The advertisement asks, “Got milk?” But what kind of milk?
The popular cow’s milk campaign has been very successful in reversing declining milk sales in America over recent years. Social media and popular belief suggests that cow’s milk is a “perfect food,” for building strong bodies in children and preventing osteoporosis as we age. The modern dairy products that are available in most supermarkets today cause more digestive complaints and other symptoms than the milk of yesteryear for two reasons, homgenization of milk and the dairy industry preference of cows that have more beta-casein A1 in their milk.
Homogenization is the process where milk is pushed through a fine filter at pressures of 4,000 pounds per square inch and the fat globules are made smaller by a factor of ten times or more. These fat molecules then become evenly dispersed throughout the milk where the cream no longer rises to the top.
Homogenization makes fat molecules in milk smaller and they become “capsules” for substances that are able to bypass digestion like hormones. Proteins that would normally be digested in the stomach are not broken down and instead they are absorbed into the bloodstream. When proteins by pass the digestive system, the bodies immune system reacts to these proteins by defending itself as if the proteins were infectious agents. This causes and allergic reaction where chemicals like histamine are released in the body to “wall off” the “infection” via the inflammatory cascade.
Casein is a major protein in cow’s milk that occurs in several variant forms, two of which are beta-casein A1 and beta-casein A2. The levels of these two proteins vary considerably in milk dependent on the breed of cow. Beta-casein A2 is the predominant beta-casein found in cows before they were first domesticated and is commonly found in the milk of cows living in India and Africa.
Beta-casein A1 is the most common casein found in the milk of the big black-and-white cow breeds of European descent such as the Holstein and Friesian. Due to their size, milk production, and demeanor, these breeds of cow are used to produce the vast majority of Northern Europe and America’s milk.
A Cow’s milk casein allergy can cause the following problems:
Cow’s milk allergy is like most food allergy reactions: It usually happens within minutes to hours after eating foods that contain cow’s milk proteins. A cow’s milk allergy is often confused with lactose intolerance because people can have the same kinds of things happening to them (like stomach pains or bloating, for example) with both conditions. Lactose intolerance involves the digestive system that does not produce enough of the enzyme needed to break down the sugar in milk called lactase. Lactose intolerance is not an immune response to cow’s milk dairy and is not considered an allergy but could lead to one over time.
Looking for Clues
Milk and milk products can lurk in strange places, such as processed meats. Chocolate and sport’s drinks are other products that may contain dairy — so be sure to check the label before you eat it. Manufacturers of foods sold in the United States must list the most common allergens present in the product on the label. This means that you should be able to find statements like these somewhere on the label: “contains milk ingredients,” “made with milk ingredients,” or “processed in a facility that also processes milk products.” This new labeling requirement makes it a little easier than reading the ingredients list — instead of needing to know that the ingredient “hydrolyzed casein” or “whey protein” comes from milk protein, you should be able to tell at a glance which foods to avoid. But it’s still a good idea to get to know the “code words” for milk products when you see them in the ingredients of a food.
Cow’s Milk Alternatives
Goat’s milk is a natural alternative to cow milk and can comfortably be consumed by many patients who suffer from cow milk allergies or sensitivities. Goat milk and human milk do not contain beta-casein A1.
Goat milk, like cow’s milk and human milk, contains lactose. However, many people with lactose intolerance can drink goat milk. Goat milk is more completely and easily absorbed than cow’s milk, leaving less undigested residue behind in the colon to ferment and cause the uncomfortable symptoms of lactose intolerance.The digestibility of goat milk can be attributed to its casein curd, which is both softer and smaller than that produced by cow’s milk.
Another significant difference between cow’s milk and goat milk is found in the composition and structure of fat. These smaller sized fat globules provide a better dispersion and a more homogenous mixture of fat in the milk making it easy to digest.
Other easily tolerated and digestible cow’s milk substitutes include: sheep or buffalo milk, almond milk and rice milk. Unfortunately, soy, cashew and oat milk are not included as easily tolerated and digestible cow’s milk alternatives.
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