Is Dairy a Health Food…or not?

So what’s the deal with dairy?

Ten years ago any integrative health expert worth their salt would have told you to stay away from the ”mucus-producing” stuff.

But these days, dairy is making a comeback.

Studies have surfaced linking dairy consumption, specifically raw dairy consumption, with increased immunity and reduced allergies1.

Farmer’s markets, natural foods stores, co-ops, and even mainstream supermarkets all boast a HUGE selection of organic milk, goat milk, sheep’s milk, grass milk, raw milk, and even buffalo milk products.

And many nutrition experts now tout the immune supportive qualities of raw milk, butter, and cultured milk products.

So, should you be eating dairy…or not?

The short answer is maybe.

Some people can tolerate all dairy products with little to no obvious trouble, while some can tolerate certain types of dairy, raw or cultured for example, then there are those who seem to get congested or double over at the mere sight of a cheese platter.

Where do you lie on the dairy tolerance scale?

It ultimately depends on these three factors:

#1: Genetics and ancestry

One piece that’s often left out of this controversial puzzle is genetics—something we are passionate about at Merritt Wellness Center.

No two human beings are built the same, hence why the one-size-fits-all approach hardly ever works when it comes to food and nutrition.

For example, if your ancestors farmed and kept cows 10,000 years ago you will probably tolerate dairy much better than someone whose ancestral diet did not include cow’s milk.

This also explains why some cultures can digest dairy while others can’t.

For instance, Americans of African heritage have an 80% chance of being unable to digest dairy, and those with Asian ancestry have a 90%-100% chance of intolerance2.

Conversely, if you’re of Northern European ancestry2 you are much more likely to tolerate dairy products because of the area’s long history of cattle herding.

And though all of this is fascinating and revealing, the truth is many of us have no idea of our ancestral heritage going back more than a few generations.

So how do you discover your ancestral diet?

Through nutrigenomic testing, we are able to pin point what your genes say you should, and shouldn’t, be eating.

This gives us keen insight into why you may have the types of food sensitivities, such as dairy, that you do.

Nutrigenomic testing is one way to discover your level of sensitivity to dairy, but there are other ways we’ll discuss coming up.

#2: The type of milk: raw, pasteurized, pasture-raised, cultured, or A2…is there one that’s right for you?

Raw dairy is often easier to digest than pasteurized dairy because it has not been heated to the point where it loses all its enzymes.

And whether or not your milk is homogenized has been proven to play a role in dairy tolerance as well.

Milk from pasture-raised cows, AKA “grass milk” can also make a difference to some people as a cow’s diet does affect the nutrient profile of their milk.

When you culture your milk by making yogurt or kefir, the souring process breaks down the milk sugar lactase, while creating strains of beneficial bacteria and enzymes—making it easier to digest and more nutritious.

Goat and sheep milk are also lower on the allergy scale, as what’s known as “A2” cow’s milk.

A2 milk is a type of cow’s milk that contains only the A2 beta casein protein (also found in human and goat milk) and NOT the A1 protein prevalent in most types of cow’s milk.

What difference does it make if your milk has A1 or A2 beta casein proteins?

For some people, it could make a big difference…

Experts like Bob Elliot, professor of child’s health research at the University of Auckland, believe the beta casein protein mutated from the more digestible A2 into the less digestible A1 in Europe hundreds of year ago. Hence why many people are sensitive to A1 milk yet tolerate A2 milk well.

Though A2 milk is most popular in Australia, New Zealand and Europe, it is gaining popularity in the US and can be found at local co-ops, specialty dairy farms, and even some natural foods markets, like Sprouts.

So, could one of these milks be right for you?

You may very well tolerate A2, goat, or cultured milk beautifully…

But before you decide to test the water, read this next section first…

#3: Gut health, gluten intolerance, and dairy

What the heck does gluten intolerance have to do with your ability to digest dairy?

A lot, actually.

If you’ve been unknowingly suffering from gluten intolerance for an extended period of time, it can cause leaky gut syndrome and trigger a dairy sensitivity.

So, often if you work with a practitioner to get off gluten and heal your gut and digestive tract you may be able to digest dairy products again.

The Easy Way to Uncover a Dairy Sensitivity

It always blows me away how many patients we see with dairy sensitivities who never even knew it.

Bloating, chronic congestion, gas, skin issues, and low-energy just become “the norm” and you forget what it feels like to really feel healthy.

The easiest, at-home way to figure out if you’re dairy sensitive or not, is to eliminate dairy from your diet for 2-3 weeks.

Then, slowly add some dairy products back into your diet and see what happens.

If you start getting a runny nose, skin fare ups, ear infections, constipation, or other digestive issues…you know you have a sensitivity.

We help people do different types of elimination diets like this in our MWC Detox Cleanse program. And the unbiased information you get back from your body about which foods it likes and dislikes makes it well worth the effort.

And even if your body tells you it doesn’t want dairy, keep your chin up!

Remember, if you heal your gut and figure out your genetic nutritional needs, you may be able to enjoy dairy (in some form) again soon.

All is not lost.

And if your body just won’t tolerate it, there are a TON of dairy-free alternatives out there like coconut, hemp, or almond milk that make going dairy-free a tasty breeze.

Promise.

For a slew of yummy dairy-free and cultured dairy recipes, visit our Pinterest board.

And if you need help with your elimination diet or figuring out what other foods may be making you sick, check out our events page for details on the upcoming free class: The MWC Detox Cleanse class in February.

Hope to see you there!

-Marlene

1: June 2012: The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. “Amish children living in northern Indiana have a very low prevalence of allergic sensitization” Retrieved 2/8/2017 http://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749%2812%2900519-2/fulltext

2: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH “Lactose Intolerance”. http://www.ecnb.org/pdf/lactoseintolerance.pdf Retrieved 2/8/2017: