How harmful is dairy consumption for the human body?
June 19, 2017 2:15 PM   Subscribe

My newish doctor (an MD) is very aggressively vegan, and spent over half of my appointment giving me unsolicited advice about the dangers of dairy. He believes that the popularly-held pro-dairy beliefs are basically propaganda from Big Milk, subsidized by the USDA. In particular, he thinks dairy consumption promotes osteoporosis (and other physiological evils, inside the fold). Is this or is this not true?

To be clear, for the purposes of this question, I'm less concerned about the financial ethics of the USDA subsidizing dairy or whatever, and I'm also less concerned about the animal cruelty aspects (I care about that, but that's not the focus of this question).

What I'd like to know about are specifically the nutritional implications of dairy. My doctor's biggest claim, for me, is that consumption of dairy actually promotes osteoporosis. Also, that calcium is much more bioavailable in leafy greens, milk leeches calcium from the body, etc. He also claims that consumption of dairy promotes mental health issues, obesity, acne, inflammation in the body, and generally poor vital signs and blood test results (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, etc.). Obviously I'll be checking PubMed for myself, but it sometimes seems to me that the results of nutritional studies seem to conflict, so I wanted to see whether you all had any knowledge on this.

If it matters, I am a young adult woman who is reasonably active, with a fairly slim/athletic/hourglass build, with no lactose intolerance. I have been suffering from exhaustion for several years, which my doctor suggested could be alleviated if I gave up dairy and meat. My diet includes a fair amount of dairy, mostly of the full-fat fermented kind. I eat 1-2 servings of fermented dairy each day (yogurt or kefir, in a smoothie with prebiotic fiber and fruit), plus maybe half a cup daily of full-fat milk in coffee and tea, and a bit of butter a few times a week. The research I've read over the last few years has suggested that full-fat dairy appears to promote lower body weights than low-fat dairy (which obviously doesn't answer the question of whether it's good to eat it at all, but does explain why I choose higher fat over lower fat). I like having fatty fermented dairy in my diet because it has calcium, it promotes satiety, provides protein at a cheaper cost than meat, is basically effortless to prepare, and I have noticed fewer instances of gut issues (e.g. diarrhea) when I consume fermented dairy along with prebiotic fiber several times a week. Obviously though if it promotes osteoporosis I'll have to cut back or stop...
posted by ClaireBear to Food & Drink (53 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would run as fast as you can from this doctor. While some studies have suggested that dairy isn't as helpful to us as was once thought, there is absolutely no convincing evidence that it is actively harmful on the scale that your doctor has suggested. This is the fringe of the fringe.
posted by Betelgeuse at 2:20 PM on June 19 [78 favorites]

I would not continue to go to a doctor with an 'aggressive' agenda.

Here's the thing with health (and especially diet): there are tons of studies and recommendations, and basically anyone can find support for anything if sliced the right way. There are very few objective and generally applicable truths. I'd further be suspicious of anyone who claims they have one.

This doesn't directly address dairy, but you can be certain it applies to dairy. I don't think you'll have trouble finding tons of pro- and anti- dairy research in PubMed. Of course you'll have to determine what was being tested, if it matters, if the study was even valid, etc.
posted by so fucking future at 2:21 PM on June 19 [12 favorites]

I just did an internet search, and one of my top 10 results was some pro/con website.

I'll note that the sources they found that agree with your doctor are all a little newer than the sources they found that disagree with your doctor.
posted by aniola at 2:22 PM on June 19

Your doctor sounds like a real piece of work, and regardless of what you learn from your research and regardless of whether or not you ultimately decide you're going to continue consuming dairy, I think you should probably seek a new doctor. In my experience, any professional who aggressively preaches his extreme ideology is someone who is going to ignore you and your actual, lived concerns in favor of pushing his particular views.

