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Nutrition

A2 MILK: WHAT'S THE BUZZ?

Claire Chitham

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 If you consider yourself to be lactose intolerant, dairy-averse or thereabouts… this is what you need to know about a new type of milk appearing on the market that is creating a bit of a 'stir'.  (NB: This is not a sponsored post but was done in conjunction with information from a dairy farmer and a scientist specialising in A2 milk.)   

I get asked often about what dietary changes I made to my life when I was going through my experience of Crohn’s disease and the short answer is, a lot. I tried a gazillion things. Mostly, I started eating healthier - more whole foods and less processed crap. That helped. I did however make one dramatic shift at the time, which for me made a massive difference to how I felt on a daily basis, and that was to cut out dairy for a while. I cut dairy, coffee, alcohol and sugar from my diet for a few years while I was healing. Terrifying prospect for many, I know. Today though - I cannot imagine my life without vodka, coffee or yoghurt. These things are all gratefully back in my diet now that I’m in a balanced, healthy state. But cutting them out while I was trying to give my body the best chance of healing was a good choice and I could literally feel the difference it made. I felt less pain, food digested much easier and faster, and I also noticed I seemed to have way less colds and random illnesses. Winning.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, the rise of dairy-free alternatives out there is utterly overwhelming. I live mostly dairy-free and mostly gluten-free, but not strictly. I don’t suffer pain when I eat either of these things, but I just know that my body doesn’t love it. I always drink a nut-based milk in my coffee, I eat mostly goat or sheep cheese if it’s around because I genuinely love the taste more now. But who doesn’t love a cheesy pizza or a sneaky, creamy pasta night right?

FACT: Globally, approx. 70% of adults now consider themselves to be lactose and/or dairy intolerant and experience bloating, nausea or other unpleasant digestive issues after consuming it.

So -  hearing that research was starting to come out, worldwide, about A2 milk and its differing responses in the body to conventional milk had my interest firmly piqued. We do live in the heart of dairy land and obviously it's seriously big business here in NZ. We’ve been in touch with some folks who are behind the research being conducted in New Zealand around A2 and its effects on the body.
 Here’s the simple breakdown of what I learnt from talking to some scientific and dairy farmer types:

Q: What is the major difference between A1 and A2 milk when it comes to my health?
A: The protein.
Milk has always been touted as a great source of protein for the human body. And it is! But, there is a difference in the type of protein created by cows that produce our conventional milk. Most of the milk on shelves in NZ is a blend of both A1 and A2 types, because it is milk that comes from a mixture of different types of cows. The protein in milk is called a beta-casein protein. This protein can be split into two types again – called A1 and A2. The A1 type is what is most prominent in our conventional milk, but there is also a small presence of A2 in all of it.
 Now, they are producing milk that is just the pure A2 protein and THIS is the type that is showing to have less disruptive effects on the body. The A2 protein makes up around 25-30% of the total milk protein - since milk also has fat, lactose and carbohydrates naturally occurring in it.

Q: Why should I care? What’s the difference for me?
A: When it comes to lactose or dairy intolerant people – A2 could prove to be a little kinder, gentler and easier for our body to digest. Evidence suggests that the symptoms that are associated with lactose intolerance, might be influenced by the protein that is present in the milk. Researchers are investigating it all further, but they are starting to see that symptoms are being eased and sometimes prevented altogether with A2 milk. A little bit like gluten, the A1 protein permeates our system and can sometimes cause issues like inflammation. If you struggle with issues like this, A2 might be worth testing out for yourself as your body might react differently to this milk.  

Q: How is A2 milk made? What’s the difference in production from conventional milk?
A: The cows! 
A2 milk comes from a cow that only produces milk with the A2 protein in it, not the A1. The conventional milk we drink in New Zealand is usually a blend of milk from different cows, who produce both type. It’s not a process, it’s not an ingredient or additive, it’s the actual source - the cow itself - that produces this different type of milk. That’s pretty cool.

Q: How did this whole A1 vs A2 thing happen in the first place?
A: It was a natural accident! Thousands of years ago (researchers think somewhere between 5-10,000 years ago) a genetic mutation naturally occurred in European herds of cows. It was thought all cows used to make just A2 protein, then this natural mutation occurred and some herds became more A1 predominant. These cows became more common in the western world. The A2 cows remained common in Africa and Asia. 

So in summary, for anyone suffering from lactose intolerance or dairy-related gut issues, it might be worth trying out A2 milk and seeing if you notice a difference in your body’s reaction to it.

Obviously – I am no scientist, doctor or expert at all! This is just information I’ve carefully gleaned and like all good things, wanted to share with you in case it’s Good For You too.

Yours in Health and Happiness,
CC xx