Milk – a four-letter word?

Whichever way you look at it, cow’s milk is consistently the most common food allergen.

Classic IgE-based milk allergy is the most common food allergy, and so too is hidden or delayed-onset IgG milk allergy. A myriad studies have shown that milk sensitive people have much higher levels of IgG antibodies that target milk proteins.(1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)(9)

Most cheeses, cream, yoghurt and butter contain milk protein, and it’s hidden in all sorts of food. If you check labels, you’ll find it’s sometimes called simply milk protein, sometimes whey (which is milk protein with the casein removed) and sometimes casein, which is the predominant type of protein – and the most allergenic – in dairy products. You’ll be amazed at how many foods contain milk – from bread and cereals to packaged food and crisps. So if you’re tested and find you’re allergic to milk, you will have to be vigilant with processed foods.

Milk’s status as an allergen isn’t surprising. This is a highly specific food, containing all sorts of hormones designed for the first few months of a calf’s life. It’s also a relatively recent addition to the human diet. Approximately 75 per cent of people (25 per cent of people of Caucasian origin and 80 per cent of Asian, Native American or African origin) stop producing lactase, the enzyme that’s needed to digest the milk sugar lactose, once they’ve been weaned – one of many clues that human beings aren’t meant to drink cow’s milk, at least beyond early childhood.(10) Lactase deficiency or lactose intolerance leads to diarrhoea, bloating, cramping and excess gas.

However, it’s not the lactose that causes the allergic reaction. It’s the protein. In other words, you can be either lactose intolerant, or milk protein allergic, or both; and in fact, lactose intolerance and milk allergy often occur together.

Of course, most of us have been brainwashed by milk marketers since childhood into believing that milk is practically a wonder food. This can only leave you speculating how half the world, for example most of China and Africa, can survive, let alone thrive, without it. Milk is a reasonably good source of calcium, among other nutrients, but drinking milk certainly isn’t the only way, or necessarily the best way, to achieve optimum nutrition . On top of that, it contributes to a wide range of common diseases.

Cow’s milk is a major contributing factor to middle-ear infections, an allergic disease that affects over a million of our babies and children each year. Milk allergy also contributes to iron deficiency, the most common nutritional deficiency in the world, by impeding the absorption of iron, and damaging the inside lining of the intestines, which causes slow blood leakage and a further loss of iron in red blood cells. In a quarter of people with iron deficiency, anaemia can set in – seen in about 10 per cent of children overall, 30 per cent of children in inner cities, and as many as half of all children in poor countries.

Cow’s milk is also one of the top two or three food allergens found in children and adults with poor sleep, asthma, eczema, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, hyperactivity, bronchitis, more frequent infections and longer hospital stays for premature infants, non-seasonal allergic rhinitis, bed-wetting, so-called growing...

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