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MEGAN MONDAY: Weary of Dairy? And Then What?

on February 25, 2013

milkWeary of Dairy?  And then What?

Going dairy or gluten free these days seems to be all the rage, especially with babies and children.  Humans are huge consumers of dairy products (and what I mean by dairy is anything made from cow’s milk)… from milk to cheeses to all kinds of products being made from milk protein stabilizers and additives (many times as bases to keep flavors in-tact of certain products).  The problem is that lactose, one of the primary sugars in cow’s milk, and casein, one of the primary proteins in cow’s milk, are both added to a wide variety of foods; lactose is added for flavor while casein is often added for emulsification, texture and protein supplementation.  The attached table (SOURCE: contains a list of some of the foods where casein can be found. As you will note, it is found in a variety of diverse food products. Therefore, the only way to tell for sure whether it is added to a food product is to read the food label.

Processed foods that may contain   casein

Bakery   glazes

Breath   mints

Coffee   whiteners

Fortified   cereals

High-protein   beverage powders

Ice cream

Infant   formulas

Nutrition   bars

Processed   meats

Salad   dressings

Whipped   toppings


Interestingly enough, the human race is the only known species on the planet to drink another species’ milk.  Hmmm.  Even more interesting is what was once considered the “perfect food” is now raising many eyebrows in regards to perhaps being the culprit of many allergic responses in children and adults… from rashes to gastrointestinal mayhem, to eczema and recurring cases of strep and ear infections. stated a great summary differentiating allergy/intolerance response versus a dairy sensitivity:

                Dairy allergy

Food allergies are reactions that involve the immune system. Typically reactions to the casein in dairy products will involve a full-fledged immune response, manifesting as specific as a skin rash, or as general as fatigue. What happens during an allergic reaction is that your immune system cells treat the certain “offending” molecules, casein for example, as if it were foreign and dangerous. Some immune system cells will bind to the offending molecule in the food, triggering a cascade of physiological events that will activate other components of the immune system. This would then harness chemical messengers such as histamine to ‘alert’ the body that there is ‘danger’. Inflammation and the creation of immune complexes that disrupt normal physiological functioning may ensue as a result.

Dairy intolerance

Yet, as noted above, an allergy may not be the only culprit if you have a negative reaction to a certain food such as dairy. Unlike allergies, some adverse reactions to food do not involve the immune system. These types of responses are called food intolerances with lactose intolerance being the most common food intolerance in the United States, affecting as many as 30% of adult Americans. Individuals who have lactose intolerance are sensitive to the milk sugar lactose that is found in dairy products. This intolerance may occur because they do not produce enough of the digestive enzyme lactase, which functions to break down lactose in the small intestines. If the lactose does not get digested it makes its way into the large intestine, causing a host of symptoms, including flatulence and/or diarrhea.

Here is an awesome link explaining how the body would “attack” a dairy product in the body if an allergy or sensitivity was present:

Some common allergic responses that point a finger at dairy include:

  • Bloating/gas
  • Stomach ache
  • Rash
  • Itchy skin
  • Stuffy nose
  • Excessive mucous production (and dairy causes the body to produce more mucous in the body regardless of allergy/sensitivity, which is why if you or your child is sick, lay off dairy!)
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Eczema
  • Irritability
  • Sluggishness
  • Headache

OK, so what if you suspect you or your children (or any other family member) could suffer from a dairy allergy/sensitivity?  Practical tips – how to test for dairy food reactions

For a two-week period, eliminate the following: (based on READING FOOD LABELS!!!!)

  • casein-containing foods
  • lactose-containing foods
  • all pure dairy products (including      cow’s milk, cow’s milk yogurt, cow’s milk cheese, and cow’s milk ice      cream)
  • processed foods containing milk      solids, casein, sodium caseinate, caseinate, or lactose.

After the two-week period, begin to reintroducing dairy-containing foods into your meal plan. Start with organic low-fat cow’s milk, organic skim cow’s milk, or organic nonfat cow’s milk, and just try about 4 ounces total at two different times during the day.

