What is Milk?
The Oxford dictionary describes milk as an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young. It’s also described as the primary source of nutrition for infant mammals (including humans who are breastfed) before they are able to digest other types of food.
In 2017, Canadians consumed nearly 67 litres of this white fluid per capita. In other words, the average Canadian consumed nearly 67 litres of milk. That’s nearly one glass of milk per day.
Did you know that some studies suggest that around 25% of people are sensitive to one of the proteins that are released upon digestion of milk? Were you aware that approximately 65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy? Considering that the majority of North Americans consume milk, I find the last two statistics to be alarming and upsetting. Alarming because I find the percentages high, upsetting because I feel I’ve been lied to by the milk industry.
Yes, “Milk Does the Body Good”, as advertisers have told us, but is it good for everyone?
“25% of people are sensitive to one of the proteins that are released upon digestion of milk”
“65% of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy”
Is Milk Good For Me?
Ask yourself; is milk good for me specifically? Is milk good for my specific body; for my health? The answer comes back to how well you know your body. If you are not in optimal health, what are your symptoms?
You are your primary healthcare advocate, so take charge, listen to your body and observe your symptoms. Consider temporarily removing dairy from your diet to see how you feel. Do your symptoms go away? After some time, reintroduce dairy. Do your symptoms reappear?
Below were some of my health symptoms:
- Symptoms related to Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), such as swollen and inflamed joints
- Stomach upset
- Excess phlegm
- Nasal congestion
- Constantly clearing my throat
- Eczema patch on my face and itchy skin
Because I have RA and other health challenges, I am constantly searching for pathways to better my health. One of those pathways led me to a book called The Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven Gundry (see image below). In this book, Dr. Gundry shares a health program that is based on eating lectin-free foods and on making some changes to how and what we eat. Dr. Gundry mentions that we should try to drink A2 milk instead of drinking conventional milk. This is where I was first introduced to A2 milk. I was one of those Canadians who drank 1 glass of milk per day; mostly in my teas. So, I researched A2 milk and decided to try it. I have been drinking A2 milk ever since. Why? Because the above symptoms have been significantly alleviated, if not obliterated.
What is A2 Milk?
We’ve all heard that milk is a good source of protein. That’s true; milk contains 8 grams of protein per 8 ounces (oz.) glass. Two major groups of protein are present in cow’s milk. Casein accounts for about 80% of the protein found in milk and whey accounts for about 20%. Of the 80% of casein, 30% is beta-casein. In beta-casein there two variants, A1 and A2. Most milk contains a mixture of these proteins. Approximately 60 percent of the beta-casein is A2, and 40 percent is A1. The proportion of A2 and A1 beta-casein in milk can vary with different breeds of dairy cattle – A2 milk contains only A2 beta-casein. In other words, A2 milk does not contain the A1 beta-casein protein.
In this post, I am referring to the A2 variant of beta-casein protein milk, which I’ll refer to as “A2 milk” (uppercase “A”). A2 milk can also refer to a brand of milk sold by The a2 Milk Company (lowercase “a”). In Canada, the dairy milk that we typically drink is a mixture of A1 and A2 beta-casein. Once upon a time though, it used to be of the A2 beta-casein variety
“According to the literature, more than 10,000 years ago, and before they were domesticated, cows produced only the A2 beta-casein protein and not the A1 beta-casein protein. However, some 8,000 years ago a natural single-gene mutation occurred in Holsteins, resulting in the production of the A1 beta-casein protein in this breed. This mutation in the beta-casein gene led to 12 genetic variants, of which A1 and A2 are most common. The mutation was passed on to many other breeds, principally because Holsteins are used to genetically improve the production of other breeds. Slowly, the A1 beta-casein variant became dominant in milk. While dairy herds in much of Asia, Africa, and part of Southern Europe remain naturally high in cows producing A2 milk, the A1 version of the protein is common among cattle in the Western world.
A point of reference is that A2 milk products are made from dairy cows that produce only the A2 beta-casein protein, whereas today’s cow’s milk contains both A2 and A1 beta-casein proteins. The most common variants among Western cattle are A1, A2, and B.
In general, milk from Guernsey, Jersey, Asian herds, human milk, and others (sheep, goat, donkeys, yaks, camel, buffalo, sheep, etc.) contain mostly A2 beta-casein. Milks from Holstein Friesian contain mostly A1 beta-casein. The Holstein breed (the most common dairy cow breed in Australia, Northern Europe, [Canada] and the United States) carries A1 and A2 forms of beta caseins in approximately equal amounts. More than 50 percent of the Jersey breed carries the A2 beta-casein variant, but with considerable variation among the herd, and more than 90 percent of the Guernsey breed carries the A2 beta-casein variant.
a Canadian start-up involved in cutting-edge innovation in the dairy industry features this easy to understand graphic on their website. It compares A1 milk versus A2 milk.
A1 or A2 – Does it really matter?
We are at a point in history where we don’t really take our food supply for granted anymore. We want to know what we’re eating and where it came from. We want to know what the benefits of eating certain foods are and what the harmful effects of eating other foods are. We consume superfoods and get excited when we’re introduced to some new food touting some superpower. We’re also less inclined to consume tons of junk food. Some of us even receive daily emails from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) detailing all of the food recalls and potential food hazards related to ingesting certain food items. I want to be informed and from there I’ll decide what I consume. So, I do my best to inform myself.
