We are led to believe that milk and other dairy products are an essential and healthy component of a balanced diet and that reduction or avoidance will lead to nutrient deficiency, namely calcium. However, there is much evidence to support the reduction or avoidance of dairy products even if you are not allergic to them. Health problems resulting from dairy begin with modern farming, breeding and processing methods.
For example,hormones and antibiotics are finding their way into our milk, pasteurisation destroys numerous essential enzymes and the removal of butter fat, as in skim milk, reduces the ability of the body to absorb and utilize the nutrients in the milk and also removes the fat soluble vitamins.
Lactose intolerance is a general description used for people who cannot easily digest lactose, a sugar found naturally in milk. Lactase, the enzyme in the digestive system that helps break down lactose, declines from the age of two. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, gas, cramping, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation.
Symptoms may occur one hour to a few days after dairy consumption.
Dairy products have also been associated with eczema, dermatitis, acne, respiratory mucus congestion and sinus problems.
Primary Lactose Intolerance is an inherited condition.
Levels of intolerance vary, with 90-95% of Asians, Africans and Indians having lactose intolerance, 85% of Aboriginals, 60% of Maoris and Mediterraneans and approximately 15% of Caucasians.
Dairy products contain a protein called casein, which is very hard to digest. Casein is 300 times higher in cow’s milk than it is in human milk. True milk allergy to casein will only affect about 3% of the population; however, milk(lactose) intolerance is more widely spread. Dairy allergy appears to be due to the Casein A1 fraction of milk. It is worthwhile attempting consumption of A2 milk in those with demonstrable dairy allergy.
What About Calcium
Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body. A massive 99% of it is located in the bones and teeth and the rest is present in the nerves, muscles and bloodstream where it is needed for the production of nerve signals and muscular energy and is involved in many enzymatic reactions. It is possible to obtain enough calcium daily from a combination of sources, in particular dark green leafy vegetables and nuts & seeds. It is also important to look at factors which reduce calcium balance, including urinary loss due to caffeine, alcohol, smoking or poor absorption due to a deficiency of stomach acid. Adequate magnesium, vitamin D and weight bearing exercise will help the body retain calcium, while a number of trace minerals have been shown to play essential roles in bone metabolism. Adequate calcium intake will slow the rate of bone loss in older people and may reduce the risk of fracture.
However, Australian studies have found that the average daily intake of calcium in 65+ age group was 685mg for women and 796 for men. Considering that the RDI is 1000-1500mg in this age group, supplementation may well be necessary if dietary changes do not fill the gap. Calcium supplementation has been shown to slow bone loss in older women by 43% and reduce the risk of fracture by 26-70%.
What to Avoid and Suggested Substitutes
Milk: Soy Milk (preferably organic and Non GMO), rice milk, almond milk, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk
Yoghurt /Dairy Desserts: Sugar free soy yoghurt, sheeps yoghurt, goats yoghurt, Goats cheese, goats fetta, sheeps cheese, soya cheese
Ice Cream: Coconut cream ice cream, Soy ice-cream (Non GMO organic), Non-dairy gelati, fruit sorbet, frozen soy desserts
Milk Chocolate: Dairy free carob bars (preferably sugar free), there are also many dairy free chocolate products available at most supermarkets and good health stores.
Ready Made Sauces: Make fresh sauce using corn flour and soy, almond or rice milk
Packaged Soups: Fresh soups thickened with potato or pulses such as lentils or soup mix
Butter or Spreads: Olive oil, flax oil, macadamia oil, sesame oil, soy cream cheese, nut butters or spreads, avocado, tahini, hummus
Crackers with milk solids: Ryvita, Salada, rice crackers (check labels)
Malted chocolate drinks: Soy, rice, oat, coconut or almond milk, carob, dandelion coffee, chicory
Skim Milk powder 1190
Whole Milk Powder 900
Whey Powder 645
Yoghurt – cows 180
Goats Milk 130
Skimmed cows milk 123
Cows milk – whole 115
Human milk 30
All meat has < 20 mg /100 g <20
Chicken (whole) 56
Sardines (canned) 550
Salmon (canned) 100
Soy milk (brand dependant) 100
Soy grits 255
Dried soy beans 225
Soy flour 210
Unhulled sesame seeds 1160
Hulled sesame seeds 110
Sunflower seeds 98
Pumpkin seeds 52
Grains and Cereals
Muesli (depends on brand) 200
Wheat bran 150
Bread (white of brown) 100
Rice bran & wheat germ 69
Brown rice 33
Wheat or rye crispbread 55
Legumes (cooked) 95
Navy beans 70
Chickpeas & kidney beans 50
Black eyed beans 22
Alfalfa sprouts 20
Mung bean sprouts 260
Rocket & dark salad leaves 185
Spring onions, onions 140
Dried figs 200
Orange juice 60
Most fruit <50
Crude molasses 654
Note on Goat and sheep alternatives
Both sheep and goats products contain lactose but in lower levels than cow products. People with mild lactose intolerance are often able to tolerate small amounts of these products. Those with allergies or sensitivities to the proteins in cow’s milk will be able to tolerate sheep & goat products.
Tips To Dairy Free Eating
- The above suggestions are available at leading health food shops or the health section at any supermarket.
- Read labels!
- Notify restaurants when you book that you have special dietary requirements.
- Margarine commonly contains milk solids. A healthier alternative is olive oil (dip as the Italians do!), avocado, tahini, hummus and nut spreads instead of margarine or butter.
- Soy cheeses sometimes contain casein. Read the label!
- Mayonnaise and salad dressings traditionally are made without dairy products but many pre-prepared ones now do. Read the label!