On the following two days, go back to your dairy-free meal plan, and wait and see if you experience any of the reactions you noticed before you removed dairy (the two day rule). If not, introduce another dairy-containing food that you would like to keep in your meal plan, for example, organic cow’s milk yogurt. Stick with the highest quality and least complicated product when you conduct your test – for example, try 4 ounces of a plain, nonfat organic yogurt rather than a flavored product or a product containing fruit on the bottom. Follow the two-day rule again. If you still experience no problematic reaction, you may want to go on and experiment with a non-dairy food that contains dairy protein, like a soymilk cheese that contains casein.

The process is time-consuming, and it takes a lot of patience! But it is still the best way to decide if dairy is a problem for you or not.


Now let’s suspect that there IS a dairy allergy detected for your and/or your child(ren).  Do you hide under a rock and cry realizing that much of the food you love and enjoy (and is available all over the world) needs to be avoided?  Another huge issue is what kind of milk do parents give their children if cow’s milk is not an option?  Nut and seed milks are widely popular now… just check out the “alternative milk” aisle in your store… (yes, they exist…gasp!).  Milks such as rice milk, hemp milk, almond milk, and coconut milk (and now all kinds of combinations of every nut/seed/plant known to man seems to be available).  I, myself, found myself staring at row upon row of seed and nuts milks the other night when I went to Whole Foods.  My son Lucas just turned 1 and he does not fare well with dairy.  I am choosing not to give him cow’s milk as he transitions off of breastmilk and formula, namely because of the horrible gas, diaper rash, and eczema on his facial cheeks he gets whenever he eats any form of cow’s milk.  Instead, I am going to give him an array of hemp, coconut, and almond milks.  These milks are just as nutritious….and they conveniently come in non-refrigerated containers…..but after investigating these choices further, I felt like I was duped….sort of.  These cow’s milk alternatives ARE healthy… but in which form you choose makes all the difference.  Milk in containers contain many additives that are NOT healthy and here is a bit of info you should know about them if you decide to choose these types of milk or currently use them in your home (SOURCE: The Healthy Home Economist):

Organic coconut milk, almond milk and other nut and seed milks are common purchases at the health food store by those with dairy allergies.  Usually, these people are savvy consumers who know enough nutritionally to avoid soy milk with its endocrine disrupting isoflavones and gastric inflaming phytates.  Rice milk is also steadily declining in popularity as it is really not much more than a glass of sugar water nutritionally speaking.

Organic, unsweetened coconut milk and almond milk in cartons seem like great alternatives at first blush, but are they really as “healthy” as people believe?  Taking a look at the labels can be shocking: most brands contain the same dangerous additives that should be avoided for foods consumed on a daily basis. 

  • Vitamin A Palmitate is added, the synthetic version of Vitamin A.  Many people feel you should avoid synthetic versions of Vitamin A.  Most multi-vitamins contains some form of synthetic A, including the so called “whole foods” multis.
    • Synthetic vitamins are the chemical mirror images of the real, natural versions.  They can cause imbalances over time   Even small amounts of the synthetic fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A can prove toxic and should be strictly avoided!
    • The Organic Consumers Association warns that isolated vitamins such as those produced synthetically cannot be recognized or metabolized by the body in the same way as the natural version.
    • Large doses of natural vitamin A are well tolerated by the body as established by researchers decades ago, however.  Traditional diets contain 10 times or more of the RDA of this nutrient with no ill effect.  However, synthetic vitamin A is associated with birth defects and bone fractures.



  • Another additive in these organic cartons of alternative milks is Vitamin D2.  Vitamin D2 is a form of the wonder vitamin that you should take great pains to avoid.
    • In all known cases of Vitamin D toxicity where the dose was intentional, Vitamin D2 was the culprit.  By comparison, Vitamin D3 is much less toxic and requires an enormous or even an accidental dose to produce any toxic effect.
    • Vitamin D2 is manufactured industrially by irradiating yeast.   It is dangerous for D2 to be added to any food product particularly if this product would be given to children, where toxicity symptoms would appear at much lower dosages.


You probably feel like stabbing daggers in my eyes right now for enlightening you with this info if you were relying on alternative milks for you and/or your children.  So now what!??!  What DO you use if cow’s milk and now these awesome milk alternatives aren’t all that “healthy”?  No fear.


