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Did Cow’s Milk Get Your Goat?

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.

Welcome, Alisa! :-D

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).

Connect with Alisa on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest and greatest dairy-free info!

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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Comments

  1. Great post, Heidi and Alisa. There are so many variables when it comes to what different people can tolerate and you've made it easy to understand, Alisa. I refer to your "Go Dairy Free" book quite often, even in my business as a nutritionist. It is the most comprehensive resource out there on the differences in milk allergies and intolerances and what people can do to regain their health. Anyone with concerns about dairy should have a copy in their resource library. And, dairy-free or not, the recipes are wonderful!

  2. Michelle Olejar says:

    My little guy can't have any cow dairy~ lactose or casein. When I discovered it, I contemplated trying goats milk. However upon my first google search I decided that if he had that big of a problem with cow dairy, chances are he would with goat so we never tried it. Another reason for not trying alternate mammal dairy is that he didn't like dairy to begin with. Now that he is dairy free he actually likes the vegan versions of things better than the originals~ hmmmm I think his little body knew something better than any test out there (by the way he tested negative for allergy). Thanks for the post. I will have to check Alisa out on FB :)

  3. Alta says:

    Great post! Alisa, this was straightforward and simple. I love your book and your website and refer to it quite a bit for "uncheese" ideas. I've recently been testing goat dairy (as in I've had a touch of cultured goat butter on veggies – I guess that's like dipping my big toe in the water to see if it's comfortable) and have been okay so far, but it's different for everyone. I love that you share great recipes – no one misses the dairy!

  4. Wonderful guest post from Alisa! Her words about all mammal milk still being dairy have stuck in my mind since she spoke to my support group a few years ago. A friend and I who try to stay dairy free always commiserate with each other after eating another friend's homemade goat cheese. We love her homemade chevre and it affects us less than cow dairy, but we both realize that it still affects us. We really have to have dairy (and other offenders) out of our diet to see its effects though. And really I love dairy-free eating and recipes. Alisa's book is an outstanding resource for all. I will pick it up to look at a recipe and the next thing you know I'm re-reading it, because it's so comprehensive and well researched. Yes, it's that good!

    Shirley

    • Cheese is my biggest hang up on being dairy-free…and yes, I've been guilty of sneaking some goat cheese every now and then! Like everything else, it's a journey especially the older you are when you do it. Of course, it's not made any easier when you don't have a "true" dairy allergy (especially if you don't notice any overt symptoms like me). Sam and Luke's reaction to dairy is blatantly obvious (Luke with eczema and diarrhea and Sam with constipation and excessive congestion)…dairy is a lot like gluten for me, it lurks around silently until all heck breaks loose with serious problems.

      Alisa's book was so enlightening for me, it launched me into discovering how much casein is gluten's notorious sidekick!

      xo,
      Heidi

  5. Jo Whitton says:

    I can't handle cow's milk, and for a while tried raw goat's milk thinking it was working for me… but my hayfever and sinus problems never went away until I completely went off all dairy. I found it interesting that I reacted worse to the dried (powdered) goat's milk, which I tried making ice-cream with once. So I keep away from all dairy now. I'd love to read Alisa's book – must get it! Thanks :)

  6. Ruthie says:

    I can handle goat's yoghurt but goat's cheese makes me extremely ill. Haven't tried goat's milk but don't think I'll risk it either. I''m completely dairy free as I feel it's safer that way.

  7. I had been told for years, by Dr's mind you, that dairy only refered to cow's milk and cow's milk products. Even up to the point where I started my blog, I still believed this to be true.

    Heidi, it was a conversation we had on Facebook, just after I had started blogging, that pushed me to pursue further.

    Now we are completely casein free, not just cow's milk free…and where I once enjoyed cheese on the side, I have discovered that I am sooooo much better off without dairy at all.

    This is a great post, Alisa is a wonderful advocate for all things dairy free.

    Thank you ladies! xoxo

Trackbacks

  1. […] Alisa from Go Dairy Free and and Alisa Cooks does a wonderful guest post on Adventures of a Gluten-F…. Quite informative, I must say. But Alisa knows what she is talking about when it comes to dairy. I think she knows more than the farmers. […]

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