Sunday, August 1, 2010

Organic Milk...Better for you and improves allergy symptoms.

There's a link between drinking organic milk and the reduction of allergies and eczema. In an article entitled Organic Milk Linked to Fewer Allergies Including Eczema and Asthma, the author references a Dutch study that suggests that children are one third less likely to suffer from allergies before age two if they're raised on organic dairy products.  Both child and breastfeeding mom were given organic dairy products, and the researchers found that there was clear evidence of less incidences of eczema as well as a decrease in the risk for other allergies and asthma.

I've written about this in a prior post, but when Abigail was a newborn, her cheeks were red, raw and inflamed.  I was breastfeeding, and as soon as I eliminated dairy (non-organic at that time) from my diet, her cheeks cleared up.  When we started her on formula, we gave her a soy-based formula and when it was time, gave her soy milk.  By the time our second came along, we had made the switch to organic foods.  He also showed an intolerance to dairy, but instead of soy formula, we used a lactose free formula.  He does still drink organic soy milk but eats organic dairy products.  Interesting that Abigail has the peanut allergy, had bouts of eczema and was frequently on Albuterol or Pulmicort for wheezing.  Our son did have regular ear infections until tubes, but still shows no signs of any sort of allergy.

According to the article, researchers believe that organic milk may be better due to the higher concentrations of conjugated linoleic acids (CLA).  Wikipedia states that "meat and dairy products from grass-fed animals can produce 300-500% more CLA than those of cattle fed the usual diet of 50% hay and silage, and 50% grain.  CLA is also known for it's anti-cancer, body weight management, anti-inflammatory and cardiovascular improvement properties.

Organic milk also has as much as 71 percent more omega-3 fatty acids.  Omega-3 is a alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and is most commonly found in flax seed products and cold-water fish.  You've probably seen products containing DHA and EPA fatty acids which are also omega-3 acids and both have significant health claims.  The omega-3 acids are known to support the development of brain, eyes and nerves, reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, have significant anti-inflammatory benefits that promote immune system enhancements and provide anti-cancer effects particularly for breast, colon and prostate cancers.  According to Wikipedia, recent studies are also showing a positive benefit of omega-3 fatty acids for ADHD as well as psychiatric disorders. So, if there was ever a case to switch to organic milk, this is probably it.

I don't pretend to understand the science of milk production, but wanted to pass on one last thing that I learned.  I've recently started purchasing organic milk that comes from a small, family-owned farm.  It's pasteurized to the point where it meets state laws, but not beyond that.  First off, it tastes wonderful.  Second though, is the claim that many lactose intolerant people can drink it without issue. Wondering why, I searched the internet.

According to a paper I found written on the subject of lactose intolerance the problem is mostly limited to the US.  The author writes that the stripping of nutrients in the pasteurization process causes lactose intolerance.  She writes that the " intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzyme lactase in large enough quantities within the human digestive system to break down lactose, a fairly complex disaccharide found in milk.  Raw milk contains harmless bacteria which produce lactase which, in turn, enables the human body to break down and absorb lactose.  Pasteurized milk has had all of these bacteria killed off and is therefore lactase-free, but still contains lactose, causing problems for many people who try to drink it."  Apparently, there are also studies tying pasteurized milk products to decreased bone density, weakened tooth enamel, vision problems (from vitamin B6 insufficiency), and to a large increase in asthma.

What I've taken away from all of this is that while organic milk is best for everyone, if your family is prone to allergies, eczema and asthma, organic milk is even more important, especially milk that is not ultra-pasteurized.  Minimally pasteurized milk is even better if you have access to a local dairy.  Second, essential fatty acids are very important in our diet.  I've found chewable omega-3 supplements that are peanut/tree nut safe for Abigail and have started adding flax seed to my baked goods.

Just one last CIA with all supplements, do your own research, contact your physician if you have any questions, and this should go without saying, if you have a fish allergy, make sure you're getting omega-3 from a non-fish source.  Readers with life-threatening milk allergies also shouldn't enjoy the benefits of organic milk.