I had never heard of A2 milk before reading the Plant Paradox. When I saw the words “A2 milk”, it caught my attention. I thought, “What is A2 milk and why is Dr. Gundry recommending it?”
Simply put, in some people drinking regular milk can cause abdominal pain and discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, gas, inflammation and congestion. Some research suggests that the harm can be even greater, affecting brain function and increasing the risk of disease. Research also suggests that drinking A2 milk can benefit people with Crohn’s, Colitis, Autism and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
According to Dr. Gundry, the A1 beta-casein protein is lectin-like. It converts to a protein called beta-casomorphin which can prompt an autoimmune attack when consumed.
My immune system was already being attacked by my autoimmune disease (RA), so I was under double attack because I was still consuming (conventional) milk, which I knew didn’t agree with me. After researching A2 milk, I was very game to try it out. The a2 brand of milk was not available in Canada, so I tried to find another source. My research led me to Eby Manor dairy farm, located here in Ontario.
Eby Manor produces milk from the Guernsey breed of cows. Their milk is called Golden Guernsey. About 90% of their herd is 100% A2. They are in the process of breeding towards having their whole herd 100% A2.
Guernseys account for less than 1% of the dairy breeds in Canada. According to The Cattle Site, 96% of Guernsey cows don’t carry the A1 beta-casein protein but carry the A2 beta-casein protein.
Guernsey Cows From Eby Manor Farm
According to the Eby Manor Website:
“All our animals receive individual care and are fed a balanced, non-GMO diet that promotes good health, longevity and nutritious premium milk.
-Guernsey milk is naturally high in beta-carotene, giving a distinctive golden colour
-Guernsey milk is naturally high in nutrients content creating a rich, full flavour
-Guernsey milk is a premium milk; rich in beta-carotene, A2 protein, calcium and omega 3″
“Guernsey milk contains 12% more protein, 30% more cream, 33% more vitamin D, 25% more vitamin A and 15% more calcium than average milk. 96% of Guernsey cows carry the protein Beta Casein A2 in their milk. There is some anecdotal evidence that this protein MAY be Protein Beta Casein A1 that is found in most other milks.”
Not only do I now drink “A2 milk”, but I know exactly where my milk comes from. I visited Eby Manor dairy farm recently and was overcome with excitement at knowing exactly where on the planet my milk comes from and from what cows. Before my visit to the farm, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Eby himself.
Heading to Eby Manor dairy farm
Eby Manor dairy farm
A b0ttle of the Golden Guernsey milk
See the highlights of my interview with Jim Eby from Eby Manor below:
- I started my interview by congratulation Jim on doing something different, outside of convention.
- About 8 years ago, Eby Manor was able to create a niche market with their milk.
- Jim stated that they (Eby Manor) knew that there would be some benefits to producing and marketing their niche brand of milk (Golden Guernsey), but they had “no idea how profoundly impacting it would turn out to be. “The whole thing is much bigger than we had anticipated”.
- “People are thanking us for what we’ve done. People are so appreciative”, said Jim.
- I mentioned to Jim that we did our own taste test at home and that the Golden Guernsey milk was the favourite. “A2 tastes better”, I said. Jim gently corrected me by saying that it is not the A2 beta-casein that makes the milk taste any different, it is the Guernsey breed of cow that produces such a wonderful tasting milk.
- The A2 difference is all about digestibility and not taste.
- According to Jim, demand for the Guernsey breed of cow is at an all-time high.
- Eby Manor cows eat a non-GMO feed and have a diet high in forages.
- If you’ve ever tasted Eby Manor’s whole milk, you’ll find a rich blob of delicious goodness sitting on top of the milk (at the bottle’s head). That’s because the milk (their whole milk 4.8%) is non-homogenized. The fat molecules solidify to form a wonderful spoonful of very thick cream just waiting to be spooned out. I spoon mine right into my mouth. Jim shared that he puts some in his coffee or tea or sometimes even uses it as butter.
- 96% of Eby Manor’s Guernsey herd tested 100% for the A2A2 variant. Soon enough Eby Manor’s herd will be 100% A2. That’s exciting!
- Most native Asian and African breeds of cows are A2 (A2 A2), as are goats, sheep, camels and water buffalo.
Tidbit: Did you know that human milk is like A2 milk in its composition?
Mr. Eby and one of his beautiful cows taking a stroll
Is A2 Milk Right For Me?
The health benefits and health claims have been made. You are your primary health advocate and the fact is that it is up to you to find out if A2 milk is right for you. If you’ve been told that you’re “lactose intolerant”, could it be that you are sensitive to the A1 protein found in regular cow’s milk? Are you on the Plant Paradox program, in which case which dairy you consume may matter greatly? Does drinking conventional milk affect you in any way? Do you have trouble digesting milk?
You are the test subject here. However you come to determine that regular cow’s milk might be a problem for you, consider trying A2 milk.
Your body will be the ultimate judge.
A1 or A2? Does it really matter?
You need to know if it matters to you.
Don’t just eliminate milk your diet.
What are your symptoms?
You are the test subject here.
Test it for yourself.
Tid.bit (a small piece of tasty food):
Have you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (see image below), or watched the movie of the same name? The story takes place on the Isle of Guernsey, situated in the English Channel just off the coast of France. Interesting tidbit, Guernsey Isle is where the Guernsey cow breed originated.