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Dairy products are often the last, and hardest thing to eliminate when switching over to a plant-based diet. You’ve probably heard people complain more often about giving up cheese than meat, and it turns out that cheese cravings have biological roots. Cheese cravings are actually rooted in the protein fragments produced from casein (milk protein). Casomorphins, the protein fragments produced from casein, are known to have an opioid-like effect, and because of the high dairy concentration in cheese, these fragments are concentrated in cheese.
Dr. Neal Barnard explains the functionality of casomorphins, saying,
It appears that the opiates from mother’s milk produce a calming effect on the infant and, in fact, may be responsible for a good measure of the mother-infant bond. No, it’s not all lullabies and cooing. Psychological bonds always have a physical underpinning. Like it or not, mother’s milk has a drug-like effect on the baby’s brain that ensures that the baby will bond with Mom and continue to nurse and get the nutrients all babies need. Like heroin or codeine, casomorphins slow intestinal movements and have a decided antidiarrheal effect. The opiate effect may be why adults often find that cheese can be constipating, just as opiate painkillers are.
Casomorphins may explain why so many struggle to give up cheese. Understanding the natural role of casomorphins sheds light on the unnatural nature of human dairy consumption.
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