See synonyms at pharmacists who won't fill prescriptions for birth control.
posted by phunniemee at 2:23 PM on June 19 [51 favorites]

Yo, not to be alarmist, but YOU NEED A NEW DOCTOR. Here's the deal: your doctor has a personal agenda against dairy. His personal agenda is not commonly-accepted medical wisdom. There are no giant peer-reviewed studies proving that dairy is OMG POISON. Your doctor's job, which he took an oath to do, is to take care of humans using his skills and knowledge and the best practices of his trade. This includes asking questions, performing tests, ordering labs, etc. He did not do this. He launched into his soliloquy about how Dairy is the Devil In Delicious Creamy Form. This is... troubling. It does not indicate to me that he will provide thoughtful, nuanced, patient-focused care for you.

Is dairy perfect? No. Is dairy right for everyone? No. Is the idea that dairy could cause health issues insane? No. Is your doctor's conduct unprofessional, off-putting, and a huge, soymilk-colored flag? YES YES YES.
posted by julthumbscrew at 2:23 PM on June 19 [75 favorites]

Personally, I think you should trust your gut.
posted by aniola at 2:24 PM on June 19 [13 favorites]

Find a new doctor.

Milk is fine. Milk has been eaten/drunk by people for about 10,000 years.
posted by gregr at 2:26 PM on June 19 [10 favorites]

Run far, run fast from this guy. Nothing wrong with being vegan (or vegetarian, or a meat eater), but there is A LOT wrong with his agression and bullying. Find another doctor immediately, drop this jerk like a hot potato.
posted by easily confused at 2:29 PM on June 19 [10 favorites]

He blamed your dairy consumption for your fatigue without running any tests or investigating other causes?

You are not seeing a doctor for his biases and assumptions, you go to the doctor for tests and expertise based on testing and examination results. Get a new doctor.

It's fine to suggest a dietary change, but you also needed an physical exam and tests to prove or disprove his guess as to the cause of your complaint.
posted by jbenben at 2:31 PM on June 19 [15 favorites] is written by an MD looking at what the evidence actually says about nutrition (and it's underwritten by a non-profit -- he's not taking money from the food industry.)

Why Is Milk Consumption Associated with More Bone Fractures?
A hundred thousand men and women were followed for up to 20 years. Researchers found that milk-drinking women had higher rates of death, more heart disease, and significantly more cancer for each glass of milk. Three glasses a day was associated with nearly twice the risk of premature death, and they had significantly more bone and hip fractures. More milk, more fractures.
posted by Zed at 2:33 PM on June 19 [12 favorites]

"Big Milk", LOL. Your doctor is a crank; there's by no means a medical consensus on these issues. And he's clearly making you uncomfortable. Drop him with a clear conscience.
posted by orrnyereg at 2:35 PM on June 19 [6 favorites]

Absolutely get a new doctor asap. It took years to get my illnesses diagnosed and you need someone who believes you and doesn't think all your problems can be solved by one food change.

Fuck that. Terminate with exteme predudice. Leave reviews on medical sites. Nope.

(I am a person who must eat gluten free and I don't go around thinking it solves everything and I would run from a doctor who suggested it would.)
posted by Crystalinne at 2:35 PM on June 19 [6 favorites]

With the caveat that I am not a nutritionist, this meta-analysis concludes there is no evidence that dairy consumption is harmful. Some of the authors have received grants from various Big Dairy groups but the disclosures section specifically states that those sponsors had no hand in this manuscript.

The difference between a doctor and a quack is that a doctor uses evidence and science to guide recommendations. This guy doesn't sound much different from the people claiming that cell phones cause brain tumors, or vaccines cause autism.
posted by basalganglia at 2:38 PM on June 19 [6 favorites]


Being vegan is fine. Consuming dairy is fine. Being an MD and giving your patients shit about either isn't. Dietitians and nutritionists don't even agree on this shit.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:47 PM on June 19 [5 favorites]

Thanks for the input so far, all! This was me a few years ago, and alas the problem still persists. This is the second time I have switched doctors since then, but none has been very helpful. I guess fatigue is just one of those things that's hard to pin down specific causes for, and even harder to treat.

