A recent awakening on the facts and effects of drinking milk has caught the attention of consumers at large. To put all the information through a reliable sieve and retain only facts, we at JFW caught up with Shiny Chandran to gain insight on milk. This is what she had to offer on the subject.
Milk and its constituents
As a nutrition professional, I have witnessed a lot of unlearning in the past 4-5 years. I am often asked these days if gluten-rich grains should be stopped or drinking milk. Consumers seem to and jump on bandwagon diets without thinking if they indeed need to give up roti, Dalia or their favorite wheat bread sandwich with cheese.
Protests around Jallikattu brought out a lot of facts about native cows, particularly the A1, A2 milk which fuelled a much-debated issue of whether we need cow’s milk. Basically, humans react to the sugar (lactose) or protein (casein/ whey) in milk. The absence of the enzyme lactase makes it difficult to digest milk and causes stomach pain, burping, flatulence, and diarrhea which are typical symptoms of lactose intolerance. The tolerance varies with each individual – for some, the curd is easy to tolerate but a cheese sandwich can cause much discomfort.
Casein is a slow digesting protein that is our humble paneer, while the water that separates out is the whey. Casein is similar in structure to gluten and some of those who are intolerant to gluten are also sensitive to casein. Casein comes in 2 variants – A1 and A2 beta-casein – these were in the news early this year. A1 beta casein appears as a result of cross-breeding between native breeds and other imported breeds while A2 is the original. So if a native cow which is grass-fed is allowed to roam free in green pastures, the milk is truly nutritious with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which helps reduce fat and increase lean muscle mass.
When milk isn’t all harmless
A few years back, a paediatrician friend mentioned her research with Down syndrome children whose repeated chest infections reduced drastically once they stopped dairy products. My mentor, a well-known nutritionist suffered a severe allergy issue, rhinitis, for almost 8 years until her Ayurvedic physician recommended a dairy-free diet. Her health improved tremendously and she has switched to other sources of calcium in her daily diet. One of my clients, a fashion designer, saw tremendous improvement in her psoriasis when she stopped consuming dairy products. Some other clients were not losing weight in spite of regular clean eating-exercise-high protein-hifiber-goodood fats routine and going dairy-free made a difference. Trust me, they did not exhibit symptoms of lactose intolerance.
The dairy-free trial period
Milk is a good source of calcium, phosphorus and B-complex vitamins, but one needs authentic old-fashioned milk; it carries all the nutrients that support good health. The non-Immunoglobin E (IgE) mediated cow’s milk protein allergy triggers allergy several hours after consumption. Those who develop severe allergies, are lactose intolerant, and should perhaps try elimination diets and then reintroduce plain milk, curd and cheese in varying amounts to see if they can tolerate these various forms of dairy.
Sufferers of hives, eczema, psoriasis, bloating, gas, flatulence, wheezing, cough, nausea and stomach cramps can try going on a dairy-free diet for 30 days – in fact, 3 months would be appropriate – before reintroducing it and checking for symptoms.
Non-dairy calcium alternatives
Sesame seeds, millets, green leafy vegetables, dried beans like rajma, chickpeas, black urad dal, figs , tofu and soya are enriched with calcium.
Note: Leafy greens have oxalates; millets have phytates that can interfere with
bioavailability (i.e., a portion of a substance accepted into the circulation after being introduced into the body). Seek help from a professional to design a balanced meal plan.
For fitness enthusiasts, plant protein powders (peas, flax, hemp) are easily available in the market
So there you have it. Reaction to various foods is person-specific. Understand your body and its physiology, in the place of reaching for fad diets and market trends. Before you decide to eliminate major food groups from your meal plan, check if you truly have a medical condition that warrants it. This will help you create your own template of foods that suits you well and helps you work at your optimal energy levels.