The Trouble with Dairy: Beyond Lactose Intolerance
By Sarah Axtell, ND • July 21, 2017
One of the most common food sensitivities I see is dairy sensitivity, commonly causing brain fog, joint pain, digestive distress (gas, bloating, constipation), seasonal allergies and nasal congestion. This is different than lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance refers to the inability to digest the sugar in milk, lactose. Dairy sensitivity refers to an immune or inflammatory reaction to the protein, most notably casein. But not all casein is created equally, and it all comes down to the types of cows your milk is coming from.
Today, in America, most milk comes from Holstein cows, which produce predominantly A1 beta-casein milk. Several thousand years ago, all cows only made milk with A2 beta-casein. Due to genetic mutations, cows in the US now make milk with predominantly the the hard-to-digest protein, A1 beta-casein. The A1 protein is much less prevalent in milk from Jersey, Guernsey, and most Asian and African cow breeds, where, instead, the A2 protein predominates. A2 beta-casein is easier to digest.
The Trouble with A1 Beta-Casein
A1 beta-casein produces BCM-7, which can cross the gut lining and cause leaky gut syndrome. BCM-7 is associated with increased gastrointestinal inflammation, delayed transit, and decreased cognitive processing speed and accuracy (brain fog!). People with autism and schizophrenia have been found to have higher amounts of BCM-7 in their blood. Additionally, this study found that elevated BCM-7 immunoreactivity is associated with delayed psychomotor development in infants.
This study concluded that some symptoms of lactose intolerance may actually stem from the inflammation the A1 beta-casein triggers. So if your symptoms persist despite drinking lactose-free milk, it may be due to the type of protein in your milk.
What about Goat, Sheep and Human Milk?
Goats, sheep and humans produce milk that is free from the hard-to-digest protein, A1 beta-casein. It only contains the A2 beta-casein, which is better assimilated and does not cause as much inflammation in the body compared to the A1 variety.
While I am a proponent of almond and coconut milk, it is lacking in the protein and fat department- especially for growing children. My kids love goat milk in their smoothies, but not everyone likes the tangy flavor of goat milk. This is where A2 milk may be a good option. In Australia and New Zealand, A2 milk is much more prevalent than in the US. But it is catching on here. Look for milk made from A2-dominant cow breeds such as the Jersey or the Guernsey. Health food stores will carry milk that will advertise on their label “made from pastured Jersey cows.” The A2 Milk company is starting to be sold in stores across the US, making A2 milk more mainstream.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.