Just to clarify, this doctor did do a physical exam and run a blood panel at my previous visit. Apparently everything was in normal range except for my ferritin, which was low (I think 7?). I saw a few studies on PubMed suggesting that low ferritin could cause fatigue even with normal hemoglobin (mine is low/normal). I tried taking several different iron supplements a few years ago but all of them made me extremely nauseous. My sister has anemia and oral iron supplements didn't work for her; she finally got IV iron and said it helped her with energy levels. I went back to discuss results with him but he didn't think the iron issue was worth pursuing as a cause of my exhaustion. He said that exhaustion is very common in young women - common enough to be considered normal - and that he would recommend that I "clean up my diet" for increased energy. I would say I eat reasonably healthily at the moment: a decent amount of vegetables and fruit, a fair amount of dairy, a fair amount of legumes (mostly chickpeas and lentils, with some beans), a fair amount of eggs, some meat, some nuts, not all that many simple carbs (except some chocolate...errr... :-) ). I do do intermittent fasting, but I haven't noticed that it has changed my energy levels one way or another. I would be surprised if my particular dietary choices were causing my fatigue.
posted by ClaireBear at 2:50 PM on June 19

Find a new doctor RIGHT NOW to start getting the care you need for your fatigue issues and general health. Not only is your doctor wrong about dairy, I can't imagine a real MD using the woo concept of "inflammation". I think this guy is likely to abandon Western medicine for whatever alternative scene he's working into his current practice and absolutely cannot be trusted as a reliable medical professional.

Fwiw, dairy can be bad for some people who have lactose intolerance issues, but most of that comes down to genetics, not dairy being the devil or causing osteo. But this is honestly secondary to your main concern: your doctor is nuts and cannot be trusted to give you safe or adequate care.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 2:50 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]

He said that exhaustion is very common in young women - common enough to be considered normal

OMG, you posted this just as I was commenting. Sexist on top of being crazy? Girl bye. No. Do not waste a single minute or dollar more on this whackjob.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 2:53 PM on June 19 [52 favorites]

The other thing that makes me tend to doubt that his recommendation to drop dairy/meat is solely nutritionally motivated is that there were pictures of farm animals in inhumane conditions on the walls of the exam room that I was in. Obviously that's a problem, and I can totally understanding wanting to go vegetarian/vegan for ethical reasons, but inhumane farm conditions doesn't really comment on my fatigue one way or the other. I started wondering whether the doctor's veganism was basically motivated by animal ethics concerns but he was promoting it under the guise of nutrition. Or maybe dairy isn't that great for you - who knows.
posted by ClaireBear at 2:54 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]

New doctor time. Also, has anyone done a FULL THYROID panel? And yes, low ferritin can cause fatigue. Who is this guy? Crazy pants. Find a new doctor.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:02 PM on June 19 [13 favorites]

Low ferretin and normal hemoglobin is well known to cause fatigue in endurance athletes. My kid's high school cross country team carefully tracks ferretin levels. Many doctors are not familiar with the research about fatigue and ferretin levels. Find a doctor who will look up the info and get you some iron supplements.
posted by Malla at 3:03 PM on June 19 [12 favorites]

I think your doctor is absolutely right about dairy, but he isn't right for you. I'm not going to argue about nutrition on the internet (though there is a lot of research to back up his views), but giving up dairy solved a lot of health problems for me. I can't link on my iPad, but the very well-respected nurse's health study showed that women who consumed the most dairy had the most osteoporosis. And the countries with the highest rates of dairy consumption have the highest rates of osteoporosis., already mentioned, is an excellent resource. He's not wrong, nor is he in the same category as anti-vaxxers. Doctors can take forever to catch up on what science says. That's why people still get stents for stable angina. There's a great book on this phenomenon. I think it's called Medical Reversal.

But this doctor doesn't know how to talk to patients or present information. He confuses and upsets you. And that's reason enough to find a new doctor.

If you're curious about how dairy might be affecting your health, try going without for a month just to see what happens.
posted by FencingGal at 3:10 PM on June 19 [6 favorites]

GNC Women's Iron Complete contains a very bioavailable form of iron that is difficult to source generally (FERROUS FUMERATE) and likely will not make you in the least bit nauseous.

I am the poster child for Anemia issues, and this recommendation is the result of many iron prescriptions, supplement purchases, and all the accompanying research and trial and error.

