Dairy And Plant Based Milks
Plant based eating and milks have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Whether you suffer from a dairy intolerance, are vegan or just simply feel better off of dairy plant based milks can be a good option. However if you can tolerate dairy it is an excellent source of calcium, iodine, protein and some B vitamins.
Being intolerant to dairy (eg lactose intolerant) or question whether you are tolerating dairy doesn't necessarily mean you need to completely eliminate all dairy products from you diet. Common symptoms of being lactose intolerant include unexplained ongoing diarrhea, bloating, excess wind and sometimes cramping. Humans ability to digest milk declines between the ages of 3-5 years. I find clients with asthma, eczema, and acne tend to fare better once they have made changes around dairy in their diet. This could be because cow's milk in some adults and children can be inflammatory and mucus forming.
Lactose is the sugar in milk that some people react to because they don't make enough of the enzyme lactase which breaks down lactose. If lactose is not broken down in the small intestine it continues on to the large intestine where it ferments and can cause the above gut symptoms. Before eliminating dairy you can try lactose free milk and/or swap to products that are much lower in lactose such as sheep's and goat's cheeses and yogurts. Fermented dairy also tends to contain less lactose so you may find you can tolerate kefir which has been shown to be beneficial for our gut health. Many people, even those intolerant to dairy, can tolerate butter which is full of healthy fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D and E.
There is a breath test to check if you are lactose intolerant, however I am also an advocate of listening to your body and seeing how you feel with different dairy products/dairy free and lower portions of dairy.
Protein In Milk
Less common but still an issue in some people is the protein in cow's milk as oppose to the lactose. There are 2 types of proteins found in cow's milk A1 and A2. If one is reacting to the protein in cow's milk it is likely going to be to the A1 protein. In which case you can buy A2 milk from most supermarkets and see if your symptoms alleviate.
Organic Milk And Full Fat vs Skimmed
I never recommend skimmed milk. Full fat milk has been shown to boost the absorption of minerals in milk like calcium compared to skim milk. Organic milk vs non organic milk needs more research however thus far research points to organic milk being a healthier and more ethical option. Non organic milk from cow's are exposed to more antibiotics. The more the cow is exposed to antibiotics the higher chance they can develop bugs that are resistant to antibiotics (just like humans) which can transfer to the milk, so choosing organic milk is a better option if possible.
Dairy Free Milks
For me personally I feel better off of cow's milk and cheddar cheese (especially melted which can be even more difficult to digest for some) but am okay with sheep and goats products and enjoy plant based milks. It is a tricky one, as much of a fan as I am of plant based milks be mindful that they can be environmentally unfriendly for different reasons such as air miles required to reach your supermarket and large volumes of water required to produce the plant based milk.
If you are going dairy free there is no perfect swap from cow's milk to a plant based milk in regards to nutrition. The biggest thing you need to be mindful of is calcium. You can get plant based milks fortified with calcium or choose foods high in calcium such as tahini, dark green leafy veg, salmon, almonds/almond butter, oats, and seeds such as chia, sunflower and sesame. Soya milk is a great option for protein but be sure to buy organic if using soya.
I use the brand Innocent for plant based milks as many other brands use oils and emulsifiers that can be very inflammatory. They are also fortified with calcium using seaweed (you cannot taste the seaweed at all).
Unfortunately Innocent have yet to make a oat version of milk so I use a barista option. I only use a splash of it in my tea as oat milks are well known to send many peoples blood sugar sky rocketing and can wreak havoc on your gut and skin because of the ultra processed ingredients which can trigger inflammation. If having a latte or using a plant based milk in your porridge stick with hazelnut, almond or coconut. I prefer coconut as the fats keep me satiated for longer.
My last piece of advice is a fun one - I find almond milk froths up beautifully should you fancy a dairy free cappuccino!