Are you concerned that your child might have issues with dairy?

Dairy intolerance is one of the most common intolerances in children.

It’s true that dairy is a source of protein, calcium, zinc, magnesium and fat-soluble vitamins. But it is not the only source of these nutrients! Many people, particularly children, don’t do well with dairy. So if your child is potentially reacting to dairy, it may be time to look for alternatives.

Signs of dairy intolerance

Signs and symptoms of dairy issues can vary depending on the circumstances. How much dairy your child consumes, how intolerant they are, and even which part of dairy they are intolerant to can all play a role.

Some issues I often see associated with dairy intolerances include:

  • Eczema and asthma
  • Ear infections
  • Recurrent croup infections
  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
  • Digestive symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea, reflux, bloating and tummy aches
  • Mental & behavioural symptoms such as mood swings, depression and tantrums
  • Sleep issues such as insomnia and restless sleep

It is also common for children with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, ADHD and sensory processing issues to have issues with dairy, particularly casein. This is why they often thrive on a gluten-free, casein-free diet.

Casein vs lactose

When it comes to issues with dairy, parents often think about lactose. You might have tried your child on lactose-free milk and seen no improvement.

But lactose – the sugar in dairy – is only one of the potential issues that comes up with dairy. Another common intolerance is casein – the protein in dairy.

Lactose intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzyme that breaks down lactose. This leads to immediate symptoms such as wind, diarrhoea, pain and bloating.

Casein intolerance can often have delayed symptoms. It can also cause a greater variety of symptoms because it can cause inflammation throughout the body. However, it can still lead to digestive effects such as diarrhoea and even constipation in some.

Some people can be intolerant to both casein and lactose.

Is A2 milk better?

If your child has issues with casein, A2 milk may be a better choice. This comes down to casein.

There are two types of casein – A1 and A2. A1 is the type found in most commercial milks and dairy products. A2 is produced by specific breeds of cow such as Jersey and Guernsey, as well as goats and sheep.

A1 is more likely to be a problem, as it can be inflammatory for many people. It can also lead to increased mucus production, which can be a problem for children with issues such as asthma or recurrent infections.

Some children may be fine with A2 milk products, goats milk products and even fermented dairy such as kefir or yoghurt. Others may not be able to tolerate either form of casein.

Should I remove dairy from my child’s diet?

This depends on your child. If they are showing symptoms that may be dairy-related, it can be useful to eliminate dairy completely for a period of time and see if their symptoms improve. But you want to make sure you go about it the right way.

Removing dairy means removing all sources of dairy, including:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yoghurt
  • Butter
  • Cream and sour cream
  • Cottage cheese
  • Ice-cream and frozen yoghurt
  • Custard
  • Lactose-free milk and milk products
  • Foods with dairy as an ingredient such as chocolate, some dips

You will need to read every label and make sure it’s not sneaking in – otherwise, you won’t get a proper idea of how your child is without dairy in their diet.

Once you have removed dairy for a good 4-6 weeks, then you can slowly reintroduce A2 milk and goats milk products first. This will give you a better idea of what they can and cannot tolerate.

Sound overwhelming? Working with a qualified practitioner can help guide you through the process.

What if I’m breastfeeding?

Think that dairy might be a problem for a child who is still breastfeeding? Unfortunately, you will also need to remove dairy from your diet as well!

Removing food groups as a breastfeeding mother can be stressful – you can’t be a happy healthy mummy and only be eating a handful of foods! It’s best to work with someone who can help you adapt your diet and only eliminate the most likely cause behind your child’s symptoms.

Can my child get enough calcium on a dairy-free diet?

Absolutely. There are plenty of dairy-free options for calcium – think green leafy vegetables, tinned salmon with bones, almonds and tahini to name a few.

But for most parents, the challenge is including them into their child’s diet! This is where working with a knowledgeable professional can help.

A high-quality supplement may be warranted for your child if they are unable to have dairy and won’t eat other calcium-rich foods.

Looking for some support to identify or manage your child’s dairy intolerance? Get in touch and see how I can help