Cow’s milk has been promoted as a perfect food for children, high in protein, calcium, and healthy calories. On the other hand, milk’s detractors, including knowledgeable physicians, have noted milk’s many problems. Cow’s milk ingestion has been associated with allergies, anemia, autism, diabetes, and cancer. What should parents do? Let’s try to sort out the issues.
First, I do not recommend cow’s milk until children are at least 18-24 months old (unless they still need a milk-based formula when weaning from breast milk). Breast milk is the best food for babies. Introduce yogurt first because its enzymes and bacteria result in a more digestible product. If no obvious symptoms occur, then try milk.
Like most foods, the nutritional quality of milk suffers considerably during processing. Homogenized fat becomes inaccessible, and we need the fat in milk to absorb calcium. Pasteurizing milk kills bacteria essential for its digestion, converts lactose to an indigestible form, interferes with calcium absorption, and destroys vitamins A, C, and B complex.
For more information about raw milk go to www.realmilk.com where you will find nutritional information and sources of raw milk in your community (in the USA and around the world). Call your local health food store and ask about raw milk availability.
Feed your children raw milk for adequate bone growth and the prevention of tooth decay. And remember, avoid soy products for children.
Dangerous chemicals in milk
Avoid milk that contains bovine growth hormone, antibiotics, and pesticides. That means you should drink only organic milk. These chemicals may be responsible for some of the health problems associated with milk. Use organic dairy products (ice cream, cheese, yogurt) whenever possible.
Eight grams of protein in one cup of milk or yogurt, six grams of protein in one ounce of cheese. That is a concentrated protein food. A protein enzyme (xanthine oxidase) contained in milk has been associated with an increased risk of heart disease if the enzyme is absorbed intact into the bloodstream. This occurs when drinking homogenized milk because small fat globules surround the enzyme, preventing the body from breaking it down. Drink milk that has not been homogenized. Non-fat dried milk frequently added to low-fat milk is high in nitrites, so avoid milk with added dried milk.
Milk protein molecules are large and irritating to the intestinal tract, which can result in microscopic intestinal bleeding and anemia. When milk protein molecules leak through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream they can initiate an allergic response. Symptoms of milk allergy can include chronic nasal and sinus congestion, asthma, and frequent ear infections with persisting middle ear fluid congestion.
Butterfat contains a natural vitamin D complex. Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption, and the body will produce vitamin D from sun exposure, therefore during winter months many people become deficient in vitamin D. A synthetic form of vitamin D is often added to milk (vitamin D2, ergocalciferol), but vitamin D2 is associated with liver toxicity. Those who live in areas with cloudy winter skies and cold weather should take natural vitamin D3 ergocalciferol, either in a supplement or in fish oil.
A cup of milk or yogurt contains more than 200 mg. of calcium. The problem is milk’s high phosphorus to calcium ratio, which tends to cause calcium excretion. A solution to this problem is to supplement a child’s diet with calcium citrate. Fat is required to absorb minerals and vitamins in milk, so children should drink only whole milk and eat whole milk yogurt, not low-fat products. Vitamin C assists in calcium absorption, so eating fruits that contain vitamin C or taking a supplement will help.
Recommended calcium intake for children is:
1-3 years old 500 mg
4-8 years old 800 mg
9-18 years old 1,200 mg
If children are eating dairy products use only organic whole milk and yogurt, preferably not homogenized. Buy raw milk if possible. Do not switch to low fat milk products as children get older. Children need fat, and the cholesterol in milk is beneficial. Supplement children’s diets with 500-1000 mg of calcium citrate, depending on age and other calcium sources. Give an omega-3 fat supplement to facilitate calcium absorption. Consider using a vitamin D supplement during the winter months.
With all of milk’s problems, you may want to use alternatives. Do not use soy milk, however, because soy depletes the body’s calcium and tends to decrease thyroid function. Almond milk is a good alternative because it contains protein and fat. Children with a family history of allergies, however, may develop allergic reactions to nuts, so rice milk would be a better choice. Rice milk is a less desirable alternative because it is almost solely carbohydrate. Both almond and rice milk are low in calcium. The best non-dairy sources of calcium are dark green vegetables and sesame seeds (tahini). Since children are unlikely to consume these foods on a regular basis, a chewable or liquid form of calcium citrate is a good idea for all children. Interestingly vegetarian populations with a low dietary calcium intake tend to have a higher bone density than their Western counterparts, but this may be a result of diets low in calcium depleting substances (caffeine, refined sugar, red meat, and soft drinks).
If your child has problems with chronic congestion and/or ear infections try stopping all dairy products for a month. Then if symptoms improve, try reintroducing milk to evaluate its effect. Digestive problems (stomach aches and gas) may be caused by lactose (milk sugar) in children who are deficient in lactase (the enzyme that breaks down lactose). Taking lactase as a supplement when eating a meal with dairy products may prevent these symptoms.
The easiest way to supplement milk and get your child to take supplements is through a blended smoothie. Here’s a recipe.
¾ cup organic milk (cow’s milk if your child is over two years old, or almond or rice milk)
½ cup frozen mango or other fruit (not strawberries unless organic, too many pesticides used on berries)
1teaspoon flaxseed oil (keep refrigerated)
½-1 tablespoon liquid calcium/magnesium formula (equivalent to 300-600 mg calcium)
½ teaspoon honey or maple syrup (optional, use honey only if your child is over 12 months old)
1/8 teaspoon vitamin C powder (equiv. to 200 mg vitamin C)
(Double the recipe for two children or to save some for another meal.)
For more in-depth discussions and further resources search “milk” on the following invaluable websites: