Dairy in Ayurveda is thought to rejuvenate the body. In India cows are viewed as sacred animals and so is the relationship to them. The treatment of cows is very different than the mass manufactured treatment of cows in the U.S. In fact, Ayurveda believes that the milk from a cow that has been well loved and cared for can rejuvenate tissues and nourish the body. Unfortunately, cows in the West aren’t usually treated this way.
Ayurveda from this standpoint is purely discussing how dairy affects some body types when there is a healthy relationship to the animals. It is not discussing the moral or ethical decision to choose veganism.
Milk and dairy products can be hard to digest, so a strong digestive fire (agni) is needed. It can be good for people who are very sexually active. Milk can help heal the body when depleted and increase rest and sleep.
Daily dairy consumption is not recommended. If you do chose to consume dairy, chose whole, organic, non-homogenized products. The homogenization makes the milk hard to digest due to the alteration of the fat. Homogenized milk can accumulate toxins (ama) in the body and remove the good bacteria that aid in the digestion of milk. However, good non-homogenized milk can be hard to come by.
The use of milk and dairy products is not one- size fits all. Each body will react differently depending on the lactose intolerance or imbalances in the body. Milk can aggravate Pita and Kapha (two of the doshas). Milk is not recommended if you are dealing with acne. In fact, the removal of dairy, alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar and flour are suggested for acne and skin issues.
It is recommended to buy plain, organic, whole-milk yogurt with live cultures. Do not buy any yogurt with fruit or mix fruit and dairy. Fruit interferes with the live bacteria in the yogurt. The fruit ferments the yogurt making it more acidic. Dairy products and fruit are a food combination that Ayurveda highly suggests against.
Whole milk is recommended because the fat is where the tissue-building properties are found. (Moderation is key as whole milk is high in saturated fat.)
Milk can act as a sleep aid or a carrier for herbs. Milk should not be consumed cold. It should be brought to a boil first and then slowly boiled for 5-10 minutes. This changes the molecular structure of milk to make it easier to digest. To improve digestibility add cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, and honey. This can be taken 30 minutes before bedtime to promote sleep. The presence of tryptophan and the heat can increase rest and aid in easing constipation.
Ghee (clarified butter) is highly recommended as a digestive aid. Ghee can be bought in a store or made at home. Ghee lubricates the intestines. It helps to digest food and aids in bowel movements.
Dairy can be very nourishing. However, dairy is not for every body type. If you do eat dairy, try to be aware of not eating it in excesses and finding higher quality products that are better for your body, the animals, and the environment.