“Milk, it does a body good”. Does anyone else remember that slogan? Is it true though? Dairy has gotten a lot of negative attention in recent years. The Paleo diet, which has gained in popularity, involves completely eliminating dairy from the diet. Many who have autoimmune diseases have blogged about improved health when removing dairy. Eczema often clears up when dairy is removed from a child’s diet, (I personally witnessed this). Parents of autistic children report their child’s condition improves when dairy and gluten are removed from the diet. Ear infections are sometimes linked to dairy consumption.
So what on earth is going on? How can milk consumption negatively affect someone’s health?
Some say it is an “allergy”, yet allergy tests performed often do not detect an allergy. Some say it is “lactose intolerance”, that adults lose the ability to make the enzyme lactase so they cannot digest lactose. However, that explanation did not make sense to me. Why are infants and children “lactose intolerant”? (Lactose is present in breast milk). The more I researched dairy intolerance, the more confusing conflicting information I found.
Why did I care? Here’s my story.
My daughter was a very healthy and happy baby. She started sleeping “through the night” early. I was so blessed to have such an easy going baby. One of my only concerns was that she would get gassy sometimes. It didn’t make sense to me because she was exclusively breast fed, (breast milk is very easy to digest), and I took probiotics and ate a lot of fermented foods. I also started to see mucus in her stools, and the color was sort of green sometimes. The occasional gas episodes were a mystery to me. People told me I was not burping her enough. So I made a concentrated effort to make sure that she burped after every feeding. It did not seem to make a difference. My intuition told me it was something else. Then I read somewhere that dairy, when consumed by a nursing mom, can cause problems with a nursing infant. So I cut out most dairy, and saw improvement. I still put a little creamer in my coffee in the morning. I honestly didn’t think such a small amount would be problematic. But after more reading and research I discovered that ANY dairy at all in the mom’s diet had to be removed. So I did an elimination diet, (to make sure there were not other culprits). Dairy was definitely causing problems with my daughter. Once it was 100% eliminated from my diet, her skin cleared up completely. (She had a rash on her cheeks which people told me was “normal. Obviously it was not “normal” for her because it disappeared once I cleaned up my diet).
So what was going on?
My best understanding at the time was that she had Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance, (CMPI). I found it odd that a baby can be sensitive to casein, when casein is a protein that is also present in breast milk. I knew it had to be something unique to the casein in cow’s milk, otherwise none of it made any sense. Somehow casein, the protein in cow’s milk, got into my breast milk and she was exposed to it that way. In her case, it was definitely the protein (casein), not the sugar, (lactose), that she was sensitive to. Once I completely removed all dairy from my diet, her symptoms, (rash and gas), completely went away.
Note: If you suspect your baby is having problems with dairy, a lactose-free formula may not be the answer.
I was very fortunate my daughter was not colicky. It seemed like she was only fussy when she was gassy. Overall she was a very happy baby. I think the main reason she was not colicky was the amount of Cow’s Milk that she was exposed to was very small. Formula fed babies I know who were colicky improved when their formula was changed to to one that has the milk proteins broken down, (like Alimentum). (Note: I am not promoting this formula, some of the ingredients concern me. I am just referring to it based on other people’s experience).
Alimentum – Hypoallergenic; contains a predigested protein to virtually eliminate allergic reactions in most babies who are allergic to cow’s-milk protein.
If you have never heard of Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance, then here is some information about CMPI, http://www.gikids.org/content/103/en/cows-milk-protein-intolerance
I did not get an official diagnosis from a doctor because the elimination diet completely resolved the problem. (Eliminating dairy is actually what is recommended because testing on a young baby does not often detect an allergy). In fact, I found a lot of conflicting information. Sometime’s it is called Cow’s Milk Protein Intolerance, yet sometimes it is also called an allergy, (even if allergy tests are negative)?
“Although there are medical tests available, they are not conclusive. Allergy Tests often return false positive and false negative results. Allergy testing only tests for IgE antibodies meaning that a non-IgE allergy will produce a negative result. The most common and accurate way to diagnose CMPA is by eliminating Cow’s Milk Protein (CMP) from the diet (aka an elimination diet) for a period of time to see if the symptoms improve, and then re-introduce CMP to see if a reaction re-occurs”. Source
I got tired of the conflicting information. There was a lot that didn’t make sense to me. But I solved the problem by completely removing dairy from my diet. I decide to stay dairy-free and eventually re-introduce it into my diet when Lily was older. (I did consume dairy a few times by accident before Lily was one, and it caused gas/stool problems each time. I kept a food journal for many months). Many people told me that children grow out of the “allergy” by the time they were two. (I planned on nursing Lily until she was two, so that information did not make me happy. I really missed cheese). But it was a sacrifice worth making. Happy baby, happy mom.
The hardest part for me was reading books like “Nourishing Traditions” when Lily was a baby. I found myself yearning for dairy more for it’s nutritional value than for taste. I was tempted to try goat milk but I was not sure if that would cause a problem or not. Goat milk contains casein, and I suspected that was the problem. It takes a few weeks for a nursing mom to get the casein out of her system, so it could cause problems for more than just a day. So I drank lots of bone broth and ate other “traditional foods” I read were healthy. I put dairy on hold.
