Mark Stengler, ND
Adults show alleviated symptoms of allergies, fatigue, digestive pro.
“Darrel hasn’t had any ear infections since we took him off cow’s milk.” exclaimed Trudy, the mother of two-year-old Darrel. This is a common scenario.
My patients, both pediatric and adult, who avoid or reduce cow’s milk normally report improvement in a variety of ailments.
Adults show alleviated symptoms of allergies, fatigue, digestive problems, joint pains, skin conditions, mental fog, and a variety of other conditions. Most of my nutrition-oriented doctor colleagues report the same phenomena.
The fact is we are the only species that consumes the milk of another species. For obvious reasons, the milk of each species appears to have been specifically designed to protect the young of that species. There is no product on the market that compares to a mother’s breast milk for an infant. As you would expect, the composition of human milk and cow’s milk varies greatly (see box).
Cow’s milk—too rich
for our blood?
Why do so many people, both children and adults, react to cow’s milk? One of the reasons has to do with the protein composition.
There are at least 30 primary proteins in milk. Casein is the most commonly used milk protein in the food industry and the most allergenic of all the milk proteins. (Milk proteins have a variety of names such as milk solids, skim milk powder, casein, caseinates, whey, and albumin.) The concentration of casein is 50-per-cent lower in human milk, so the concentration in cow’s milk products is too much for some people’s immune systems to
“The milk of each species protects the young of that species. Nothing compares to a mother’s breast milk for an infant.”
handle. Milk proteins can trigger the production of antibodies that lead to immune and possible allergy and inflammatory reactions.
The process of homogenization, to prevent the cream from rising to the top, appears to make cow’s milk proteins more allergenic. Passing milk through a fine filter under high pressure makes the fat globules smaller by a factor of 10 times or more. These fat molecules become evenly dispersed within the liquid milk so that there is no visible cream separation in the milk. Researchers have found that these smaller fat globule “capsules” bypass the stomach acid and encapsulate various milk proteins that would normally be digested. Thus, these cow’s milk proteins are not broken down and are absorbed into the bloodstream as larger-than-normal protein molecules. This sets up the immune system reaction.
Mooving away from
Fortunately, thanks to the natural health food industry there are many alternatives to cow’s milk that people can enjoy.
Once only carried by health food stores, rice milk has become extremely popular in the past decade and is now available in many supermarkets. Nutrition-oriented doctors consider rice as one of the least allergenic foods.
Most rice milk products are made from brown rice. It has a slightly sweet taste and is much thinner than cow’s milk. Vitamins A, D, and B12 are com
"Almond milk has a good protein-to-carbohydrate ratio, and works very well as a milk substitute when baking."
monly added to increase the nutritional profile. Calcium enriched formulas are available and contain as much calcium as cow’s milk at 300 milligrams per eight-ounce serving. Rice milk is available in a variety of flavours including carob, vanilla, and chocolate, and can be easily stored because aseptic packaging allows most unopened products to stay fresh for up to a year without the use of preservatives or refrigeration. Once opened, refrigerate the milk, which will stay fresh in the refrigerator for seven to 10 days.
A downside of rice milk is the carbohydrate content. An eight-ounce glass may contain 25 grams of carbohydrates and 11 grams of simple sugars. Those on a carbohydrate-reduced diet will want to use this product sparingly or balance it with protein foods.
Another popular alternative to cow’s milk, most soy products are higher in protein than rice milk, but like rice milk are lactose-free. Soymilk may have natural hormone-balancing properties for premenopausal and postmenopausal women due to its phyto-estrogen content.
There is some controversy regarding soymilk and detrimental effects of thyroid function but the data is inconclusive. Those with existing thyroid disorders should avoid drinking more than eight ounces a day. Also, there are some researchers who feel soymilk and other soy products may cause hormonal imbalance in children. Again, the data on this subject is unclear. I find approximately 30 per cent of my patients are sensitive to soymilk and notice symptoms such as gas and bloating. For those who are not sensitive, I recommend rotating soy with other nondairy milks.
Becoming more popular among health food enthusiasts, oat milk has a sweet taste. Similar to rice milk, it does contain a relatively high amount of sugar, so those with blood sugar conditions should use smaller amounts.
The nut milk made from almonds has a better protein-to-carbohydrate ratio than rice and oat milk. Almond also works very well as a milk substitute when baking.
Cow’s milk was not designed to be compatible with the human body. Modern techniques of pasteurization and homogenization have compounded the health problems associated with it. Many alternatives are now available which, in my opinion, offer much healthier options for both children and adults.