The question as to whether we should consume cows dairy as part of healthy diet, is a hotly debated topic, especially amongst conventional dietitians vs nutritionists and naturopaths. Many in the 'pro dairy' camp, argue that cow's milk is a 'complete food', providing a rich source of vitamins and minerals- in particular calcium - essential for bone health and growth - and whilst this may be true to a point, modern day cow's dairy, is a far cry from the milk consumed by our ancestors.
Today, cow's dairy is reported as one of the top foods people suffer an intolerance, or sensitivity to, next to gluten and corn. With links to everything from excess mucous production, asthma, hormonal acne and skin conditions, like eczema and psoriasis, through to chronic ear infections and colds in children, autism, and of course, digestive issues, such IBS - causing abdominal pain and bloating. Studies have even linked the consumption of cow's dairy to heart disease (1, 2), whilst others have revealed an increased risk of prostate cancer in men (1), because of its ability to increase insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I) in the blood, which promotes cancer cell growth.
What's also interesting to note is that humans are the only mammal to consume the milk of another! Even calves, (like all mammals), have no need to maintain the consumption of milk, once they've been weaned at a young age, which proves all the more, that there is no evidence to suggest the need to consume cow's dairy, in order to meet our nutritional needs - including as a source of calcium. If anything the regular consumption of cow's dairy, contributes to the overloading of calcium in our blood, which depletes levels of magnesium and vitamin D.
As a nutritionist, people consult me on a wide range of chronic and complex health conditions, through to more minor ailments, or difficulty losing weight, but whatever their health woe, I recommend cow's dairy as one of the first foods to go! The reason being, is because of the links between the regular consumption of cow's dairy and chronic low-grade inflammation. Major health studies have found an irrefutable connection between pretty well every lifestyle disease and illness, and chronic low-grade inflammation. (1,2 ) One of the main reasons cow's dairy can trigger an immunological inflammatory response, is because of the type of protein found in conventional cow's milk - commonly referred to as the 'A1' protein, or A1 beta-casein, found in European breeds of cattle, such as Holstein, Frisian, Ayrshire and British Shorthorn.
Nowadays, we have a choice when it comes to our cow's milk, with the growing popularity of the 'A2' brand of milk and yoghurt. A2 milk contains the A2 beta-casein protein exclusively, and comes from the Guernsey, Jersey, Charolais and Limousin cattle breeds. Unlike the A2 brand of milk, regular milk contains BOTH the A1 and A2 beta-casein protein.
Whilst many people suffer from lactose intolerance - the inability to digest the naturally occurring sugar in cow's milk - the amount of lactose contained in A1 and A2 milk, is actually the same, however many people report experiencing less bloating when they drink A2 milk, compared to the conventional A1 brands.
Cow's dairy is actually a relatively new food in the human diet, and even when humans first started consuming cow's dairy, it was a far cry from the cow's dairy we consume today. Traditionally, cow's milk was consumed raw, making it a rich source of enzymes and beneficial bacteria, helping to feed our gut flora colonies. Nowadays, milk undergoes the process of homogenisation and pasteurisation.
The process of homogenisation is used to prevent the cream, or fat, separating from the milk. Homogenisation uses extreme pressure to force the milk through tiny holes to break up the normally large fat molecules into tiny ones, thus altering the structure of the milk fat by denaturing it. So why do we decide to homogenise milk? Because we humans like everything to look pretty and perfect - aka purely for aesthetic reasons.
There are some schools of thought that claim the denatured fat, resulting from the homogenisation process, enables the fat to be easily absorbed directly into the bloodstream, carrying with it a protein known as xanthine oxidase. There is scientific debate over links with the absorption of this protein and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, however whilst it is yet to be proven otherwise, I personally feel that until it is, we's be best to avoid the regular consumption of cow's dairy, especially homogenised brands containing the A1 protein.
Pasteurisation on the other hand, is the process used to sanitise or 'clean' milk, by heating it to a temperature high enough to kill any bacteria, followed by rapid cooling. It's this process of high heat to kill any bacteria, that also destroys the beneficial bacteria found in raw milk.
So if you're still sitting on the fence, or even if you're fully ensconced in the 'pro cow's dairy for humans' camp, I challenge you to at least try eliminating ALL cow's dairy from your diet, for at least 4 - 6 weeks and see what difference it can make to your health and overall digestion....in my clinical experience, you may just be pleasantly surprised! Even better, why not take it a step further and adopt my complete 28 day gut repair program, found in my book, Love Your Gut and discover just how good you can feel when you optimise your gut health!