I am very excited to have my dear friend Alisa Fleming guest post here today. Alisa is the founder and chief editor of the popular website, Go Dairy Free, she also authors her personal blog, Alisa Cooks. In addition to running two websites (phew, I need a nap just thinking about that!), Alisa is also the author of a fantastic book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, which has been my constant companion in the kitchen since both of my children were diagnosed with a casein intolerance just over a year ago.
Like many of my readers, I also pondered if goat’s milk would be a safe alternative for my kiddos. After doing quite a bit of research on casein (which I will share in an upcoming post), I personally decided to avoid going that route given our family’s history of celiac disease and autoimmunity. Everyone is different though, so I asked Alisa if she could help explain the differences and similarities of various mammal milks and why they may or may not be “safe” for those with dairy allergies/intolerances.
Hi everyone! I’m honored to be guest posting here today, and excited to share a little insight about an often misunderstood food, goat milk. Heidi requested that I address goat milk for her readers since it seems to be a source of confusion among many who have issues with dairy. Seriously, I would be a very wealthy woman if I received a dollar (why stop at a dime as long as I’m dreaming here) every time I received the question “Is goat milk considered dairy?” from viewers of Go Dairy Free.
Right from the get-go let’s clear the air…in general ALL mammal milks (sheep, goat, camel, etc.) and their related products (cheese, sour cream, etc.) are classified as dairy. In fact, if you look up goat milk and sheep milk online, you will probably come across the American Dairy Goat Association and the Wisconsin Sheep Dairy Cooperative.
So why can some people tolerate one type of milk, but not another? I go into great detail on this topic in my book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, covering the benefits of the different milks and why they might work for some, but today I’ll stick to Heidi’s question, touching on goat milk.
The milks from different mammals have slightly different compositions, which is why some people may be allergic to cow milk but able to tolerate goat milk. Human milk is obviously the least allergenic milk for humans, as it is “designed” specifically for our bodies. The closer a milk is in composition to human milk, the lower the probability of being allergic.
The predominant milk protein (casein) in goat milk is slightly closer in composition to human milk than cow milk is, and thus may be easier to tolerate and digest for some individuals. There aren’t any firm numbers, but it’s been estimated that roughly 20 to 40% of milk allergic individuals do not react to goat milk products. However, that leaves a whopping 60 to 80% of us who do, so it is best to get an allergy test before trialing a challenge with goat milk, particularly where severe allergies are a concern. Also, keep in mind that albeit rare, some people are more allergic to goat milk than cow milk! There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to our immune systems.
If you are testing dairy-free living via an elimination diet, you may be doing yourself a huge injustice if you consume goat milk during the cow milk elimination. Personally, I would remove all dairy, including goat. Then, if and when symptoms subside, I might challenge with goat milk to see if it is tolerated. I’ve personally never consumed goat milk products or “challenged” with them, since I know I am allergic. Also, I must disclaim that you shouldn’t undergo any change in diet without the supervision of a physician. Are we all clear on that? Good.
Moving on…there some other factors to keep in mind regarding goat milk products…
First, unlike casein, which can vary in composition from mammal to mammal, lactose is typically lactose. Someone who is lactose intolerant may even be intolerant to the lactose in human milk. The amount of lactose from milk product to milk product can vary slightly; for example it has been calculated at 4.1% in goat milk and 4.7% in cow milk. There are some other factors in goat milk that make it easier to digest for some people (see Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for details), but if you are quite lactose intolerant, chugging back glasses of goat milk probably wouldn’t be a nice thing to do to your stomach.
Second, as mentioned, mammal milks do have slightly different make-ups, and the differences don’t necessarily end with casein. Goat milk is significantly lower in folic acid and vitamin B-12 than cow milk, so make sure you eating plenty of leafy greens and foods such as meat and chicken, or supplement if relying on goat milk for nutrition.
This is just the tip of the dairy iceberg, but hopefully helps to answer a few of your questions and concerns about goat milk. I go into more detail on goat milk, sheep milk, raw milk, A2 milk, camel milk (yes, I said camel milk), the different milk alternatives and more in my book, Go Dairy Free. Oh, and there are over 200 recipes in there too, for those of you (like me) who go straight to the food!
Heidi here, if you haven’t done so already, click here to download a FREE copy of Smart School Time Recipes, a 173 page e-cookbook with 125 recipes and over 100 photos from dozens of health bloggers and cookbook authors (note: not all of the recipes are gluten-free but they are easy to adapt).
Do you (or your child) have a dairy allergy or a casein intolerance? If so, do you consume goat milk (or camel milk!) products or do you avoid dairy products altogether?
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