Today’s episode is all about dairy. A seemingly popular topic to cover because it’s something I’ve been getting lots of questions and conversations about with our Klub members. Clients, and even on social media; given that there’s also a lot of confusion surrounding it.
For people who can tolerate dairy, it’s a great source of protein, calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium. As well as fat soluble nutrients such as vitamin A and vitamin E. But for those who can’t, especially with kids who have food sensitivities, allergies and intolerances, I’ll be discussing the following points to help you understand better. Make better diet choices for your kids:
- The different components of dairy and A1 versus A2 dairy products
- Conditions that are commonly linked to dairy intolerance or sensitivity
- Doing a six-week dairy elimination trial, how to incorporate a dairy-free, calcium-rich diet and more!
- Download my Free Gut Health for Kids e-book
- Read about dairy-free calcium sources for kids
- Book an appointment with our Naturopath
Hello, everybody! Welcome back to the Natural Super Kids Podcast.
I hope you’re having a lovely day, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, thanks for tuning in.
Today’s episode is all about dairy. Think this is going to be a popular one. I want to cover this episode because it’s something I’ve been getting lots of questions. Having lots of conversations about with our Klub members, with clients, and even on social media. And there’s a lot of confusion surrounding dairy. So I really want to clear a lot of that up for you. When it comes to the different components of dairy such as lactose and casein, which is the protein in dairy. We’re going to be breaking that down. I’m going to be talking about dairy intolerance or sensitivity. When to suspect that your child might have an issue with dairy and we’re going to be covering a lot more as well.
Dairy is one of the most common types of food allergies and intolerances in children. Now, I’m not going to delve deep into the difference between allergy and intolerance. We have a separate podcast episode. It is episode nine, where we sort of dive deep into food allergy and intolerance in kids. So if you’re interested in that, I’d recommend you have a listen of episode nine, if you haven’t already. I just want to say that if your child has a dairy allergy, you probably know about it. If they’ve got a sensitivity or an intolerance, which is really, really common in kids. Hard to detect and to get diagnosed, then this episode is going to be really interesting for you.
If your child has a dairy allergy, I think it’ll be interesting for you as well to get more of an understanding about dairy. And some of the problems that it can cause in kids. I just want to start by saying I am definitely not anti-dairy. As a family, we do consume dairy. I don’t believe that dairy is bad for everybody. For someone who tolerates dairy, it’s a great source of protein of calcium, zinc, magnesium, potassium. As well as fat soluble nutrients such as vitamin A and vitamin E. That being said, I do recommend to many of my clients that they trial a dairy-free diet for their children. We have this conversation in the Natural Super Kids Klub a lot as well.
Many conditions and symptoms that we see in our kids can be related to dairy. So it really does depend on your child. If there are symptoms that suggest an issue with dairy, it might be time to explore the possibility of an intolerance or a sensitivity. To trial a period of eliminating dairy from the diet. I do recommend getting one on one support to help you figure this out and help you to navigate a healthy diet without dairy. Whether that be short term or long term. We can certainly help you out with that here at Natural Super Kids with our online consultations. I’ll make sure the link to those are in the show notes if you’re interested in finding out more.
So I want to get started by really breaking down the different components of dairy. Because I think there’s a lot of confusion in this area. Lots of parents that I talked to might say, “Oh, we tried dairy-free, but it didn’t work.” But what they’re saying that when we delve a bit deeper, they’ve tried lactose-free. They haven’t tried dairy-free. Lactose is one component of dairy and lactose is the sugar component of dairy. So when it comes to dairy, there are two main potential problems. The one that most of us know about is lactose, the sugar in dairy. The other one is casein, the protein in dairy, which I’m going to be talking about in a moment.
Lactose issues are generally easier to spot. There is a lack of enzyme. A particular enzyme in the digestive tract that breaks down lactose, and that enzyme is called lactase. This leads to almost immediate symptoms when you consume dairy such as bloating, pain, loose bowel movements, excess wind. And when this happens, you can cut out the lactose to prevent the symptoms. So it’s fairly simple and it’s fairly easy to spot. Well, much easier to kind of spot than a problem with casein. But what many people have is they may have an issue with lactose and casein. Or their issue may be with casein, which is the protein.
Casein can cause a variety of symptoms related to digestion, mood and also immunity. There are two main types of casein in dairy products. There’s the A1 casein and there’s the A2 casein. You’ve probably heard of A2 dairy, A2 milk, A2 dairy products. Because they’ve become really quite popular on the market and you can find them at supermarkets. They’re really readily available. And so you’ve probably heard of A2. You’ve seen the ads with people with their happy tummies because they’re drinking A2 milk as opposed to A1 milk.
