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Dairy Intolerance (Lactose, Casein & Whey)

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Dairy - There are few foods as controversial as dairy. I mean, it was an entire food group until Health Canada recently revised the Canada Food Guide and combined dairy with other proteins! And there are definitely some people who say you need it. Especially for calcium content…but do you really?

There are others who say to avoid it. And no one disputes that some people react to it. And by “react,” I mean both intolerances and allergies. What about you?

There’s no question that it tops the list for food sensitivities in Canada, but why isn’t that the case in other parts of the world where they drink plenty of milk?

What is causing this dairy intolerance and how should we deal with it?

But whether you love it, hate it, react to it, or avoid it, I have an amazing dairy-free recipe for you. (It’s one of my favs). So, let’s get into some dairy intolerance issues.

Dairy Intolerance (Lactose, Casein, and Whey)

Dairy milk continues to be one of the most popular foods in North America. The trouble is that so many people experience sensitivities and allergies to it., but having a food intolerance is not fun. It can cause abdominal pain, discomfort and nausea. It also causes embarrassing symptoms like flatulence and diarrhea. Other symptoms linked to food intolerance include muscle or joint pain, headaches, exhaustion, and even skin symptoms like rashes and eczema.

I haven’t met many people who don’t love the taste of milk! I’m just as big of a milk fan as you. I grew up on a farm with several milk cows so we had fresh raw milk almost daily. We made our own butter, we had fresh cream for our soups and desserts and we even made our own ice cream. It was heavenly. But then the rules changed in an instant and we no longer had our delicious and nutritious raw milk. The government legislated the mandatory pasteurization of dairy milk and prohibits the sale of raw milk anywhere in Canada. 

Soon the cows were sold from our farm, we then had to buy milk from the grocery store and it just wasn’t the same. In fact, I often had stomach upsets, digestive issues and nasal congestion. I had no idea at the time that there was a difference between the raw milk we were used to - and the pasteurized milk from the grocery store. My parents certainly thought that they were doing the right thing by getting it from the grocery store as a safety precaution (so they were told). At least that was what the dairy industry cited as the main reason for the new regulations at the time. Little did we know that the real reason was to protect the dairy monopoly in Canada. Ok, enough of the politics. The reality is that we have a REAL HEALTH PROBLEM with dairy intolerance and allergies that started at the time raw milk was made illegal. Now we need to know how to deal with it.

Dairy is just one of those foods that many people seem to be intolerant of, especially since the introduction of pasteurization. In fact it’s right up at the top of the list in Canada. Let’s talk about the main components of milk that people react to: lactose, casein, and whey. And of course, we will discuss why that occurs.

Let’s get right to the points. There are 3 of them;

1.The science shows clearly that the biggest reason for the high amount of diary allergies/intolerance is due to the mandatory pasteurization regulation of milk as it destroys so many of the beneficial components that help your body digest it. But there is another reason that’s just as big;

2.The heavy processing of dairy products. Refined sugars and sweeteners, food coloring, refined vegetable oils, artificial flavorings and preservative are just a short list of the many additives that are commonly added in these “junk foods” made from dairy milk.

3.To make things even worse (for the consumer) the food processing industry often combines several of the most common allergens together – making for the perfect storm to cause significant immune system reactions, gut problems, mood problems, addictions, cravings, mucous production, congestion and certainly allergies.

So what’s the solution? Eat raw milk is the obvious one…But wait, it’s not that easy to get raw milk. Yes, that’s right – It’s actually illegal in Canada to sell raw milk. That is why you won’t find raw milk in any grocery store or convenience store in Canada. This is rapidly changing in many parts of the world including the USA. There are now 43 out of 50 US States that have legalized raw dairy again after realizing that it has benefits to our health rather than the opposite resulting from pasteurizing milk.

The digestion solution

Given the fact that government regulation cannot be changed overnight we can take another step in the short term that can significantly help you digest milk even if you have an intolerance. It all boils down to a DIGESTIVE issue. It is obvious that many people can tolerate milk even though it is pasteurized, but an alarmingly big number cannot. Everyone’s digestion is different. Some people produce more digestive enzymes that will help them digest the different components of milk, while others do not. There are several factors in the effective digestion of milk including the actual components in milk such as; Lactose, Casein and Whey. Let’s discuss them.

