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Is Your Child Intolerant To Dairy? Here’s How To Tell

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

How to keep your bones healthy

I recently broke my toe.

My first broken bone at the age of 40!!

Such a minor injury can be quite frustrating.  I have to walk quite slowly, and if I rush, it hurts!

So my diet has to focus on bone building nutrients to ensure the bone heals as quickly as possible, and doesn’t cause me any lasting issues.

Who is at risk of fractures?

Some children are more likely to get fractures than others, such as those

  • Who have taken reflux medication
  • Who take warfarin (which many kids with congenital heart disease have to take for life)
  • Who have nutritional deficiencies (fussy eating)
  • Who have bone abnormality conditions
  • With Cystic fibrosis
  • With Downs syndrome

And, in my experience, the biggest risk factor: TRAMPOLINES!!!

So if your child is in any of these categories, it would be wise to follow these guidelines proactively!

What foods are good for strong bones in children?

As usual, the best diet for bone health is one that focusses on wholefoods, and avoids processed foods.

Due to massive marketing by the dairy councils in most Western countries, everyone knows that calcium is important for bone health, but this is only part of the picture.

What you might not know is:

  • Calcium needs to be eaten alongside other nutrients for optimum bone health.
  • These other nutrients include magnesium, vitamin K, boron, silica, vitamin C, Vitamin D and zinc. Eating a wide variety of real food, will provide these nutrients.
  • Dairy does not contain all these other nutrients
  • Calcium on its own can reduce absorption of magnesium.

If you are eating dairy, one serve a day is optimum for bone health.  Get the rest of your calcium from other sources.  And eat your dairy fermented, for example kefir or properly fermented yoghurt.

Dairy does contain calcium, but it is by no means the only source.

High calcium foods:

  • Green leafy vegetables – If your child is on warfarin, you need to eat a consistent amount of green leafy vegetables every day. Ideas for getting green leafy veg into your child: green smoothies, frittata, bolognaise with hidden veggies and kale chips
  • Tinned salmon with bones in it
  • Fermented soy. Fermented soy: tofu or tempeh in a stir fry or soup
  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds

High magnesium foods

  • Almonds, brewer’s yeast, cashews, cocoa, eggs, figs, kelp, leafy greens

Vitamin K foods

  • Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale

Boron foods

  • Found in apples, almonds, dates, hazelnuts, legumes, pears and prunes

Silica foods

  • Green beans, mussels, oats, raisins and root vegetables

Vitamin C foods

  • This is needed to build collagen, necessary for repair. It is found in abundance in many fruits and vegetables, like strawberries, capsicum and citrus fruit.

Vitamin D foods

  • Cod liver oil, egg yolk, butter, sprouted seeds

Zinc foods

  • This is needed to help rebuild the bone. Beef and pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc.  Oysters are especially high if you can convince your child to eat them!

Bone broth helps with strong bones

Cooking bones in water for a long time with some apple cider vinegar leaches minerals out of the bones.  These are then consumed in the bone broth, and contribute to build strong bones.

Gut health and bone health

Consuming a diet rich in prebiotic fibre (the food for the good bacteria) helps to increase the amount of calcium you can absorb from your diet.  Good sources of prebiotics include onions, leeks and garlic.

What foods are bad for bone health?

Avoid foods that encourage your body to get rid of calcium.

These foods include sugar, salt, too much animal protein and soft drinks. For adults, unfortunately it also means cutting out coffee, alcohol and tea.

Exercise and children’s bone health

Lots of exercise for kids will give them strong bones for the rest of their lives.

Swimming is not very useful for bone health as it isn’t weight bearing (however it is wonderful for other aspects of health and wellbeing).

Activities that will help build strong bones include anything weight bearing: dancing, jumping, tennis, soccer etc.

The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is crucial for bone health, and it is so easy to get in Australia!  Safe sun exposure all year round will keep vitamin D levels topped up, and protect bones.

Smoking and bone health

Just in case you didn’t get the memo…..do not let your child be exposed to cigarette smoke under any circumstance.  Smoking is bad for your bones (and everything else).

If your child has broken a bone, you need to up the ante, and possibly take a supplement for the healing phase, as prescribed by a nutritionist.