So let’s delve into the difference between these two caseins, A1 and A2. It’s all about the animal that the dairy products are coming from. Some types of cows will produce A1 casein in their milk. This is the case with most commercial milk and dairy products, they contain A1 casein. So if you’re just grabbing the regular milk, the regular yogurt, the regular cheese, even if it’s organic or biodynamic. The majority of the time it will include the A1 casein because of the types of cows that are producing that particular dairy product. There are other less common breeds such as Jersey and Guernsey cows that produce A2 casein dairy products.
With the Jersey cows and the Guernsey cows, Jersey is definitely more common and popular. It produces dairy products that are A2 casein. Goat and sheep-based dairy products also contain this A2 casein or protein. You’ve probably heard that some people that don’t tolerate dairy very well will tolerate a goat’s milk product. Or a sheep’s milk yogurt. There’s even goat’s milk formulas available for babies that have issues with dairy. And if the goat’s milk product improves a child’s symptoms, that tells us that they are sensitive to the A1 casein. Or that particular casein is inflammatory in their body.
So let me explain a little bit more about that. A1 is the most problematic type of casein as it can be inflammatory. Some people have an enzyme in their gut that converts A1 protein into an inflammatory compound which can cause issues. If you don’t have this enzyme, dairy is probably fine for you. But for those who are born with the gene that gives them this enzyme, there’s not really much you can do about it, it’s genetic. Normal dairy is likely to be an issue. A1 dairy is also the type that increases mucus production. This is why a naturopath will usually suggest avoiding dairy if you have a cold or chesty cough. Or a condition linked to excess mucus because A1 dairy is mucus producing.
I’m always talking to my kids about not having milk when they’re sick. Or you know, excess dairy products when they’re sick because of that mucus producing kind of action that it has. So it’s a great thing to sort of make your family aware of. Some kids might tolerate A2 milk, whether that’s Jersey or Guernsey milk or goat’s milk or sheep’s products. And others may be unable to tolerate any form of casein because it’s a confusing area. It’s usually best to seek professional help if you suspect that your child has an issue with dairy. We’ll talk a bit more about the symptoms and conditions that can be linked to problems with dairy.
For some kids, avoiding that A1 protein is enough and just sort of transitioning to A2 only dairy products. But for other kids, we need to eliminate it altogether to get on top of their symptoms, whatever they might be. It’s really important to sort of differentiate. Now for a lot of families, it can be a big deal to even do a short term like a six week dairy-free diet. It’s not easy. If that feels really overwhelming for you but you feel like your child may have an issue with dairy, a really easy first step is to switch to A2 dairy only. I hope what I’ve explained there helps you understand that it doesn’t have to be that A2 brand of dairy only.
If you can get you know 100% Jersey milk from your farmer’s market or even from your local supermarket. It is becoming more and more popular, then that is going to be A2. It may not say a big A2 on the front but if it’s a 100% Jersey cows that that dairy product is made from, then it will be an A2 dairy product. Also, goat’s milk, sheep’s yogurt or sheep’s milk are A2 as well. They have a bit of a different taste though. So if you can find a cow’s milk product, particularly if your child’s fussy, or you have trouble getting them to make some changes to their diet. They’re not even going to notice that.
So milk’s the easy one. When it comes to yogurt, it’s harder to find an A2-specific yogurt. But you can always go for a coconut yogurt which is completely dairy-free. Or sheep or a goat’s yogurt. Again, the taste is a little bit different. But you can always mix in some of your own fresh fruit you can generally only buy those yogurts unflavoured. You need to sort of add some flavour yourself. A bit of honey, a bit of maple syrup, some fruit purees, those sorts of things can be a good option.
Cheese is a tricky one as well. Again, you’re wanting to go for the goat’s cheeses, the sheep’s cheeses. If you can find 100% Jersey or Guernsey-based cheese, then that will be fine as well. The good news is that butter and cream only contain the A2 dairy so they are completely safe to have. You don’t need to cut those out if you’re just reducing or cutting out that A1 dairy.
Let’s talk about some of the conditions that are commonly linked to dairy intolerance or sensitivity. There’s a lot! As a Naturopath, when I’m first seeing a client and I’m taking the client’s history, I always look for clues as to what could be. You know, going on or be a problem for this child. And some of the red lights or the warnings that I am sort of looking out for in terms of there being a dairy intolerance, I’m going to be talking about next.
So the first one is Eczema, which is really common in kids obviously. But whenever a client presents with eczema, I am always thinking that there’s a potential issue with dairy. It’s one of the most common food intolerances or sensitivities that are linked to eczema. It’s not always dairy. You know, there can be definitely other food sensitivities and intolerances. But eczema is a bit of a red flashing light that there’s potentially an issue with dairy for this particular child.
