A2 Milk is one of the latest trending foodie topics, but what on earth is it? And, is it good for digestive health?
Table of Contents
What Is It?
70% of normal cow’s milk contains both A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins. However, A2 milk is produced using naturally selected cows which only make milk containing the A2 protein.
What Are The Health Claims?
It is claimed that those who have problems digesting milk are reacting to the A1 protein in normal cow’s milk through an inflammatory process. By switching to the A2 cow’s milk, it is claimed that those who previously had issues will be able to tolerate the milk.
Where Can I Buy It?
A2 milk can be purchased from a number of suppliers and is available in whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed varieties.
Check out your local supermarket or health food shops, but be prepared to pay more than your normal cow’s milk.
Does It Actually Work?
As with many health claims, the concepts around the benefits of A1 milk are largely based on animal studies which are not relevant to how the human body works. There are, however, a couple of more useful human studies which we can look at.
The results of one human study has suggested that A1 protein increases stool consistency but not frequency (2). In other words – your poo is more formed but you won’t go to the loo any more or less by changing your milk.
The scientists that did this study have suggested that their results are due to a possible inflammatory process caused by the A1 proteins. However, what they fail to highly is that they actually monitored inflammation and no changes were seen with both A1 or A2 milk proteins.
A further, more recent human study which was carried out in a far more accurate manor has shown some more promising results (3). In this trial, the researchers looked at the effects of normal milk vs A2 milk on individuals who reported that they had digestive problems with dairy intake.
Results showed an increase in bloating, wind, borborygmus (rumbling stomach) and stool frequency with normal milk but not with A2 milk. Not only that but ‘normal milk’ appeared to slow down the time it takes for food to move through the gut.
In terms of inflammation, this study showed an increase in inflammatory blood markers with drinking normal milk but not with the A2 milk. 36% of the participants then went on to show an improvement in their inflammation markers after switching to A2 milk.
What Should You Do If You think Milk Causes You Digestive Problems?
Milk is a really important component of our diet, so if you feel you have a problem with it then DO NOT just avoid it. You will end up not meeting your calcium needs and be at risk of osteoporosis, a condition which causes bone thinning.
People who react to milk have digestive symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, stomach pain and bloating. These symptoms are ‘non-specific.’ This means that the symptoms could be caused by a whole host of conditions such as coeliac disease, cancer, IBS, other allergies or inflammatory bowel disease. Therefore, you MUST get a proper diagnosis rather than trying to self manage.
Are There Any Alternatives?
Yes, all plant and nut milks e.g. soya, almond and coconut milk naturally contain no lactose or animal milk proteins. Not only this, but shop bought UK products are all fortified with calcium to prevent you missing out.
What About Lactose Free Milk?
Lactose free milk is cow’s milk which has had an enzyme added to remove the lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and those with a lactose intolerance are unable to digest it. So lactose free milk is perfect for those with a lactose intolerance. But, it still contains milk proteins which cause problems for those with a milk allergy and it is therefore not suitable in this case.
Take Home Message(s)
- If you do not have a digestive problem related to milk then A2 milk will be of no benefit.
- If you have regular digestive symptoms then you must get a proper diagnosis from a doctor.
- If medical reasons for your symptoms have been ruled out, you will need to see a registered specialist dietitian to find out what your dietary cause of symptoms are.
- Your dietitian may trial you on A2 milk as a good alternative to regular cow’s milk as there is good evidence to support its use for those identified as having difficulties digesting cow’s milk.
Kirsten Jackson is a UK registered Consultant Gastroenterology Dietitian and founder of The Food Treatment Clinic. She has undergone many qualifications to get where she is today, including a UK BSc Honours Degree in Dietetics and Post-Graduate Certificate in Advanced Dietetics. In addition to this, she has FODMAP Training from Kings College London University. Kirsten set up The Food Treatment Clinic in 2015 after first experiencing digestive problems herself. She felt that the NHS was unable to provide the support individuals needed and went on to specialise in this area before opening a bespoke IBS service. Kirsten also participates in charity work as an Expert Advisor for the IBS Network. In addition, she can be seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan and The Telegraph discussing IBS as an Official Media Spokesperson to the IBS Network.