My youthful fatigue issues were likely caused by hormonal birth control back in the day, with the usual anemia I experience. Fatigue is NOT normal. For anyone. Please search for relief.
posted by jbenben at 3:11 PM on June 19 [13 favorites]

My mother requires regular iron transfusions. Before them, she became fatigued to the point where she could no longer walk between rooms in her house. (Have you been craving ice lately?) If your sister requires iron transfusions, I'd absolutely look into that as an option. Supplements and eating iron rich foods did not work for my mom.
posted by Ruki at 3:19 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

There is research linking the hormones in dairy to aiding cancer in uncontrolled cell replication and metastasis. Dairy is also the culprit in a lot of severe acne cases. Eliminating dairy was key in my siblings' clear skin protocol. A lot of people are intolerant and poo themselves after consuming it, etc. We are one of a very select few species that consumes the milk of another species. From the research I've done on it, it doesn't seem healthy for consumption. The whole milk mustache billion dollar a year dairy marketing scheme is not based in scientific fact, it's about making money. Excessive milk consumption actually leads to calcium leeching from the bones and premature osteoporosis, pretty much the exact opposite of what the dairy industry claims. I am not a vegan, but I refrain from consuming dairy most of the time.
posted by Avosunspin at 3:23 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]

Excessive milk consumption actually leads to calcium leeching from the bones and premature osteoporosis, pretty much the exact opposite of what the dairy industry claims.
There is no indication that this is true. All of those correlation studies are NOT causation studies. It is also possible that women who drink more milk have been counseled to do so because they already show signs of osteoporosis, have a familial history of the disease, or have a medical history that indicates they are already at a higher risk. And three "glasses" of milk a day is boo-coo calories; obesity can also contribute to many of the diseases/conditions correlated. So maybe milk is satan in a glass or maybe it's a case of people who take nitroglycerin have a higher rate of heart attack deaths.
posted by xyzzy at 3:31 PM on June 19 [21 favorites]

A hundred thousand men and women were followed for up to 20 years. Researchers found that milk-drinking women had higher rates of death, more heart disease, and significantly more cancer for each glass of milk. Three glasses a day was associated with nearly twice the risk of premature death, and they had significantly more bone and hip fractures. More milk, more fractures.

This was a Swedish study btw. The same study mentioned that fermented milk products were associated with a reduced risk of mortality and fractures. Plus, the paper seems to imply that milk does reduce the likelihood of osteoporosis (or at least, it says that this is the received wisdom and doesn't appear to contradict it).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:33 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

It's true that people have been have been eating and drinking milk and dairy products for thousands of years. Someone also pointed out to me once that there is no other animal on earth that drinks milk after they have been weaned, so we must be able to get the nutrients that are in dairy in other ways. (I am not vegan.)
posted by gt2 at 3:35 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]

Oh my god I had a ferritin reading of 7 when I was pregnant last time with normal hemoglobin and all I wanted to do was sleep 24 hours a day. I had IV iron (oral supplements didn't work for me - my body just doesn't like to absorb iron) and I was right as fucking rain for the remainder of the pregnancy. Find a doctor who will fix your ferritin and run far away from anyone pushing one very non-mainstream solution as the way to fix all your problems.
posted by olinerd at 3:47 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

Pictures of farm animals in on humane conditions on the walls??
New doctor.
posted by sacchan at 3:53 PM on June 19 [18 favorites]

I agree with your doctor. I've been vegan for over ten years, and it's the best thing I ever did (well, second-best, after marrying Mrs. alexc1965). If I were you, I would do a short-term experiment. Stop eating dairy (or, better yet, go vegan) for a month, and see how you feel. Keep a daily journal.

