Do you really need to avoid dairy?

Love milk, but don’t love how you feel after drinking it? It happens. For many people, dairy can cause mild stomach discomfort. And lactose is often blamed, but it isn’t necessarily the true culprit. In fact, you may be able to pour a cold glass of refreshing milk once again – and feel great after drinking it – once you understand what the actual cause of your discomfort really is.

mother and sons enjoying a glass of milk and cookies while laughing
This post has been sponsored by The a2 Milk Company. As always, all opinions are my own.

Let’s face it… dairy is an important food group and according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, more than 80% of Americans don’t get enough in their diet. And that’s a problem because dairy contains important nutrients including calcium, vitamin D, and potassium – three nutrients that are linked to health concerns when intake is low. It’s for this reason that organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the main beverages offered to young children (and older individuals as well) should be plain milk or water.

But what do you do if drinking milk causes stomach discomfort? Many people self-diagnosis this discomfort as lactose intolerance. However, lactose isn’t always to blame. And if you haven’t officially been diagnosed with a lactose intolerance (the gold standard to diagnosis this is a hydrogen breath test), then it is possible you’ve been needlessly avoiding lactose-containing foods when the real issue is actually the protein in the milk.

Lactose intolerance vs A1 protein

white plate filled with chocolate chip cookies with glass jars of milk and carton in background

If you experience discomfort after consuming dairy-based foods like milk, you probably assume it is the lactose to blame. Lactose is the naturally occurring sugar found in milk. For people with a lactose intolerance, they lack enough of the digestive enzyme lactase to break down this sugar in the intestines, resulting in uncomfortable symptoms such as gas, bloat, and diarrhea.  It’s important to note, however, that a lactose intolerance is not the only reason you may experience discomfort when digesting dairy. The form of protein in the milk may also be responsible, specifically a form of protein called A1 beta-casein.

Cow’s milk is rich in protein, with about one third of this protein coming from beta-casein, which includes both A1 and A2 beta-casein. When comparing these two proteins, there is a slight difference in the amino acid sequence, which means there is also a slight difference in how these proteins get digested. A2 protein is easier on digestion and may help some avoid discomfort, where in some individuals A1 protein leads to digestive symptoms that mimic those of a lactose intolerance.

a1 Milk vs a2 Milk®

Originally, all dairy cows produced only the A2 protein in their milk. However, through a natural mutation that occurred during modern farming practices, some cows began producing both A1 and A2 proteins. This change in protein structure seems to be the cause of digestive issues for some people who drink milk- not lactose. In fact, one study of 600 subjects who had self-reported a lactose intolerance found a significant reduction in gastrointestinal symptoms after consuming milk containing only the A2 protein. What’s important to understand with this finding is that cow’s milk with only the A2 protein still contains lactose. This means that many of these individuals were avoiding dairy with the assumption it was the lactose causing their discomfort, when potentially it may have been the A1 protein. And this finding matches up with a new study out of Purdue University that found some people who suffer from stomach discomfort after drinking regular milk may significantly reduce their symptoms if they drink milk that contains only A2 protein.

The science behind a2 Milk

If you are thinking about trying milk containing only the A2 protein, you may be wondering how do you find a2 milk and how is it made. Thanks to a New Zealand scientist, a safe and simple way to identify cows who produce milk with only the A2 protein was discovered. And that finding is what allows The a2 Milk Company to provide milk that is naturally free of the A1 protein to retailers throughout the world- including your local grocery store. a2 Milk® is 100% real dairy milk from local US farms and contains the same amounts of calcium and other important minerals and nutrients as cows’ milk because it is real cows’ milk.  The only difference is that this milk contains none of the A1 protein.

The A2 Tolerance Test

decision tree to determine if a1 vs a2 protein can be tolerated or lactose intolerance

Are you ready to determine if it is the A1 protein or lactose that is causing discomfort after drinking milk? Then my simple A2 Tolerance Test is for you! You can do this yourself at home- all you need to do is buy a carton of a2 Milk and you are ready to start:

Each day over a 5-day period, you will slowly introduce a larger portion of a2 Milk and keep a record of any gastrointestinal symptoms you experience. It is important to avoid other dairy-containing foods during the 5 day period so you don’t accidentally consume A1 proteins. This includes foods such as cottage cheese, ice cream, sour cream, yogurt, creamers, and milk-based cheeses.

  • Day 1: Include 2 tablespoons of a2 Milk
  • Day 2: Include 4 tablespoons of a2 Milk
  • Day 3: Include ½ cup of a2 Milk
  • Day 4: Include ¾ cup of a2 Milk
  • Day 5: Include 1 cup of a2 Milk

After this five-day period, if you are enjoying one cup of a2 Milk or more per day without any discomfort, it may have been the the A1 protein and not lactose causing the issue. If so, you can continue to enjoy a2 Milk as often as you would like and use it alone or incorporate it into any of your favorite recipes that call for milk, like smoothies and milkshakes. If you need some recipe inspiration, here are some delicious ideas.

Can you have a2 milk if you are lactose intolerant?

It is important to understand that a2 Milk still contains lactose, as all animal milks do. If you have been diagnosed with a lactose intolerance, you will still need to limit or avoid all milk containing lactose, including a2 Milk. If you have been diagnosed with a milk allergy protein, you will also need to avoid a2 Milk since it still contains both the casein and whey proteins.

Where can I find a2 milk?

mom with three young children eating milk and cookies while laughing in kitchen

Outside of dairy cows, milk coming from other animals is naturally free of the A1 protein. Sheep milk, goat milk, and even camel milk are all milk choices that contain only the A2 protein. For cow’s milk, you will need to purchase milk that comes from dairy cows that produce only the A2 protein. The a2 Milk Company makes this easy with a variety of milk products from whole milk, to low fat, and fat free and even creamers and chocolate milk available nationwide. You can see a list of the stores that carry a2 Milk near you here.

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