It’s perfectly possible to raise healthy kids – with strong bones – without dairy. In fact, research from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that countries with the highest milk consumption have the highest levels of osteoporosis.
I removed dairy from my son’s diet, aside from butter, at 18 months following an ear infection. Why? Recurrent ear infections have long been linked to dairy. In fact, Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein, a paediatric neurologist, herbalist and author of the best-selling book The Dirt Cure recently said in an interview that, ‘ear infections, I would say number one (recommendation) is really cutting dairy 100%.’ However, as my son approaches 3 (with perfectly healthy ears since 18 months) I have recently made the decision to slowly add in some forms of dairy, in small amounts, which offer unique nutritional benefits.
Here are my top 3 suggestions:
Unpasteurised Cheese The microbes in raw cheese help build diversity in our gut, making it a great probiotic food. In addition, calcium is better absorbed from unpasteurised dairy. Most supermarkets (in the UK) now sell unpasteurised parmesan so that’s an easy way to add some probiotic goodness to your pasta. Comte and Manchego are also often unpasteurised.
Kefir In Russia babies are commonly given milk kefir diluted with water when they’re as young as 4 months old. Ancient wisdom is now being validated by the latest science with research suggesting that the first years of life are critical for building a healthy gut microbiome. When introducing fermented foods always start slow – one teaspoon of kefir in a smoothie for the first week, eventually building up to half a cup.
Thanks to the fermentation process kefir is often easier to digest than milk and contains enzymes which help us better digestion in general. In addition, cultured dairy products are a rich source of K2. This little known vitamin is crucial for bone health as it helps direct the calcium to your bones and away from soft tissues like the heart.
While there are many good quality dairy kefir on the market, my favourite is actually a non dairy version made with coconut. For the last few months my son has DEMANDED his ‘Shimmy’ kefir after dinner. Shimmy Shimmy Coconut is an organic dairy free kefir which comes in glass jars (yes!! no BPA). It is made with an impressive array of probiotic bacteria including L. plantarum, the ‘plantarum’ part indicating that it comes from plants. L plantarum has been shown to survive through rounds of antibiotics, making it an absolute must to include if you have to take them, to help prevent a yeast infection.
If you are up for making your own kefir, you can get hold of kefir grains from UK Fermenting Friends.
Sheeps milk yoghurt Sheep’s milk is easier on the digestive system thanks to the smaller fat globules (in comparison to goat and cow’s milk). It is also rich in the stress-busting mineral magnesium – known as nature’s sedative – that so many of us are deficient in. Magnesium deficiency is common during pregnancy (leg cramps anyone?) and studies show that magnesium depletion, particularly alongside calcium excess, can leave women at greater risk of pre eclampsia.
When Dairy is a problem…
If a lack of appetite at mealtimes is an issue, I would take note of how much dairy your child is eating. It’s common for kids to have a glass of milk in the morning, cheese sticks after lunch, a yoghurt in the afternoon… all of which can take up space in the diet, pushing out other important nutrients.
A sensitivity to dairy can manifest itself in several ways. If your child suffers from any of the following symptoms, I would experiment with cutting dairy from their diet for a period of 4 weeks and see if things improve:
*Persistant runny nose
Laura Bond is a Nutritionist (DipION) and published author. She works with men, women and children to help them achieve optimum health through food, supplements and lifestyle medicine. She has a special interest in reducing environmental toxins – like plastics, synthetic perfumes and electrosmog – to boost our health and heal the planet. To arrange a free 15 minute consultation, or to find out more contact [email protected]