Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Milk Allergies - More Info to Answer Your Questions

It seems my post on milk allergies has left some of you with more questions than answers.  So I thought I would give you a bit more information on the subject.  As I mentioned in earlier blog posts, I grew up in South Dakota on a farm.  Early on we had only 1 or 2 milking cows, but later my parents decided to start a dairy farm.  So I have a rather unique perspective on today’s post. 

I experienced fresh, raw, whole cow’s milk as a kitchen staple for most of my life from infancy through my teens.  So when Dr. Rau, my favorite Biological Medicine professor offered this theory as another reason that many people have allergic reactions to milk, it made some sense to me.

In times past, especially in Northern and Western Europe, families had a cow – 1 cow, maybe 2 cows – and that cow was the sole source of the milk that family consumed.  As time moved along and more industrialization was taking place, small dairy farms rose up and now a dairy farmer may have several cows.  This “progress” kept a steady pace over time and as more and more people moved to cities, more and larger dairy farms became popular.

Cows waiting to be milked - the line goes on and on and on!

Flash-forward to the 1960’s and 70’s to my parent’s dairy farm – mind you it was considered a very small dairy farm by industry standards.  There were always 200+ cows milked every morning and every evening.  That milk all ended up in a big, shiny, stainless steel tank and every other day a giant tanker truck would pull up and all of that milk from those 200 cows would go into an even bigger shiny, stainless steel tank.

This brings back so many childhood memories - not pleasant ones!

Now keep in mind that that tanker would visit several other local dairy farms and do the same thing – upload all their milk into the big, shiny, stainless steel tanker truck.

In other words 1 tanker truck of milk can contain the milk from more than 2000 cows! 

To complicate things a bit further, the milk from that tanker is mixed with the milk from up to 10-20 more tankers and now we have the milk from up to 40,000 cows all being fed different foods, given antibiotics and hormones and the list goes on . . .

Tankers lined up to deliver milk to a processing plant.

So in a single gallon of cows’ milk there will be thousands of different DNA signatures from the milk itself, as well as the DNA signatures of the foods each of them ate.

This is overwhelming to any digestive system!  Since each protein requires specific enzymes to break it down, you can see that if a family had a cow – 1 cow – maybe the digestive enzymes would stand a chance of breaking some of the milk proteins and sugars down.  But when the milk becomes something of an alphabet soup, the possibility becomes very slim indeed!

This is one of the reasons that even breast-fed babies have significant problems with cows’ milk!

Add to that the fact that as we age, the enzymes necessary to break down lactose – the sugar in milk – diminishes dramatically.  It seems that the only folks who have some tolerance and ability to break down that sugar are those of Northern and Western European descent.  That narrows the population significantly!  Particularly if you, like most Americans, have a pretty varied ethnic heritage.

However, some of us are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy dairy alternatives.  If we were fed cows’ milk as infants and developed that allergy, the milk from other mammals is sometimes tolerated.  In fact the milk from sheep, goats and water buffalos is a very popular in cheese making.  You may not realize some of your favorite cheeses are actually not made from cows’ milk . . .

Many Spanish cheeses like Manchego are made from the milk of sheep, as is Pecorino, Romano, Feta and Roquefort!  And now there are many, many new varieties on the market.  The same is true with goat’s milk.  From the fresh, ultra creamy variety to hard grating cheeses similar to Romano, the choices are nearly endless.  And don’t forget, Mozzarella, the really good fresh variety that makes an ooey-gooey pizza (on my potato crust of course).

Recently I visited a great market near me in Dallas, Central Market, and counted the many varieties of goat, sheep and water buffalo cheeses and found more than 60 varieties!  So there are many options and the list grows every year as more and more people discover their cows’ milk allergies.

If you happen to live in an area where the options are limited, I have developed many recipes to transform goat or sheep's milk yogurt into fresh cheeses.

Mascarpone Cheese Substitute from OMG! That's Allergy Free?

I do believe that even these alternatives to cow’s milk products should be used in moderation since they can still be somewhat congestive to our lymphatic systems.

But for those of you who are completely dairy intolerant or who have chosen a vegan diet, there are now many good options including nut milks, nut crèmes and even a really delicious nut cheezes.  They are so good that everyone should give them a try!  No need to live without cheesecake or pesto or layered dips or cheesy toppings!  My cookbooks have recipes for many delicious dairy-free cheezy options.

Almond Fetta and Olives from OMG! That's Allergy Free?

Here’s a little info to guide you through the maze of alternatives:
· Soy is one of the most common sources of non-dairy products so there is wide variety available.  The one big caution is that it is essential to use ORGANIC NON-GMO soy ONLY.  All other soy is genetically engineered and I do not recommend it.  Evidence seems to be mounting that unfermented soy is quite difficult for most folks to digest.  So use it sparingly and pay attention to any symptoms that may crop up.
· Nut milks are remarkably easy to make and are great substitutes for many dairy products.  I recommend Pacific and Silk brand organic unsweetened nut milks if you want to purchase a pre-made products.  Just keep in mind that making your own is far more cost effective and requires only a few tools. 
· Coconut milk is another very popular option and is available in a variety of forms.  It is now available in the dairy case as well as in cans.  The difference is fairly significant, while the canned milk is thick and has a very significant coconut flavor; the coconut milk in the dairy case is a little thinner and has only a hint of coconut flavor.
· Goat’s milk cheese has become really popular so it is generally pretty easy to find.  Since it is more flavorful you can use much smaller amounts to provide that intensely cheesy taste.  Goat yogurt is a great alternative to buttermilk in baking, great for making yogurt cheese to replace sour cream and cream cheese.
· Sheep’s milk is much more mild than goat’s milk and I like the yogurt much better.  It is a little harder to find, but well worth the effort.  Romano, Pecorino, Feta cheeses as well as French Roquefort cheeses are all traditionally made from sheep’s milk.
· Water Buffalo milk cheeses are much more common in Italy, as in buffalo mozzarella.  The yogurt made from this milk is more like crème fresh than yogurt.  It is so fantastic.  If you can find it, buy it!  It’s so much thicker than even the newly popular Greek style yogurts.  I love it!

I hope this information answers a few of your questions. For even more answers, please join me live tomorrow on my radio show Simple Solutions for Everyday Health! The link below will take you directly to Transformation Talk Radio where you can listen in every Wednesday at Noon PDT/3:00 EDT. I'll be there to answer your questions live on the air!

I look forward to having you join in!

Dr. P


  1. I loved this explanation the first time I read it in your cookbook. I still think it is such an excellent description of how modern cows' milk is so different from earlier cow's milk.

  2. Thanks Di! It's amazing to me how much farming has changed just since I was a little girl. It used to be so much more earthy and natural, and the organic farms I've visited still feel that way. But this whole business of agriculture has simply skewed things so drastically. Sometimes I think it would be fun to have a little farmette with chickens and sheep and a really beautiful garden and a farm stand . . . and then I remember how much work it is and the romanticism fades and I'm back to reality!

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