Thursday, April 4, 2013

Is Cheese Bad For You?

As humans, we commonly like for things to fit in tidy little boxes with easy explanations. While this might work well for organizing our underwear drawer, with foods, it doesn’t hold a lot of water and often leads to lackluster results.

As someone who spent her lifetime following every ‘healthy’ diet on the planet, looking for the one-size fits all approach that would solve my health maladies, I get the temptation to want to be told - This is good for you. This is bad for you. Now just follow this diet and with a wave of your wand everything is better......

During SXSW Interactive I heard an inspiring talk by Linda Avey who created 23andMe. Her personal genome test kit was named “Invention of the Year” by Time Magazine in 2008. Her inspiration for wanting to make genomics accessible for the average person? Studies which show medicines only work 40-50% of the time. So why aren’t meds working for everyone as we’ve commonly been told? Many answers could be at play, but a large one resides in our genes. Hence the ultra-cool revolution in targeted gene therapy and personalized medicine.

Linda Avey was at the forefront of this movement in medicine. And now she is at the forefront of what she considers an evolution beyond personalized medicine. Personalized medicine is still ultimately about treating sickness. She wants to prevent sickness and foster wellness. Her latest incarnation is still being hatched, but she’s moving her genius to the personalized wellness movement.

The premise: Can you find what works for YOU and prevent the need for personalized medicine? It appears we are coming full circle with what our ancient philosophers have told us all along:

Know Thyself. And Let Food Be Thy Medicine.

Now you might be wondering....What does this have to do with cheese?!

Perhaps the temptation to place cheese into the Good Camp or the Evil Camp is misplaced as well. Maybe, just maybe, it depends on you, along with wisdom from our elders.

How to know if cheese works for you?
Cheese is a problem food for a large % of people creating everything from stomach bloating, lower energy levels, congestion, headaches, sleep issues and fatigue. Obviously if cheese is bringing you down, the only way up, is without.

But how to know for sure? The clearest, most accurate test is with a good old fashioned elimination and mindful reintegration. But in order to receive an accurate read, read on:

  • Eliminate all forms of dairy for at least 2 weeks. As surprising as it sounds, even a trace amount of dairy can warp your results during this test period, since it can hang around in your body for several days.
  • Towards the end of the test period, note any areas that have improved. Has your sleep improved? Your digestion? Your allergies? Energy levels?
  • During your test period, suss out life circumstances that could interfere with your results. A big one is for us women and our cycles. PMS can mimic the effects of food intolerances: increased bloating, back pain, fatigue, irritability and headaches can all be indications of either PMS or the impact of dairy.
  • Since dairy is only one of many foods that could be creating issues, it is most optimal to omit the common offenders all at once to get a true read on your vitals.

When you are ready to re-integrate cheese and find out how it works for you, follow what we call the basics. In true form with - “Let Food Be Thy Medicine”, ask yourself, would this pass what Hippocrates or our great grandparents considered real food?

  • Eat non-processed dairy. Food did not come in packages with multitudes of chemicals, preservatives and coloring agents to make it spreadable.
  • Eat unpasteurized, raw cheeses. There is an abundance of raw dairy that has avoided the pasteurization process. Pasteurization renders any food unrecognizable to our bodies and it certainly didn’t exist in the time of Hippocrates.
  • Know the quality of the herd. Shop at your local farmers markets to receive cheeses produced from free range animals that graze on the land rather than those that are factory farmed, which of course, didn’t exist in our elders' lives.
  • Not all dairy is created equal. If consciously sourced cow dairy does not work for you, try consciously sourced raw-chevre (goat cheese)
  • And with all good things in life - moderation is key. If eating dairy, begets eating more dairy, this might be a signal.....


  1. Fabulous article! Thank you for mentioning the quality and source (and raw properties!) of cheese. Too often (real, unprocessed) food is deemed "bad" without taking into consideration that its bad rep is from our society's manipulation of a real food into a more convenient, processed "food" product. Our judgment of the health of food ought to come from the analysis of food in its raw, unadulterated form in conjunction with its effect on our individual and ever-loving unique bodies.

  2. We couldn't agree more Julia! And raw cheese is delicious, to boot. Thanks for connecting.