Milk sugar (lactose) intolerance

It’s estimated that up to 75% of Canadian adults are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the carbohydrate “milk sugar” naturally found in most dairy products. Lactose intolerance is so common you can buy lactose-free milk in your regular grocery store. Lactose-free products are treated with the enzyme “lactase” that breaks the lactose down before you ingest it. It’s this lactase enzyme that is lacking in most people who are lactose intolerant.

The lactase enzyme is naturally released from your intestine as one of your digestive enzymes. It breaks down the lactose sugar in the gut. When someone doesn't have enough lactase, the lactose doesn't get broken down the way it should. Undigested lactose ends up being food for the resident gut microbes. As they ferment the lactose, they create gases that cause bloating, flatulence, pain, and sometimes diarrhea.

Lactose is in dairy but is in lower amounts in fermented dairy (e.g. cheese & yogurt) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn't that easy as it is added to other foods like baked goods, soups, and sauces. And if you're taking any medications or supplements, check to see if it's in there too, as lactose is a common ingredient in them.

If you have symptoms of lactose intolerance, keep an eye on food, medication, and certainly avoid eating lactose in combination with other common allergens such as refined wheat flour, refined sugars, food coloring, etc. If you are uncertain about ingredients or simply going out to a restaurant and can’t avoid consuming pasteurized dairy products then be sure to use a high quality digestive enzyme containing lactase as well as several protein enzymes. Flora’s Urgent Care Enzymes is one of my favorites!

Milk protein (casein & whey) allergy

Milk protein from processed dairy products is a known, and common, food allergen. In Canada, it is considered a “priority allergen” and must be declared on food labels.

So, what are the allergens in milk? You've heard of "curds and whey?" Well, these are the two main proteins in milk. The solid bits are the curds (made of casein), and the liquid is the dissolved whey.

We don’t know how many people have this type of milk allergy, but most estimates put it far less than that of lactose intolerance.

Like lactose, these allergenic milk proteins can be found in other products too. They're not just in dairy but are often in protein powder concentrate as well (Do not confuse with whey isolates). “Cheap” protein powders will often use whey protein concentrate instead of the more expensive and much easier to digest – whey isolate. Beware of many brands that will blend the two of them together in order to cut costs.

Interestingly, people who have gluten intolerance are often allergic to milk proteins like whey and casein as well. These can go hand-in-hand.

Like lactose intolerance, if you're allergic to casein and whey keep an eye on labels so you can avoid these. Again, a high quality digestive enzyme will help you digest the milk sugars and proteins resulting in significantly lower symptoms associated with these intolerance as well as better absorption of the nutrients. Use Flora Urgent Care or Enerex Digest Best.


If you get gassy, bloated, or diarrhea after eating processed (pasteurized) dairy, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose and mucus, then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey as well. Avoid it as much as possible, use digestive enzymes and consider raw dairy options.

While processed pasteurized dairy products are promoted by Health Canada, it is not an essential food for good nutrition. All the nutrients in dairy are available in other foods. If you experience these symptoms, you can try removing dairy from your diet. You may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues. Or you may find improved nasal congestion, or even less belly fat.

If you still love dairy and truly want to give raw milk a try, then you could always get a milk cow of your own and enjoy all the wonderful (low allergen) foods that can be made of raw milk such as; Kefir, Butter, Yogurt, Ice cream and more! There is no question that dairy contains many high quality nutrients, but unfortunately the pasteurization limits our ability to properly utilize that nutrition and for many it compromises their health in many ways. Let's all join the campaign for RAW MILK and until then...well, just enjoy all the other wonderful dairy free options. 

If you decide to (or have already) removed dairy from your diet, let me know your experience in the comments below.

Recipe (Dairy-free): Chocolate Ice "Cream"

Serves 2

3 bananas, sliced and frozen

2 tsp raw cacao powder, unsweetened (available at Health Street)

1 tbsp almond butter

a pinch of unrefined salt


Place frozen bananas in food processor and blend until smooth. You may have to stop a few times to scrape the sides.

Add cacao powder, a pinch of salt and almond butter and blend until mixed well.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can make this in advance and freeze in an airtight container.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any condition. Consult your health care provider before changing your diet or medications.



















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