Asthma is another one, dairy can be a big trigger for asthma symptoms. I’ve had countless children clients with asthma that has significantly improved by removing dairy from their diet. For some kids, it’s enough to just remove that A1 casein dairy protein from their diet. Other kids will need to kind of take that next step and remove dairy altogether from their diet. And it makes sense, doesn’t it? With the inflammation of the airways that asthma causes or the inflammation of the airways that cause the symptoms of asthma. The excess mucus production that is often seen in asthma as well. It really does make sense to give it a go to cut out dairy and see what effect that has on your child with asthma.
Croup is another one. Look, a one-off croup infection usually isn’t much to worry about. But when there’s recurring croup, dairy is a potential factor as well. Reflux – this is a huge one. Whenever mums are saying, “Oh they had reflux when they were a baby,” or a child still has reflux. That is a big red flag for dairy as well. So reflux in babies can often improve tremendously by mum removing dairy if she’s breastfeeding. Or the baby removing dairy from their diet, if they’re eating solids. Obviously, you need to take into account the formula that that child is having as well. But dairy can be a big issue with kids with reflux.
These things, as I said at the start are really hard to pinpoint and diagnose. If you take a child to a doctor with reflux, you’re generally going to come out with a script for a medication. Not any sort of dietary advice. So, it’s really important to raise awareness of these issues, because I’ve seen, again, a huge number of babies. And their reflux symptoms disappearing, when mum eliminates dairy from her diet when she’s breastfeeding. Or there’s a change to the formula. And again, sometimes moving to that A2 dairy is enough. Like a goat’s milk formula, as opposed to a cow’s milk formula.But other babies need to kind of get rid of the dairy out of this system altogether.
A lot of immune issues can be related to a dairy sensitivity or an intolerance. Recurrent ear infections is a big one, sinus infections, tonsillitis, enlarged adenoids and enlarged tonsils. They are a big kind of red flags when it comes to potential dairy problem as well. The inflammation that is caused by dairy for some people contribute to these ongoing inflammatory conditions. including digestive symptoms, of course. You can see all sorts of different tummy digestive issues with dairy. And it can really be a big range, which makes it quite confusing.
Some kids will get constipation when there’s a dairy intolerance. Whereas others will get loose bowel movements or diarrhoea. As I said, reflux and IBS symptoms such as bloating, wind, tummy aches, even if dairy is not the sole cause of these issues, removing it from the diet can really take the load off the gut. The immune system, and really helped to reduce the symptoms of these digestive complaints.
And also, I wanted to sort of touch on neurodevelopment conditions. Things like ADHD, autism and behavioural issues and mental health concerns often coincide with dairy issues. Now, these conditions as well as a lot of the ones that we’ve talked about previously are complex. They’re multifactorial. It’s not like dairy is the one and only cause and you removed, and you know, all the symptoms of the ADHD are gone. But kids with neurodevelopment conditions often do well on a gluten-free and casein-free diet. Now this is a huge subject. Often kids that are on the spectrum and kids that have been diagnosed ADHD particularly, struggle to digest the proteins in gluten-containing foods.
Gluten is a protein and in dairy foods for the casein is the protein. This is because, they struggle to digest the proteins and then the proteins are sort of absorbed into the bloodstream before they’ve been fully broken down. They can then cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to receptors in the brain and this can affect a child’s mood. Their behaviour, their sleep, and so much more. So this is why these kinds of conditions can really benefit from removing casein or dairy out of the diet. And removing gluten out of the diet.
Again, I know this is no easy feat. But it’s an important consideration if your child does have ADHD or has been diagnosed with ASD. It’s definitely something to think about. Now, this can be really tricky for these kids, because of the way that those proteins are affecting the brain. They almost can be addicted to gluten and dairy. So it’s really hard to remove it from their diet. But the benefits to their overall health, their gut, immune system, mood and their behaviour can be transformative. So it’s something really, really worth looking into.
We’ll be doing podcast episodes in the future, at some point. I haven’t got anything planned. But on ADHD, on ASD, there’s so many things that you need to consider in these conditions. We do have a bit of information on our website over at naturalsuperkids.com. If you type in autism or ADHD in the top search bar, you will find some relevant information. That could be a good place to start.
So it is important to remember that dairy is only one of the many factors with these conditions. But if it’s contributing, you’ll see significant improvements in symptoms when eliminating dairy from the diet. It is important to seek professional help when you’re trying to navigate this area. I did want to go through a few steps to take. If you’ve been listening and thinking, “Oh, my child’s got that, they’re suffering with that. They’re challenged with this, they’ve had this in the past.” If you’re ticking a lot of those boxes, of those conditions and symptoms that I’ve been talking about. My advice for you would be to trial a six-week elimination.