Healthy Alternatives to Coconut Milk and Almond Milk in Cartons


Nut and seed milks should be healthy and they can be if they are produced at home without these dangerous additives.  Here is another awesome post by The Healthy Home Economist describing in detail on how to easily make these healthful beverages yourself:


Another viable solution would be to even use  organic coconut milk in BPA free cans .


While I may not be a favorite to the dairy industry after writing this article, I hope it at least shed some useful info for you in deciding whether or not dairy is best for your family, and if you need an alternative, which ones are the healthiest ones to choose.



5 responses to “MEGAN MONDAY: Weary of Dairy? And Then What?

  1. Karielyn says:

    Hi…really good article! I’m glad you touched on the unhealthy additives in boxed non-dairy milks. We do not drink dairy and the boxed non-dairy milks is what I used to buy as a replacement. Instead, I have started making my own homemade almond milk which is another dairy-free milk alternative to share with your readers who are trying to stay away from chemicals and additives. Thanks! 🙂

    • mysuperfoods says:

      We are glad you enjoyed the article. Megan is personally needed to cut dairy out of her diet completely these days and so this was an even more relevant topic for her than normal. Kudos for making your own milk!!

  2. Colleen says:

    I’m wondering if you could tell me more about the calcium needs that are usually met by cow’s milk for our children and how the various alternatives stack up. Thanks!

    • mysuperfoods says:

      Sorry for the (huge) delay. We were gathering lots of info. Hope this helps! (Note from Megan…):
      In regards to non-dairy calcium sources for kids (or anyone), the top things I would recommend are dark leafy greens, beans, nuts, grains, salmon (non-farmed) and oranges. A super source of calcium is chlorella, but many parents probably won’t use it as a way to get calcium into their kids’ diets (although taking the tiny tablets are easy to sneak into kids’ food….). Raw cacao powder also has calcium. Here are some great suggestions:

      Food Serving Size Calcium
      Collard greens 1 cup, boiled 357 mg
      Fortified soymilk 1 cup 368 mg
      Black-eyed peas 1 cup, boiled 211 mg
      Firm tofu (made with calcium sulfate) 1/2 cup 204 mg
      Calcium-fortified orange juice 6 oz 200 mg
      Blackstrap molasses 1 Tbsp 172 mg
      Baked beans 1 cup, canned 154 mg
      Kale 1 cup, cooked 94 mg
      Chinese cabbage 1 cup, raw 74 mg
      Oranges 1 cup 72 mg
      Almonds 1 oz 70 mg

      Here are some tips on how to incorporate many of these foods into your diet to increase your calcium intake:
      •Cook a vegetable stir-fry and toss in diced tofu made with calcium sulfate.
      •Add steamed and minced greens like collards and kale to casseroles, soups and stews.
      •Use calcium-fortified non-dairy milk (like soy or rice milk) instead of water in recipes such as pancakes, mashed potatoes, pudding and oatmeal.
      •Stir a drizzle of blackstrap molasses into your oatmeal.
      •Use almond butter instead of peanut butter.
      •Add calcium-rich beans like black-eyed peas to soups, pasta sauces, salads and burritos.
      •Enjoy canned baked beans as a side dish, or mix them into your favorite recipes.

      Get ample amounts of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps improve calcium absorption. Food and sunlight are your two sources for vitamin D. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, “for bone health, an adequate intake of vitamin D is no less important than calcium.” Food sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, and fortified breakfast cereals. According to the NIH, ten to fifteen minutes of sun exposure at least two times per week to the face, arms, hands, or back (without sunscreen) is usually sufficient to provide adequate vitamin D.


      There is some SCARY info on the web suggesting parents to get calcium from fortified sugary cereals, sugary drinks, cheese (which defeats staying off dairy due to an allergy!).

      Also, if lactose is the only thing in dairy that is bothersome to someone, using kefir (99% lactose free) is a good way to get calcium, too – even though it is a form of dairy.

  3. […] for use after antibiotics and/or with digestive issues.  Please note both products are made with dairy, so those with dairy sensitivities cannot take.  There are non-dairy forms on the market, […]

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