Did you know that the first adverse reaction to cow’s milk was actually detailed 2,000 years ago? Hippocrates described the first adverse reaction to cow’s milk as skin and gastrointestinal symptoms after consumption. Today, cow’s milk is among the first foods introduced into an infant’s diet, and accordingly, it’s one of the first and most common causes of food allergy in early childhood, leading many to seek out dairy-free diet options.
Cow’s milk protein allergy is a common food allergy in infants and children, and along with lactose intolerance, it requires a dairy-free diet at a time when adequate nutrition in critical. Researchers indicate that it’s important that parents receive reliable advice and ongoing support about appropriate dairy-free options and alternatives. Being aware of dairy-free food options or foods that contain less lactose helps you or your children adjust to a dairy-free diet.
People follow a dairy-free diet for different reasons, but for most people, they’re searching for relief from digestive issues, bloating, skin problems and respiratory conditions that come from eating dairy products.
It’s reported that 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent of preschoolers, 0.3 percent of older children and teens, and less than 0.5 percent of adults suffer from cow’s milk allergy and are forced to follow a dairy-free diet. In addition to this, between 30 million to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant. Luckily, there are plenty of plant foods and dairy-free products that still give your body the nutrients you need to thrive.
A dairy-free diet includes foods that are free of milk and milk products. People who are lactose intolerant may choose to reduce or eliminate foods that contain lactose. Some may be able to have smaller portions of foods containing milk proteins, and they may find that fermented dairy is easier on their digestive systems. People with a cow’s milk food allergy, on the other hand, must completely eliminate milk proteins from their diets and find food allergy alternatives that provide calcium and other vital nutrients.
The primary sources of dairy that need to be avoided when eating a dairy-free diet include milk, cheese, butter, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, custards and puddings, ice cream, gelato and sherbet, whey, and casein.
7 Benefits of a Dairy-Free Diet:
1. Less Bloating
Bloating due to dairy products is a common complaint among people with dairy sensitivities and allergies. Bloating itself is usually a problem with digestion. For many people, the cause of excessive gas in the intestines, which causes bloating, is due to inadequate protein digestion, an inability to break down sugar and carbohydrates fully, and imbalances in gut bacteria.
All of these factors can be due to a dairy allergy or sensitization, so sticking to a dairy-free diet can help you get rid of that bloated stomach for good.
2. Better for Respiratory Health
Excessive milk consumption has a long association with increased respiratory tract mucus production and asthma. Research shows that A1 milk stimulates mucus production from gut glands and respiratory tract glands. Although the research on whether or not milk consumption leads to mucus production is mixed, respiratory symptoms are often reported by people with dairy allergies or sensitivities, so avoiding dairy can be beneficial for these groups.
3. Improved Digestion
Because an estimated 75 percent of the world’s population has some degree of lactose intolerance, sticking to a dairy-free diet guarantees that you avoid the digestive symptoms that millions of people suffer from every day. Ditching dairy can relieve cramps, stomach pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and nausea. Dairy has also been labeled as a key trigger of IBS symptomsand other digestive conditions.
4. Clearer Skin
There’s significant data supporting the role of dairy consumption in the development of acne. A 2010 study published in Clinics in Dermatologyindicates that milk contains anabolic steroids as well as growth hormones that add to the potency of milk as a stimulant of acne. Going dairy-free and taking probiotic supplements can help you treat acne naturally, without harsh over-the-counter medications and face washes.
5. May Reduce Risk of Cancer
Some research suggests that consuming milk products may increase your risk of developing cancer. A 2001 study conducted at Harvard School of Public Health found that a high calcium intake, mainly from dairy products, may increase prostate cancer risk by lowering concentrations of a hormone thought to protect against prostate cancer. Milk products may also contain contaminants, such as pesticides, which have carcinogenic potential, and growth factors, such as insulin-like growth factor 1, which have been shown to promote breast cancer cell growth.
Cancer’s link to your diet is very real, and given that dairy appears to increase the risk of some types of cancers in certain people, a dairy-free diet may help mitigate the risk of specific types of cancer.
6. Decrease Oxidative Stress
Although a diet rich in milk products is promoted to reduce the likelihood of osteoporotic fractures and reduce the cost of healthvcare, research published in the BMJ found that high milk intake was associated with higher mortality in one cohort of women and in another cohort in men, and with higher fracture incidence in women. Researchers suggest that a high intake of milk might have undesirable effects because milk is the main dietary source of D-galactose, which influences the process of oxidative stress and inflammation.
Experimental evidence in several animal species indicates that chronic exposure to D-galactose is damaging to health. Even a low dose of D-galactose induces changes that resemble natural aging in animals, including shortened life span caused by oxidative stress damage, chronic inflammation, neurodegeneration and decreased immune system.
7. Prevent Milk Allergy and Sensitivity Reactions
The only true cure for a milk allergy is to avoid milk and dairy products completely. Probiotics and digestive enzymesmay help people better digest milk proteins if the allergy isn’t severe, but for a majority of people, ditching the culprit food is the only answer. For people who are lactose intolerant, a reduction in or lack of lactase can cause unabsorbed lactose to pass into the colon, leading to bacterial fermentation that causes symptoms like flatulence, diarrhea, bloating and nausea. Studies suggest that these gastrointestinal symptoms improve when milk is removed from the diet.
Milk protein allergy is also a recognized problem in infancy and might affect up to 15 percent of infants. It’s speculated that milk protein consumed by a mother passes to her infant while breastfeeding. For this reason, pediatricians often recommend that moms give up dairy if their infants experience adverse reactions to their breast milk.
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