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Dairy and MS

Overcoming MS strongly recommends that people with MS avoid dairy in their diet because research shows a high correlation between MS and dairy products, because of the high saturated fat content, and specific proteins in cow’s milk.

Why should you avoid dairy in your MS diet?

Some of the proteins in cow’s milk are targeted by the immune cells of people with MS. These include butyrophilin and bovine serum albumin (BSA).

Injecting those same cow’s milk proteins into test animals caused lesions to appear in their central nervous systems.

Some proteins in cow’s milk mimic part of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG), the part of myelin thought to initiate the autoimmune reaction in MS. This can trick the immune system into initiating an attack on MOG and hence cause demyelination.

What happens if you have a milk butyrophilin allergy?

Butyrophilin is a protein of the milk fat globule membrane (MFGM). It can be found in many products containing cow’s milk, such as cheese, chocolate, butter and ice cream. Many people find themselves suffering from an allergy to butyrophilin due to its far-reaching effects on the human body. It is thought as many as 75% of Caucasians are in some way allergic to dairy products.

Butyrophilin is associated with MS as it is an example of a protein in cow’s milk which carries molecular similarities to the body’s tissues and can trick the immune system into an attack on myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG). 

An analogy for this is that it is a bit like throwing petrol on a bonfire.

Dairy and general health

In terms of general health, a research study involving more than 135,000 men and women in the U.S. linked cow’s milk to the degenerative neurological disorder Parkinson’s Disease. Researchers speculate that dairy products may have a generally toxic effect on the central nervous system.

Lactose intolerance is common in many populations around the world (most notably Mediterranean, Asian, and African). Lactose-intolerant people experience a variety of ill effects from milk, including bloating, cramps, diarrhea, and nausea.

In their best-selling book The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-Term Health, Drs. Thomas Campbell and T. Colin Campbell argue that the best diet for overall human health is a plant-based diet of whole foods. For people with MS, the book is interesting reading, as it links animal fat and protein, especially cow’s milk, with MS and a range of other Western diseases.

Given the potential risks for people with MS of consuming dairy products, despite a lack of conclusive evidence, Overcoming MS recommends avoiding cow’s milk products as part of the Overcoming MS program.

Dairy alternatives for those on the Overcoming MS diet

Alternatives to dairy are widely available in a range of substitutes for milk, cheese, ice cream, yoghurt, and even butter. These are made from such foods as almonds or cashew nuts, hemp, rice, oats and soy. You can even make your own. We have written some guidance in a blog post

While soy products offer the highest protein and are better for baking, some people think almond or rice milk taste better on cereal. (Note, we do not recommend coconut milk). 

Check the ingredients, as some alternative milks contain oils which are best avoided on the Overcoming MS program.