Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dairy free? For healing, you might not have to give up every form of dairy. What can you eat?

First let me say right off the bat that i looooooooove the taste of dairy products, especially cheese.  In fact, my grandfather owned a cheese factory.  Unfortunately, I have all kinds of reactions to dairy products, so I mostly avoid them.  However, I am learning that there are some forms of dairy that I can eat with no or modified symptoms.

There are a lot of reasons why many of us are avoiding milk products.  Here are the most important for healing:

Inflammation--  Cow's milk can be highly inflammatory, so if you have an inflammatory disease you'll want to avoid it.  See the green box below for a list of diseases caused by inflammation.

Lactose Intolerance--  About 70% of the world population is lactose intolerant.  Lactose intolerance occurs in individuals who do not produce enough of the enzyme lactase.  The body uses lactase to break down the lactose in milk.  When lactase is lacking, undigested lactose passes through the stomach into the intestines where it begins to ferment.  The signs of lactose intolerance usually begin about 30 minutes to two hours after consuming dairy products.  These include bloating, pain or cramps in the lower belly, gurgling or rumbling sounds, gas, loose stools, diarrhea or throwing up.  These symptoms can be mild or severe, depending on how much lactase your body makes.

Allergies to Casein --  One of the most common allergies, especially in children is an Alpha S1 Casein allergy.  2-7% of infants are allergic to Casein.  These allergies tend to start very early in life and do not normally come on in adulthood.  Casein allergies are due to a reaction to a protein in milk which the body's immune system mistakenly targets, triggering the release of histamines.  Symptoms include 1) swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, face or throat  2) hives, rash or itchy skin  3)  nasal symptoms such as congestion, sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, coughing or wheezing.  Unfortunately, casein is most present in cheese since it is present in the curds that are formed when the whey is separated to form the cheese.  The harder the cheese, the more casein.

Whey Allergies--  Only 20% of folks with milk allergies are allergic to whey, while 80% have problems that occur due to casein.  Whey allergies cause the most clinical problems.  As with allergies to casein, whey allergies create excessive mucous forming.  High mucous levels leads to blocked airways, runny or stuffy noses and thick throats.  Whey proteins are altered by high heat, so people with whey allergies may be able to tolerate evaporated, boiled or sterilized milk and milk powder.

So does this mean all dairy products are out?  

You can eat grass-fed omega-3 eggs--  I'm only including eggs here because it seems that so often people lump eggs in with milk products when you say the word "dairy".  Eggs have nothing to do with milk allergies.  And in fact, the right eggs are actually anti-inflammatory.  By the right eggs, I mean, eggs from free-range grass-fed chickens, also sometimes called "pasture raised".  Eggs from grass-fed chickens are high in omega-3s which are anti-inflammation.  Eggs from factory chickens are not.  Plus if you are working at healing, you definitely want to avoid all the added hormones and antibiotics in factory raised chickens.

You can eat grass-fed omega-3 butter--  Many people who cannot tolerate the proteins in casein and whey products are okay with butter because much of the milk proteins have been removed. Even better, grass fed pasture-raised cows produce butter that is high in omega-3s.  If you are avoiding inflammation causing foods, you can easily add grass-fed butter to your diet.  However, if you have dairy allergies, watch your body after you consume grass-fed butter and see how you react.

Try ghee if you have reactions to butter--Many people that have allergies to butter are able to tolerate ghee.  Unless a person is extremely sensitive, they should be fine with ghee.  Ghee is melted butter with the solids skimmed away.  You can find ghee at Whole Foods and most health food stores, if your local supermarket does not carry it.

Try goat and sheep's milk--  The chemical structure of goat milk is more similar to human breast milk so it is easier for many people to tolerate.  It turns out that the fat molecules in goat milk are significantly smaller than the fat molecules in cow milk which makes them much easier to digest.  Goat milk also contains less lactose, so if you are lactose intolerant, you may be able to handle goat milk but not cow milk.  Also, goat milk has about 89% less casein than cows milk.  Not everyone can tolerate goat and sheep's milk, however.  A study in Spain found that 26% of those allergic to cow's milk were also allergic to goat and sheep milk.  As for inflammation, a study on rats has shown that goat milk has anti-inflammation properties.

Sheep milk has about the same amount of lactose as cow milk, so if you're lactose intolerant, it is not your solution.  However, even people who are severely lactose intolerant should be able to tolerate sheep's milk yogurt since the lactose it contains will have been converted to lactic acid.

You can easily find goat milk, yogurt, cheeses and ice creams.,,and all are delicious.  The French and Italians make wonderful goat and sheep cheeses and American cheese-makers are starting to develop some sophisticated and delicious choices, too.  Of course, we've all had regular goat cheese, but did you know that feta cheese is often made from goat milk?  (Check the package label before you buy to make sure--some manufacturers use cow milk.)  True Italian pecorinos are made from sheep milk (again check the label because American substitutions are made from cow milk,)  If you can find dairy products made from raw goat or cheese milk, all the better (see below.)

Try raw milk yogurt, kefir  and cheese products-- If you have lactose intolerance, the living lactobacillus cultures in raw milk yogurts, kefirs and cheeses actually help break down the lactose in these products, making them much more digestible than pasteurized milk products.  When milk is pasteurized it is heated to 160 degrees, a process which kills all the live bacterias which generally die off by about 120 degrees.  Also, grass-fed pasture-raised cows produce milk that has its own lactase in it (which is actually produced by the live bacterias in the milk) so whenever possible try to get your raw milk from pasture-raised cows.

Unfortunately, there are no large dairies commercially producing raw yogurts, so you will probably have to make your own, unless you have a local dairy that you can buy it from.  There are, however, raw kefirs available.  Many of these have sugar added though and if you're fighting inflammation, you want to avoid sugar.  French cheese-makers (and now some American cheese-makers, too) work with raw milk.  In fact, in France, pasteurised cheese is mostly only produced for export to American markets. You can find raw milk cheese at many gourmet food stores, Whole Foods, and local health food stores.  Unfortunately, some states, like Nevada, ban the sales of all raw milk products.  For the best of all possibilities, try yogurts, kefirs and cheeses made from raw goat and sheep's milk.

Test for yourself--  The only way you'll find out which of these product you can tolerate is if you test them out.  Try them in small amounts and proceed slowly, perhaps trying one product each week.  If you have other food allergies, be sure to keep your diet clean of all allergens while you test or you'll never know for sure if it was the dairy that caused a reaction.

(By the way, while you are testing, you may find yourself with some symptoms.  If you have facial puffiness, itchy eyes or sinus symptoms, a little Benadryl Gel gently patted around the eyes, nose and brow bone can help you feel better.)

Goat milk yogurt served with fresh figs, walnuts and drizzled with Coconut Nectar. 

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