See also:

'Give up dairy products to beat cancer’ A leading scientist, who has been fighting breast cancer since 1987, says the disease is overwhelmingly linked to animal products
posted by alex1965 at 3:54 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]

I feel a lot better when I cut out dairy, but there are pictures of farm animals in inhumane conditions on the walls of the exam room?? Not, like, a diagram of the human skeleton, or a photo of a sailboat? That sounds gruesome and upsetting. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until I got to that.
posted by salvia at 4:07 PM on June 19 [7 favorites]

I don't have a dog in the dairy fight but like others, I think it makes sense to find a doc who feels like a better fit. And, also, skip dairy to see if it helps. For a bit. And don't give up. It's hard to be exhausted and also try to fix that problem, especially when dealing with people who are, in their own ways, exhausting. Best of luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 4:15 PM on June 19

Proferrin is pricey for an iron supplement, but it's very gentle and easy to tolerate. I have regular issues with anemia because of chronic kidney disease, and it's what my doctor recommends when my stores are low/borderline but it's not severe enough to require an iron infusion. Anemia is also one of those conditions where "normal" is open to some interpretation -- I have symptoms when my hemoglobin is at 11, but some doctors consider that part of the normal range.

I spent much of my 20s and part of my 30s telling doctors about my awful fatigue and getting the "change your diet/stress level/sleep habits" spiel, so I know how frustrating that is (spoiler alert: it wasn't any of those things). I hope you find another doctor soon who listens to you and isn't pushing their own agenda.
posted by camyram at 4:21 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]

Even if reducing dairy would make you feel better, ignoring the actual labwork in favor of "being tired is just a lady thing" and "vast dairy conspiracy" is bonkers. And pictures of abused animals actually pushes it into "report this dude" territory for me.
posted by zennie at 4:26 PM on June 19 [32 favorites]

The first time I asked for antidepressants, the MD I was seeing suggested I attend Landmark Forum seminars instead.

New rule of thumb: Any time a medical doctor suggests a solution to a medical problem specific to me, and that solution was proposed because it's part of an agenda that's important specifically to them -- BAM. New doctor.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:39 PM on June 19 [11 favorites]

There is real merit to a vegan diet, which makes it all the more frustrating that there are proponents that feel the need to grossly exaggerate the benefits. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence and it's hard to ignore the rhetorical similarities between those who make fantastical claims here with climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, and anti-GMO folks. It doesn't necessarily mean they're wrong (I think they are, but that's not science), but current science doesn't support their viewpoint.
posted by Betelgeuse at 5:07 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

Ex-cheesemonger chiming in.

Yes, new doctor. For so many reasons that have already been covered.

But just a little anecdata from my time with the cheese - I don't really consume much dairy on a day to day basis aside from a little milk in my coffee but when I was a cheesemonger I ate A LOT of cheese. During that time I was probably the most vital I have ever been (also the slimmest, which is of course not necessarily an indicator of health, but for me it is) however, I had the most horrendous hormonal acne around my jawline. I left that job to pursue something else and within two months those awful zits had completely disappeared, and have stayed gone. I was not the only one at that cheese shop with crap skin, either. Obviously, there were many things contributing to my vitality but what I'm trying to point out is that I think there's definitely something there in regards to dairy and hormones but the tiredness thing doesn't ring true for me. I was rocking the suburbs all day every day, riding my bike all over town and getting by on 5 hours sleep a night. Everyone is different though, as obvious as that statement is it's always worth repeating. My lactose tolerance is pretty high, but I highly doubt I'm lactase persistent.
posted by BeeJiddy at 5:09 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

My wife had low iron numbers. Enough so that every time blood banks would call her to donate some of her relatively rare type blood. she'd trudge down there and then get turned away because of her lack of iron. She also cannot abide with prescribed iron pills. I came across New Chapter Iron Food Complex and she agreed to try them. Her numbers got better, her doctor was impressed.

This in no ways guarantees that they'd work for you, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
posted by Chitownfats at 5:14 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]

I would be worried not that he's necessarily wrong but that his list of cow concerns doesn't include your very pressing problem, and he doesn't seem to take that into account for his recommendation. Acne and obesity are associated with dairy consumption in many people's personal experience, but the latter isn't a problem you have and the former isn't really a health problem at all on the level of osteoporosis etc.. Exhaustion isn't actually even in that list of his scary things dairy does to you! so even if they're all true, what's it got to do with your problems?

Going on hippie elimination diets like the Whole 30 or something is fine and fun if you feel like it, but it is incredibly unlikely to do much for you exhaustion-wise unless you have a sugar or wheat sensitivity or are eating a lot more carbohydrates than it sounds like you do. so if you want to or have to stick with this doctor for a while, give up dairy for a couple of weeks to see if anything happens, and then if nothing improves, tell him you gave it up permanently. what I am saying is: lie. One is not supposed to lie to one's doctor but in this case I think it would be the only way to get him to investigate other things. If he doesn't investigate even at that point, get a new doctor no matter what.

and eating less or no meat is a good thing to do for the sake of the animals but I would be shocked if it gave you more energy. usually vegetarians have to worry about protein and B vitamins and so on, and have low energy if they're not careful enough to include those things. too much meat is bad for you in other ways but not usually in that way.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:51 PM on June 19

A friend takes Wellesse liquid iron (with a citrus fruit, as per her doc's rec) and does not experience nausea.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:57 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]

Get a new doctor. You obviously don't mesh with this one's (weird-ass, obnoxious) approach to practicing medicine, and that's pretty much the best reason to go find a new doctor. It's not worth agonizing over.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:36 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

Your ferritin is extremely low. Normal is 20 to 120, so you're not even on the scale. You really need to raise that level. I'd be willing to bet that you're experiencing other symptoms of anemia, but haven't twigged to that as a cause. I went through exactly the same thing and have been taking iron supplements for the last 6 months.

My ferritin level was in the high 20s and I had been experiencing:

1. Gradually thinning hair density
2. Hair turning reddish in color
3. Constantly sleepy no matter how much I slept
4. Shortness of breath
5. Bruising easily
6. Chronically chapped lips that no amount of Chapstick could address
7. Dry, pale skin
8. Thyroid issues

The hair was the most alarming factor (and which led me to a dermatologist that specialized in such, and she tested my ferritin levels as part of her diagnostic approach, because it's a major factor) but the shortness of breath was by far the most noticeable. I didn't experience it while working out, but basically any other time during the day--I thought it was age, or maybe adult asthma, or bad posture...but after 3 months on iron, I could suddenly breathe all the air and I realized how insidiously far that particular symptom had gotten. I'd been dealing with all this for YEARS and never connected the dots. I can also feel rested after a good 8 hours of sleep and stay awake all day! It's incredible.

I take the Nature Made 65mg from Target, with a small glass of OJ, in the evenings and do not experience nausea. Once I finish this bottle, I've got a bottle of Blood Builder (26mg) that is a highly recommended brand, particularly
among people who get nausea from regular iron pills. Be advised that it's a good idea to be monitored while on iron, since you can get your levels too high and that isn't good, but for most women, a ferritin level of at least 60 is good. It should also be taken at least 2 hours after eating a calcium-rich food and caffeine, since both block iron absorption. That's another reason I take it at night.
posted by Autumnheart at 7:39 PM on June 19 [10 favorites]

Anxiety is another symptom of anemia. As a poster child for anemia issues, I also have been turned away from blood drives AND have had thyroid issues.
posted by jbenben at 8:20 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]

This is the second time I have switched doctors since then, but none has been very helpful. I guess fatigue is just one of those things that's hard to pin down specific causes for, and even harder to treat.

Yeah, all the above answers, plus: I've noticed doctors hate to say "there's nothing else I know how to do for you." They'll try something. I don't think it's malicious, or to keep you paying money, or to use you as a "guinea pig" for the fictional study they're doing in their dream of becoming famous with their unconventional wisdom or anything (like some people I know insist). I just think they want to help and will suggest things if there's even a chance it will help. I've started taking this kind of low-probability advice as "I don't know, man" and it seems to fit perfectly.
posted by ctmf at 8:46 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing. Dairy makes me violently, violently ill. Two sips of milk can have me throwing up until my throat hurts.

