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Gandhi's Greatest Regret? Milk.

My copy of Gandhi's autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth arrived a few weeks ago and Holy Cow! I have a newfound appreciation for Mahatma. I knew he was a vegetarian (oh, and that in his spare time he liberated India from British rule and single-handedly established the civil disobedience movement) but I had no idea he was the central figure in pioneering the animal rights crusade in India.

Do you know what this spiritual and political leader writes as the greatest "tragedy of my life"?

That he ever drank milk.

You see, Gandhi had made a lifelong vow never to drink a cow's milk due to "the torture to which cows were subjected by their keepers." He gave it up after vacationing at vegetarian Leo Tolstoy's home in which a discussion ensued about the harmful effect of drinking cow's milk.

From then on Gandhi eschewed animal products and considered nuts and fruit the optimal diet. He attributed this dietary choice to his very healthy and fit life. However, in 1914 he contracted a serious illness that dropped him near death's door. The attending physicians told Gandhi he would die if he didn't follow their strict order and drink a glass of cow's milk, which was a popular treatment back then. Gandhi compromised and drank goat's milk.

Gandhi's wife, Kasturba, had made a similar vow. As did their sons. She and Gandhi proclaimed they would rather die than drink cow's milk. And they meant it. Total radical nonconformists.

I haven't had a glass of milk since my mom had to pour it for me, but I was surprised at Gandhi's staunch stance on cow's milk when facing death. Then, there wasn't much information. You'd have thought he would've listened to the doctor. Then again, there wasn't dairy industry propaganda hypnotizing the masses into thinking it's healthy either. Today it's super easy to abstain from milk with all the more nourishing substitutes.

Gandhi knew the truth. The whole "milk does a body good" thing is a lie. It's a marketing ploy. It's their dirty secret. They don't care about our bodies. I always feel sorry for those celebrities with the idiotic milk mustaches who are oblivious to what they're promoting. (Oops, I'm veering into previously blogged territory.....)

Unlike Gandhi's day, we now know milk does a body no good. Well, we know if we research the people who are researching it. Milk is being targeted for all kinds of ailments, certain types of diabetes and cancer, even mental illness.

I've always had really strong fingernails that grow too fast. I guess they're noticeable because people have commented on them over the years. I tell them it's because I don't drink milk. I heard early on that drinking milk causes calcium loss.

Humans are not meant to digest cow's milk. It's too hard on our system and forces the human body to produce a gastric acid to break down the milk. The body then steals calcium from our bones to neutralize the acidic environment left behind.

Studies are revealing that--are you ready?--consuming milk causes osteoporosis! Countries where people have very little dairy intake rarely see cases of osteoporosis. We're not often told that green, leafy vegetables and nuts and seeds are high in calcium. The most calcium rich food? Dried herbs!

Also, milk (unless organic, and even organic isn't immune to its problems) is laden with antibiotics and growth hormones, which researchers link to the cause of young girls developing more quickly and getting their periods, thus pregnant, at an earlier age.

There's a really interesting study on the effects of the Americanization of the Japanese diet. (By Kagawa, published in Preventative Medicine, 1978.) Before 1946, Japanese did not consume milk. After that, milk and dairy became staple foods.

In 1950 the average person in Japan ate 5.5 pounds of milk and dairy products. The average girl was 4'6" tall and weighed 71 pounds. She began menstruation at 15.2 years old.

In 1975 the average Japanese consumed 117.4 pounds of milk and dairy products. The average girl had grown 4 1/2 inches and gained 19 pounds! And she started menstruating at 12.2 years old! Keep in mind, this is not due to calcium but growth hormones.

This study was done 34 years ago. Frightening to think what these numbers are now.

Some researchers are linking the rise in breast cancer to the copious amount of dairy products we now consume. It's a fascinating topic. And serious.

You know something's wrong with this milk picture when the Director of the Department of Pediatrics at John Hopkins University School of Medicine and Physician-in-Chief at the John Hopkins Children's Center, Frank Oski, MD, writes a book and calls it Don't Drink Your Milk.

I didn't make the choice to not drink milk for health reasons. Though that would definitely be a factor if I were making the decision today. And I didn't give up milk because of the industry's calamitous impact on the environment, which would absolutely convince me today.

I don't drink milk because it's meant to fatten up calves, not me. (We are the only species to drink another species milk.) I don't drink milk because I find the idea disturbingly repugnant and, did you know, it's full of white cow pus. Uh-huh. No one says that in their ads.

Mostly, I don't drink milk, like Gandhi, because of the cruelty dairy cows are subjected to--constantly being impregnated to produce milk, having their babies immediately torn from them, chained to a cage day in and day out, never seeing the light of day or breathing fresh air, hooked up to a milk machine that painfully tears their udders.

The way I see it, what isn't good for an animal isn't good for me. It's going to have an effect. Somehow, someway. Lovelessness is going to show up, asking us to pay up. It always does.

To learn more: NOT MILK

Here's a list of my favorite dairy replacement foods.