, and risk of IDDM. Diabetes, 1993. 42(2): p. 288-95.
7. Gerstein, H.C., Cow's milk exposure and type I diabetes mellitus. A critical overview of the clinical literature. Diabetes Care, 1994. 17(1): p. 13-9.
8. Gerstein, H.C. and J. VanderMeulen, The relationship between cow's milk exposure and type 1 diabetes. Diabet Med, 1996. 13(1): p. 23-9.
9. Gunther, A.L., et al., Early protein intake and later obesity risk: which protein sources at which time points throughout infancy and childhood are important for body mass index and body fat percentage at 7 y of age? Am J Clin Nutr, 2007. 86(6): p. 1765-72.
10. Adebamowo, C.A., et al., Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. J Am Acad Dermatol, 2008. 58(5): p. 787-93.
11. Adebamowo, C.A., et al., Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. Dermatol Online J, 2006. 12(4): p. 1.
12. Adebamowo, C.A., et al., High school dietary dairy intake and teenage acne. J Am Acad Dermatol, 2005. 52(2): p. 207-14.
13. van der Pols, J.C., et al., Childhood dairy intake and adult cancer risk: 65-y follow-up of the Boyd Orr cohort. Am J Clin Nutr, 2007. 86(6): p. 1722-9.
14. Fuhrman, J., Disease Proof Your Child. 2005, New York: St. Martin's Griffin.

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Comments (9) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Dawn - September 1, 2010 5:46 PM

I have always been told by my pediatrician when my child is 12 months they go on whole milk....no other choice is given. I would love an alternative that has enough fat, calcium, and protein. I still have my 14 month old on formula because I have not found anything better for him.
What did you give your kids instead?

Daniel - September 1, 2010 8:39 PM

I agree completely. Dairy is one thing that can go.

Greg Kaler - September 2, 2010 7:54 AM

Right on sister! Great post Deana. I wonder how many of us there are that refuse to be duped anymore about the milk from a cow? I am in meat and potatoes central Minnesota. The state drink of our western neighbor North Dakota is milk. Our eastern neighbor Wisconsin is filled with cheeseheads. Iowa to the south is dairy, dairy, dairy. Help!
I have my own blog called Food For Thought: http://greg-foodforthought.blogspot.com/ that I've sent to family and friends since February. Many times I have written about the illogical consumption and dangers of dairy products, referencing Dr. Fuhrman.
I have talked in person to family about this MANY times. Still on family visits mothers say to their children "drink your milk." Their refrigerators are always stocked with bovine slime (coined from Marilu Henner). My brother's a big wig with U.S. air traffic control. He says to me "How can you not have milk with your cookies?" It's a world turned upside down Deana. Bright intelligent people, even when given the scientific, logical info right in front of their faces- don't get it. What does it take? All we can do is keep trying to educate and be good influences. Greg Kaler

Kathie - September 2, 2010 8:47 AM

I agree that cow's milk is meant for baby cows and human babies NEED milk from their human mothers. I nursed all of my children for several years (yes years!) and let them wean themselves. They were not ever sick the entire time they were nursing. I wish I knew then what I know now and would not have given them cow's milk after weaning but one daughter simply refused to drink it. I let her drink juices instead and didn't push the milk and she continued to be very healthy (she's 29 now). The ones who drank the milk got occasional ear infections and allergies but were still basically pretty healthy from those years of nursing. If I could do it all over again I would probably give my children nut milks or rice milk after weaning, which are now in most grocery stores.

Deana Ferreri, Ph.D. - September 2, 2010 10:50 AM

Dr. Fuhrman goes into detail on babies' initial foods in Disease Proof Your Child

Barbra - September 2, 2010 12:46 PM

I agree for PASTEURIZED milk. I wish there would be distinction made between raw milk and pasteurized. My family drinks only raw milk and is never sick. Read the facts about how the dairy industry has turned this healthful drink into poison. I will never again listen to anyone who says raw milk makes you sick. UNCLEAN anything will make you sick. I don't want unclean milk even if it has been cooked. We'll see if this gets posted or is "edited out."

Michael - September 3, 2010 7:42 AM

I've had raw cow's milk and goat's milk in my youth. I don't remember having difficulty with goat's milk, but cow's milk made me violently ill every time I drink it, even in small quantities. My health improved when I cut out dairy, raw or pasteurized.

Mr Curious - September 22, 2010 11:10 AM

I think that the idea is to use milk sparingly, same as salt, sugar, oils, etc... It's probably also true that raw milk may be better in terms of its nutritional value since it hasn't been processed, same as with every other food. But I didn't verify that so don't take my word for it. For example Think regular cooked soy beans vs TSP vs Tofu vs Tempeh vs soy milk... Once you start transform the soybean, the nutritional value changes, and your body uses it differently.

Andrea Rosario - September 28, 2010 9:04 AM

I think the point here is to consume dairy products like cow's milk in moderate amount... Everything has a bad affect when taken in large amount... The thought to think here is cow's milk are made for cow's alone unless processed to be taken by children that is why it can cause constipation in children...

Very interesting article. Love It! :)

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