I would still RUN LIKE HELL from this doctor. Him being vegan is one thing; him aggressively pushing it on to you is quite another. Photos of animals in distress on the walls? Fuck no. I don't care if this guy is the second coming of Hippocrates, that is not on.
posted by Tamanna at 8:51 PM on June 19

The only really non-controversial link between cow milk exposure and health is an elevated risk of conversion to Type 1 diabetes in quite young children with hereditary risk factors. The rest is a much lower quality of evidence..
posted by meehawl at 10:00 PM on June 19

Well he doesn't sound like a doctor that you are comfortable with because you are not sure if he is prioritizing your health over his beliefs. Even if he may very well be right about the benefits of a vegan diet

Pictures of animals in extreme distress are not like a religious conviction that some people can choose to believe or not believe. It's like we are saying we don't want to see the truth because the truth is not appropriate in a professional setting because it makes us uncomfortable.
posted by gt2 at 4:44 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]

He said that exhaustion is very common in young women - common enough to be considered normal

I feel like this doctor has progressed past just being a regular bad doctor and is so far into horrific bad doctorland that if I was your real life friend I would be creating a song and dance entitled "Fuck This Guy."
posted by corb at 5:16 AM on June 20 [8 favorites]

Pictures of animals in extreme distress in a setting that has **nothing to do with pictures of animals in extreme distress**, coupled with a person who is supposed to be on your side but sacrifices your concerns to skew drastically towards the issue displayed on the walls is a red flag bristling with red flags on red flag mountain.

In the future, if anyone ever presents a weird tonedeaf-feeling interpretation of your personal health and you notice weirdly extreme stuff *for that location* like unusually religious magazines or unusual posters or anything, you take that as an indication that you need to get out of there and get another opinion right quick.
posted by sacchan at 5:49 AM on June 20 [8 favorites]

Agree that finding a new doc who will address the low ferritin is a must. For what it's worth, I had very low ferritin and a slew of symptoms including bone-wearying fatigue, and after an IV iron transfusion, I feel better than I've ever felt.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 8:31 AM on June 20

Hi there, I'm a toxicologist-epidemiologist and also vegan (and have been for a very long time). What your doctor has mentioned about the dairy-osteoporosis connection is supported by epidemiological research. The issue is--as with all hypotheses suggested by observational studies or even clinical trials of specific dietary interventions--how difficult it is to develop a controlled, randomized, double blind clinical trial-type investigation that could strengthen or weaken the connection that's already been observed.

I encourage you to speak with your doctor about your curiosity on this matter. They're in a much better position to discuss your questions and concerns about this: they have you, and your medical records, on hand, and you have a private audience with them.

I'm very envious that you have a vegan doctor. I've been vegan for about half my life and have yet to meet a doctor who didn't give me the side-eye for saying as much, although that's changing.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:07 PM on June 20 [3 favorites]

From what I've read, dairy can inhibit the absorption of iron. Here is a quick study from googling, but I can't vouch for it personally.

So, if your relative needed iron to feel more energetic, I can see how recommending reducing or eliminating dairy from your diet could be a valid possible solution.
posted by jillithd at 2:46 PM on June 20

Your doc sounds like a nutjob, and I would seek more qualified care.

But you don't *have* to consume dairy. In many parts of the world, it is very unusual for adults to have the ability to process lactose. You can be very healthy and not drink milk or eat yogurt, cheese, ice cream, butter. I have become lactose intolerant. If I eat dairy, I get really horrible gas in 20 minutes. I have a poorly diagnosed autoimmune condition. If I eat dairy, my inflammation is much worse. My feet get so arthritic that walking down the stairs in the morning is an event. When I avoid dairy entirely, my health is demonstrably better. (the lactaid pills do not help with this.)

It's a pain. No cheese. No ice cream. No wholemilk plain yogurt with peaches and honey. I have yet to find a great site with great dairy-free recipes. Dairy-free 'cheese' is nope. So I don't eat pizza; I occasionally make polenta with a generous amount of olive oil and add my favorite pizza toppings (pepperoni & green olive). I use olive oil, dairy-free margarine, and other oils instead of tasty butter. No mac-n-cheese. Fettuccine with olive oil, garlic & scallops, instead. No ice cream; fancy ices or coconut milk-based alternatives.

You could try eliminating dairy for a month. If it helps, great. If it doesn't, celebrate with pizza and ice cream.
posted by theora55 at 10:57 PM on June 24

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