Technically “to eat paleo” usually means to exclude all dairy products, but thankfully Dr. Brown’s diet allows for a little more flexibility in this department. (Can I get an amen?!) Over the past 16 years that Dr. Brown has been in clinical practice, he has found that most his patients can tolerate cheese, milk and yogurt from goats and sheep but not the dairy from cows (with the exception of pasture butter). Apparently he is not the only one to notice such findings as evidence to support this notion can be found in both science and the Bible. So today we are going to dig deeper and get the scoop on dairy as part of the paleo-inspired Dr. Brown diet.
Dairy is natural, right?
Since milk is a natural food that comes directly from an animal, it seems logical that it would inherently be permitted on a paleo diet. However, a strict paleo diet excludes dairy based on the belief that the early humans who lived in the Paleolithic time period likely did not drink milk beyond weaning (especially from another species since this is thought of as a very unnatural practice as we are the only species that does this). Furthermore, most suspect with quite certainty that these people did not have the means to make dairy products like cheese or yogurt either.
Dr. Brown, however, simply focuses on decreasing consumption of pro-inflammatory foods and whether or not a caveman would or wouldn’t have eaten something really is not important to him. The truth is the great majority of dairy products on the market today are highly allergenic and therefore pro-inflammatory, so more often than not avoiding them results in health benefits.
On the other hand, Dr. Brown’s diet also focuses on eating foods that are in their natural state the way God made them. So according to this general guideline, milk should qualify as permissible, and as stated above, it is but only under certain circumstances.
Farm Fresh is Best
First things first, the highly processed, ultra-pastuerized, homogenized milk on the shelves at a grocery store (cow and goat alike) is a far cry from raw milk purchased directly from a family dairy farm. High-heat pasteurization is intended to kill any pathogens that may be found in the milk extending the shelf life and making it “safer” to drink, but in reality this process kills everything in the milk including vitamins, minerals, and beneficial enzymes and microorganisms that help in digestion. Chemically speaking, pasteurized milk is very different from raw milk, and it’s really not surprising that so many people can’t tolerate it based on this fact alone. This chart from drake.com summarizes it well.
Now that said, I wouldn’t want to drink unpasteurized milk from a conventional dairy farm. The cows at these farms are over-milked, fed grains instead of grass, and often poorly treated with little to no time spent in open pasture. These less than ideal conditions result in a higher likelihood of bacteria being present in the milk and therefore the need for pasteurization. The milk produced by healthy grass-fed cows on small dairy farms, however, is far superior to its store-bought counterpart and is generally safe to drink without pasteurization.
Another process milk goes through at conventional dairy farms is the skimming or reducing fat process (i.e. 2%, 1%, Reduced Fat, Skim, Fat-free, etc.). One of the most beneficial things about dairy products is the healthy fat content, so skimming the fat changes it entirely and definitely goes against Dr. Brown’s principle of eating foods in their natural state the way God intended us to eat them.
Lastly, many companies that produce conventional dairy products (especially yogurt) often add other undesirable ingredients like sugar to the final product, which is obviously a big no-no on any paleo-inspired diet. So be aware of that as well.
So with the discussion of the harm caused by pasteurization and over-processing out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the different types of milk. Why goat milk? Why not farm fresh cow milk? The answer lies in the different proteins found in the different types of milk. It is widely accepted that casein is the protein that most people are sensitive to, but most don’t realize there are two types of casein, A1 and A2, both found in cow’s milk. A1 beta-casein is the more common, highly inflammatory type that most people can’t tolerate, whereas A2 beta-casein is the one that more closely resembles the protein found in breast milk and is easier to digest.
Interestingly enough, different breeds of cows actually have differing amounts of A1 and A2 casein in them. Holstein, Friesian, Ayrshire, and British Shorthorn generally produce milk that is high in A1 beta-casein. On the other hand, Guernsey, Jersey, Charolais, and Limousin breeds produce milk that is high in the A2 type. Unfortunately, most dairy products aren’t labeled with the breeds they originated from, so unless it is specifically mentioned, one must assume they contain A1 beta-casein and avoid them.
So here’s the kicker… goat’s milk and sheep’s milk contain only A2 beta-casein! Now doesn’t that makes sense as to why the milk from these two animals is generally better tolerated than cow’s milk?
Check this website if you are interested in finding raw milk near you. Obviously goat or sheep milk is ideal, but there are farms that raise cows with A2 milk. I’ve found that most family farms are very open and upfront about the breeds they raise on their website as well. My youngest was able to wean from the breast to raw cow’s milk when he was a toddler (with Dr. Brown’s approval) because we found a farm with Guernsey cows just 20 minutes away — as opposed to the 2 hour round trip we would have to make to find raw goat’s milk. It worked out well for us, so it may be an option for others who aren’t as sensitive to cow’s milk as well.
Smooth as Pasture Butter.
Since butter is mostly comprised of the concentrated fat formed by churning cream, it is much less allergenic. That being said technically butter contains 80% fat, while the other 20% still contains milk solids (i.e. proteins and salts). Many paleo diets suggest to eat ghee, which is butter that has gone through a clarification process that removes these milk solids. However, Dr. Brown has found that many people can tolerate regular butter even if they are highly sensitive to other dairy products. And of course, all paleo-inspired diet gurus agree, butter or ghee, it needs to come from pastured cows.
For the Bible Tells Me So.
“He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields… butter of cows and milk of sheep…”
Deuteronomy 32: 13a;14a
So if you are like me and fascinated by the dietary instructions of the Bible, this one should definitely peak your interest. Right here in Deuteronomy, Moses recounts the kindness of God in his provision for his people by blessing them with land that produced food to eat including “butter from cows and milk of sheep.” Might this brief mention be a key to healthy eating for us like so many other dietary “rules” of the Bible? Based on the science presented above and the clinical findings Dr. Brown has encountered, I tend to believe so.
Hope this information helps you better understand why dairy is so controversial and why careful attention to detail should be used when choosing what dairy products to include in your diet and which to avoid.