By naturopath Margaret Jasinska
If you have ever had a consultation with a naturopath, there is a very good chance you’ve been asked to eliminate dairy products from your diet, or cut down on them. There are some good reasons for this recommendation. Some people tolerate dairy products well and they don’t cause or aggravate existing health problems. However, if you have digestive or immune system conditions, it’s quite likely that dairy products aren’t doing your health any favours.
If you are trying to overcome an autoimmune disease we strongly recommend you exclude dairy products from your diet for several reasons. Dairy products refers to cow’s milk and any foods made from or containing cow’s milk. Some people can tolerate milk from other animals such as goats, sheep and water buffalo. They are certainly less problematic than cow’s milk, and you may be able to introduce them into your diet at a later stage. A2 cow’s milk is also often better tolerated. If you really miss milk and yoghurt, you can try introducing the A2 variety into your diet once your autoimmune disease is under control and you are happy with your state of health.
Dairy products can be highly inflammatory foods that may irritate the gut and immune system of some people. If you are trying to overcome an autoimmune disease, you need to reduce inflammation and heal your gut. The main problem with dairy products is caused by the protein called casein. Casein is a highly allergenic protein and many people develop a sensitivity to it. Antibodies to beta-casein are present in large numbers of people with autoimmune disease. They have been found to be most common in people with type 1 diabetes, coeliac disease and latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA).
It is thought that, via molecular mimicry, the immune system of someone with a casein intolerance can eventually start producing antibodies against their own organs or tissues. The pancreas seems to be the most vulnerable organ. A lot of research has been done on the relationship between dairy products and type 1 diabetes. It is known that early introduction of cow’s milk into an infant’s diet (before six months of age), short duration of breastfeeding, or not being breastfed at all are all risk factors.
Cow’s milk contains a lot more casein than human milk does (85 percent versus 25 percent), and the majority of it is beta-casein. Antibodies to beta-casein are very common in type 1 diabetics, and so too is enhanced proliferation of lymphocytes (white blood cells) in response to beta-casein; meaning dairy products are highly irritating to the immune system of people with this autoimmune disease. There is also a strong relationship between casein sensitivity and schizophrenia. Some forms of schizophrenia are thought to be autoimmune. Research has shown an association between production of bovine casein antibodies and subsequent diagnosis of schizophrenia in genetically susceptible individuals.