To get a clear picture, I really prefer to eliminate all dairy for six weeks. As I said earlier, if that feels just too overwhelming for you, and you want to take a smaller first step, you can start off by eliminating the A1 dairy. Switch to an A2 milk, use a goat’s or sheep’s cheese, and yogurt. Even though adults notice the taste difference for sheep’s and goat’s products, a lot of kids don’t notice the difference. So it’s definitely worth a try. If you taste it, and you think, “Oh, my child is not gonna be happy with this.” Still give it a go. Don’t be put off by your taste buds. Because that’s been my experience in the past where mums will say, “There’s no way my child’s going to eat a goat yogurt.” But they do! So it’s definitely worth trying.
So the six weeks is important. It takes at least that amount of time to really see the full benefits of eliminating dairy from the diet. I see so many people that say I’ve tried dairy-free, we tried it for a couple of weeks, it didn’t make any difference. A couple of weeks is not long enough, six weeks is really the ballpark figure. And if your child gets a lot of benefits from that, you’re probably going to be reluctant to introduce it back into the diet.
I do want you to know that eliminating dairy doesn’t have to be forever because we want to be rebuilding gut health. So that a child’s tolerance improves. And hopefully, sometime down the track, you can introduce it without it being problematic to their health. So eliminating dairy for six weeks is a really good place to start. If it feels too hard, start off by eliminating that A1 dairy and switch to A2 dairy and see how you go with that.
It’s really important to reintroduce dairy in the right way. So after eliminating for the six weeks, say your child gets benefits, but they’re really missing dairy in their diet. Or it’s driving you a bit crazy keeping dairy out of their diet, you want to reintroduce dairy. You want to do this one product at a time so you can monitor symptoms. You don’t want to go, six weeks, the next day you’re giving them milk and yogurt and cheese. If you’ve eliminated dairy altogether, you can start with just an A2 milk and see how they respond. This is where it’s important to get help because you don’t want to waste that six weeks of hard work that you’ve done for that dairy-free elimination.
Again, this is something we can help here with at Natural Super Kids with our online consultations. In that process of eliminating dairy, we want to be rebuilding the gut health or rebuilding the gut function, I should say. So whenever there’s a food intolerance involved, repairing the gut and building up gut health in general is really important. I’ve got a free e-book, Kids Gut Health E-book. There, I talk about some of the important things you need to be thinking about when it comes to rebuilding your kids’ gut health. The link to that is in the show notes and that’s totally free. That’s a really good place to start, it’s really recommended.
My recommendation is that while you’re doing this dairy-free period of time, you want to be working on rebuilding and repairing the gut during that time. So then when you reintroduce dairy, whether that’s in six weeks, 12 weeks, or in 12 months, the gut is in a better state of health to be able to tolerate it. And if you do that reintroduction in the right way, it’s very apparent as to what foods are going to be causing problems.
With dairy, there is generally a tolerance level. So you know, a little bit might be okay. But then if you have that same amount in the next day and the next day, then there might be problems. So this is why it’s really important to work with the practitioner to make sure you’re observing things in the right way. And that you’re eliminating and reintroducing in the right way as well. Now, I just want to finish up by talking about calcium. Calcium is a valid concern from parents whose kids are dairy-free. Now, there are plenty of ways that we can get calcium into the diet without dairy. But dairy is a good source of calcium! So I just want to talk about some of the other sources.
Green, leafy vegetables. Tinned fish with bones. Almonds and other nuts. Tahini and other seeds. Tahini is that sesame seed spread, are a few good sources of calcium. I am going to link in the show notes to a place that you can learn out and learn more about dairy-free calcium options as well. If your child needs to follow a dairy-free diet long term and won’t eat other calcium rich whole foods. I mean, let’s be honest. Green leafy veggies, tinned fish with bones, they’re generally not kids’ favourite foods. In this case, it is worth considering a supplement but again, it’s important to get some professional advice.
Just as a general calcium supplement recommendation, I do really like the Ethical Nutrients’ Bone Builder supplement. That is available through a lot of pharmacies and health food stores. It’s fairly easy to get. So if you’re unsure, that could be a good place to start. But when you’re looking at long term supplementation, it’s really a good idea to get some professional advice.
Okay, now hopefully I haven’t confused you and I’ve really cleared up some of the confusion that surrounds dairy. It’s a big topic. As I’ve said multiple times throughout this episode, if you’re unsure, if you’re suspecting that your child has an issue, then please consider making an appointment. An online naturopathic appointment here at Natural Super Kids and we can really help you to navigate this area in a really healthy way. Don’t forget that free gut health e-book link is in the show notes. Head on over to naturalsuperkids.com and click on this episode to access that free gut health e-book because that will be really helpful as well.
I will be back next week with the next episode. Thank you so much. Bye bye!