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Which milk for lactose intolerance?

Which milk for lactose intolerance?

In fact, as northern Europeans, we belong to a small part of the population that gets along a little better with lactose. Globally, this is the exception rather than the rule. And even here in our circles are still 15% of the population suffer from lactose intolerance affected and have to resort to alternatives in nutrition [1]. Of course, there are now also plant-based milk alternatives, but who can add to their lactose intolerance? Leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome (not an uncommon combination), knows that the lectins from cashew and soy milk are more likely to catapult themselves into chaos than to remedy the situation.

But there is another way.

Actually originate 65% of global milk consumption not from cow's milk, but from goat milk and this popularity has not (only) come from high-profile marketing campaigns or large-scale advertising. [2]

Ideally, every human being is completely nourished by breast milk for at least the first six months of life. There is no better food in the world than mother's milk for this period of life, and this has been shown both in the laboratory and in practice.

But what did you do in the old days when babies were stolen from their mothers or breast milk was scarce? Studies on prehistoric drinking vessels found in southern Germany showed that 3.000 years ago goat milk used for babies. [3

Even then, it was observed that the milk from goats was much better tolerated by babies and no symptoms of milk intolerance or lactose intolerance triggered. Even today, goat's milk is still predominantly used in baby food and follow-on milk. [4, 5]

Ancient petroglyphs carved into rocks at the Saimaluu Tash site in Kyrgyzstan. The oldest stones date from the Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages.

Ancient petroglyphs carved into rocks at the Saimaluu Tash site in Kyrgyzstan. The oldest stones date from the Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages. [Image source: Canva]

But what about after those first few months are over and you're faced with the rest of your life with milk? In short: the benefits of goat's milk remain and the reasons for this better tolerability are manifold. We took a closer look at this and for you the 5 facts about goat milk together, why you might get it better than cow's milk even with a lactose intolerance:

Goat milk... 

  1. is less allergenic.
  2. is inherently homogenized.
  3. is easier to digest.
  4. rarely causes lactose intolerance.
  5. is closer to the metabolism of the human body

Ok, let's go into detail:

1. Goat milk is less allergenic.

One of the most common food allergies in children under the age of three is cow's milk. Mild side effects include vomiting, diarrhea and skin rashes and severe effects can even go as far as anaphylactic shock! The allergic reaction is not always due to lactose intolerance, but often also to a protein allergen called alpha-S1-casein, which is found in high concentrations in cow's milk. The content of alpha-S1-casein in goat's milk is about 89% lower than in cow's milk [6]. A recent study of infants allergic to cow's milk found that almost 93% were able to drink goat's milk without any symptoms. [7, 8]

2. Goat's milk is naturally homogenized.

If you refrigerated fresh cow's milk overnight alongside fresh goat's milk, the next morning you would find that the goat's milk looked the same as the night before, but the cow's milk had split into two different "phases". With the cow's milk, the cream at the top has separated from the skimmed milk below. This is a natural separation process caused by a compound called agglutinin. But since we Germans like things to be neat and tidy, the milk that you can buy here in the supermarket is industrially homogenized. This means that the liquid milk is forced through a tiny hole under enormous pressure, destroying the cell walls of the fat globules it contains. This means that the fat component and the liquid component in the milk remain mixed together permanently. 

The Problem with such a homogenization is that after being artificially "ruptured" the cell walls of the fat globules released a superoxide (free radical) called xanthine oxidase. It has been demonstrated that xanthine oxidase is produced during the homogenization of cow's milk [9]. However, the influence it has on digestion and our metabolism is still not fully understood. In a study by Massey University in New Zealand, however, it was demonstrated in a simulated gastrointestinal tract that homogenization generally has a (negative) effect on digestion. [10

Such is the case with goat milk homogenization rather necessary! Goat's milk has smaller fat globules and contains no agglutinin, which keeps it naturally homogenized. This eliminates the possible problems of homogenization and we come directly to the next advantage:

3. Goat milk is easier to digest.

And through the smaller fat globules as well as one higher content of medium-chain fatty acids. You may remember this from biology class, this example with the mouse and the elephant: The mouse has to eat much more food in relation to its body weight than an elephant in relation to its body weight. Why? Because the surface area to volume ratio increases as the body gets smaller. A mouse therefore has much more surface area over which to emit heat than an elephant and therefore also needs much more food. It's known as "Bergmann's rule," which explains why mammals in colder regions are larger than their closely related species in warmer regions. [11

Ok, that was a little digression, but what does that mean for the fat globules in goat's milk?

Because the fat globules in goat's milk are smaller, they have a larger surface area and thus a larger surface for attack in the gastrointestinal tract. Goat's milk can with it be digested faster and easier by us. [1112]

Stone goats believed to protect a Chinese temple entrance

Stone goats said to guard a Chinese temple entrance.

4. Goat milk rarely causes lactose intolerance.

All milk contains a certain amount of lactose, also known as "milk sugar". A large part of the population suffers from a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which is able to digest lactose. Goat's milk contains less lactose than cow's milk and therefore requires less lactase for digestion. Studies have also shown that the lactose in goat's milk generally leads to fewer problems in people with lactose intolerance. Exactly why this is the case has not yet been fully deciphered. But it seems tolerable in small amounts, such as a glass a day. [12, 13, 14

5. Goat's milk is closer to the human body's metabolism than cow's milk. 

A baby usually starts life at around 3-4 kg, and a baby is also born at around 3 kg. On the other hand, a calf (baby cow) already weighs 35 - 45 kg at birth. Considering their body size, these two animals have very high and different nutritional needs, both for maintenance and growth. Cow's milk is designed to turn a 45kg calf into a 350kg cow. Goat's milk and mother's milk are designed to grow a 3-4 kg baby into an average adult or an adult goat of 60-80 kg.

Since a goat (and also the human baby) need less milk to grow up than a cow, is Goat milk also more nutritious on less amount. It contains more essential fatty acids such as linoleic acid and arachidonic acid as well as significantly larger amounts of vitamin B6, vitamin A and niacin. Goat's milk is also a far better source of the vital nutrient potassium. [15, 16]
It all fits together much better in terms of dimensions and amounts of nutrients.

Weathered wall carving and painting from ancient Egypt

Vweathered wall carving and painting from ancient Egypt. [Image source: Canva]

So what is the takeaway from all these findings?

In short: goat's milk and products made from it, such as ours A2 Goat Casein also contain lactose, but much less than cow's milk. Goat's milk and its products are for the reasons listed above much easier to digest, which is why some people with a slight lactose intolerance can tolerate them well.

According to historical finds, the use of goats as livestock goes back to the period from 2200 to 800 years B.C. and can be found in many different ethnic groups.

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