Cows milk – its just for cows!
The advertising slogan is “dairy good.” But is dairy really good for us? I’d argue that for many people, the answer is no.
Generally speaking, I believe that cow’s milk is the ideal food for baby cows, and is rather less than ideal for humans. Many of my clients love dairy foods and I regularly hear them cry, “Oh please don’t let me be intolerant to dairy!” Dairy can be a problem for a couple of key reasons. One is lactose-intolerance, but another, less commonly known problem is the protein casein.
Why a2 dairy is better?
It is issues with casein that is driving people to a2 milk. Regardless of what their food intolerance status is, I advise all of my clients that if they want to consume dairy foods, then they should choose a2 options. But what the benefits are of a2 milk and why it is worth paying a price-premium for it?
To start, let’s take a look at what cow’s milk is made of. After water, cow’s milk consists of fats, proteins, lactose and minerals. The protein is of two general types, casein and whey, with casein further broken down into three types: alpha, beta and kappa casein. Beta casein is the relevant protein for a2 dairy.
There are eight variants of beta casein, each made up of 209 amino acids. The most common types of beta casein are a1 and a2. There is only one difference between a1 and a2 beta casein and that is the amino acid at position 67: with a1, it is histidine, and a2, it is proline. Proline is able to form a strong bond, but histidine only forms a weak bond which allows seven of the amino acids to break off in a peptide chain called beta-casomorphin-7.
It is this peptide that causes problems. As the name suggests, beta-casomorphin-7 is similar to morphine. Yes, morphine. For people with good gut health, this can be fine, but as we’ve established in past articles, modern life is damaging to the gut for many, many people. So for someone with poor gut health, the peptide beta-casomorphin-7 is able to leak through the gut lining and cause an immune system response.
Dairy and digestion
The similarities to morphine also mean that dairy containing beta-casomorphin-7 can cause similar physical responses to opiates. A common problem is constipation and a slowing of the digestive process.
If you experience digestive upsets after eating dairy, I highly recommend switching to a2 dairy, including milk, yoghurt and cheese. The milk and associated products of goats and sheep is also a2 and worth experimenting with.
Dairy-free doesn’t mean deprivation
Of course, if you’d prefer not to have dairy at all or are willing to try cutting it out and seeing what difference it makes for your symptoms, there are a vast range of alternatives. There is a growing number of non-dairy milks available in supermarkets, or it’s easy to make your own nut milks with a high-speed blender. Replacing the calcium found in dairy foods is also easy, with leafy greens, nuts and tinned fish all excellent sources of this mineral.
For many patients, it is dessert that is the most difficult meal to imagine without dairy. Well, embracing vegan desserts can blow your mind and leave you never even thinking about ice-cream again. The added bonus is that these recipes often also use healthier sweeteners!