Maybe you’ve started to hear more about people stopping eating dairy products, and choosing dairy-free milk alternatives such as almond milk. Do we need to stop consuming dairy products? First, let’s look at why dairy might be a problem for so many people.
Most people who already have gluten sensitivity tend to be more sensitive to dairy as well. The most popular reason is lactose intolerance, which causes symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain after you consume foods or drinks that contain lactose.
Lactose is a sugar found only in milk, and some other dairy products. Lactase is a protein, an enzyme that is produced in the small intestine. The human body uses lactase to break down lactose into galactose and glucose, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream.
If lactase levels are low, the lactose does not break down and it does not absorb into the bloodstream. Instead it moves into the large intestine, or colon, where the bacteria there will react to any product that contains lactose.
Lactose intolerance, which is caused by lactose malabsorption, may affect your health by not allowing your body to absorb enough nutrients. So if you have something like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), celiac disease, or Crohn’s disease, it may be beneficial for you to not consume any dairy products for at least a month.
Is milk gluten free? Plain cow’s milk is naturally free of gluten. Many dairy products on the market, however, are not gluten free. So it’s important to read the label — words like “malt” on a food label usually indicate that the food is made with barley, which is gluten.
But even if it does not contain gluten, the casein that is present in cow’s milk causes the same types of symptoms in many people that gluten causes. This same type of casein is one of the most common and well known dairy based protein allergies.
When broken down during digestion, casein releases substances called casomorphins, which can have an addictive effect on the brain similar to that of morphine. Cow’s milk generally contains two types of casein, known as A1 and A2. Type A1 comes from cattle originating in Northern Europe, and often time acts like gluten.
Type A2 is found in the milk of sheep, goats, and older breezes of cow. Actually, some people can tolerate A2 casein and it can provide a positive, nourishing effect. But the A1 casein found in most cows milk is resistant to digestion and can lead to many health problems, such as autoimmune disease, and is implicated in adverse gastrointestinal effects of milk consumption, some of which resemble those in lactose intolerance.
Consumption of milk containing A1 and A2 casein worsens gastrointestinal symptoms. On the other hand, consumption of milk containing only A2 casein does not seem to have these adverse effects.
My final thoughts: if you don’t feel any discomfort after consuming dairy products then I still suggest to choose organic sources, avoid highly processed cheeses, and read every label with a close look at the ingredients — you may be surprised how many ingredients are contained in something as simple as milk or cheese!
In my next article I will be talking about whether dairy is addictive, and if yes, what we can do about it.
As always try to eat single ingredient food as much as you can!
Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892