When we moved back to America I introduced dairy slowly into our diet after my daughter turned two. I started with ghee, then cheese. She seemed to be O.K. with it. We started to consume organic milk from grassfed cows, in moderation. It seemed O.K. There were no obvious symptoms of problems. But I was still careful. Something was holding me back from consuming too much of it. Then I read a book a few months later that changed the way I looked at dairy forever. Many pieces of the puzzle finally fell into place. The book is called “Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk“.
Before reading this book I had few theories about why some babies are sensitive to cow’s milk. Maybe it wasn’t the milk itself, maybe it was chemicals in the milk or cheese that caused the problems. But I consumed mostly organic cheese and milk, so that theory did not make sense in my case. I considered the possibility that pasteurized/homogenized milk was causing problems, and maybe raw milk would be O.K. I was not able to test that theory until much later, (and that theory does not seem to be correct in my case).
Apparently cows do not all produce the same type of milk. Holstein cows produce mostly A1 milk. Goats, and some species of cows produce A2 milk. (Jersey, Gurernsey, or the Normande produce A2 milk).
Could the Normande breed of cows in France, and the A2 dairy they produce have something to do with the “French Paradox”?
Here is an excerpt from the book.
“This book is about the effects on human health of a tiny protein fragment called beta-casomorphin-7, or BCM7 for short. BCM7 is unquestionably a powerful opioid and hence a narcotic. It is also an oxidant. It is formed by digestion of a particular type of milk protein produced by some cows. This milk protein is called A1 beta-casein. The BCM7 that is released from A1 beta-casein has been implicated in many illnesses, including heart disease, Type 1 diabetes and autism. And there is increasing evidence that it is associated with milk intolerance and an additional range of auto-immune diseases. Metaphorically, it is ‘the devil in the milk’.”
I am actually reading this book for the second time now. The story is very complex, there are a lot of politics and corruption involved. At this point in time I can not say with absolute certainty that there is a connection between A1 milk and Type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia. There is scientific evidence on both sides of this debate. However, there are many “flaws” in the studies that supposedly debunk the A1/A2 theory, (and a lot of conflict of interest). I think there is enough evidence to switch to A2 milk as a precautionary measure. Especially if there is a family history of autism, Type I diabetes, or heart disease. There is some recent evidence that is not published in the book that I have not read yet. From Keith Woodford’s website:
In the last 18 months, there have been papers published in Nutrients, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the International Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, Nutrition and Metabolism, and Nutritional Biochemistry. I am linked into some of this research – I am a co-author on three of those papers. There is more to come. Quite simply, the share-market tide may ebb and flow, but the science is becoming a river. (Emphasis mine)
There is also evidence that BCM7 can cause other health problems. This excerpt is from- “Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk“.
Searching the literature reveals that BCM7 has been identified as a possible factor in sudden infant death syndrome (‘cot death’). Also, milk and A1 beta-casein seem to be intertwined with symptoms of Crohn’s and similar diseases in some sufferers. Furthermore, milk has been identified as a possible factor in multiple sclerosis, with BCM7 once again standing out as a possible villain.
The possible link to Crohn’s disease explains why Jordan Rubin is interested in A2 milk. In fact, his company, Beyond Organics, sells A2 milk products. (I first heard about the “devil” in milk in one of his books).
After I read this book I decided to remove all A1 milk from my diet and only consume A2 milk. I feel better after drinking goat milk than cow’s milk, (and goat milk is A2 milk). Remember I mentioned my confusion over how a baby can be allergic to casein when breast milk has casein in it. Breast milk is A2 milk!! BCM7 is not released from A2 beta-casein. Also, BCM7 is an “oxidant”, which means it is very reactive in the body.
Other observations I have made over the past year which have peaked my interest in the A1/A2 hypothesis. I read that some farmers are quietly converting their herd away from A1 beta-casein. I have personally witnessed this. I shop at a local farm that is switching it’s herd to A2 beta-casein. Snowville Creamery in Ohio has made the switch and is very vocal about it.
What is the cause of the sensitivity to A1 beta-casein? Is it genetic, or environmental? Is it a combination of both? Is it more prevalent in people who have gut dysbiosis? Does leaky gut (intestinal permeability) play a role? Is the gut microbiome involved? Why isn’t BCM7 detected in yogurt?
These are questions I will attempt to answer in future posts. No, I don’t have all the answers. Scientists don’t have all the answers yet. However, I suspect we will be hearing more about A2 milk in the next few years.
If your child has a diagnosed milk allergy I do NOT recommend that you try A2 milk. Allergies are serious, and can be life threatening. I am not a medical doctor, I am sharing this information for educational purposes only. My daughter never had an allergic responses to dairy, (hives or breathing difficulties, etc). It is possible the allergies and “cow’s milk intolerance” are completely separate issues.
Do you have problems with cow’s milk but not goat milk? Have you noticed you can tolerate cheese and yogurt but not milk or ice cream? Please share this information in the comments. Let’s solve the dairy dilemma together!!
Interested in learning more? I highly recommend you read this book.
For further reading ….
A1/A2 milk hypothesis
Formation and Degradation of Beta-casomorphins in Dairy Processing
Enzymes and immune regulators associated with heart disease-
SIDS and BCM7 – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21334743/