Is lactose intolerance a ‘real’ health issue? Do kids need calcium supplements? What can you have in place of milk? What health issues does milk cause? What health issues are caused by NOT drinking milk? How do I know if my child is getting enough calcium/protein/nutrients if he/she isn’t drinking milk or eating other dairy products? Will my child outgrow lactose intolerance? Will they develop lactose intolerance?
This topic is vast – and something I am asked about by almost every parent. I’d like to keep it simple by addressing these questions and help you to find the answers which are best for YOUR child, not the egos of someone who is not educated in diet (your doctor, child health nurse, pædiatrician, your parents – or other parents).
IS LACTOSE INTOLERANCE REAL?
9/10 pædiatricians will tell you it does not exist. Your child health nurse will have you pouring what was meant for another species into your child more than water. Doctors will ask how much milk/dairy your child consumes. And it is all taught to these pseudo experts – drumroll – by the media. Clever industry advertising, ‘advice books’ and even health education is penned by the experts within the dairy industry. Ethics aside (and there are little ethics in the dairy industry), not only is there little nutrient value available to the human body via dairy consumption, but the symptoms triggered by dairy, and long term effects affect every system of the body.
Depending on age, lactose intolerance presents in very different ways. In a newborn, it is not so much intolerance than a case of what is going into the mother and what the results are, that is then passed onto the child. So, a breastfed baby may not be technically intolerant, but if the mother is consuming large amounts of dairy, her body is on edge, the mucous membranes are compromised – therefore, nutrients are missing, allergens are released and passed on, symptoms affecting the mother can be passed on. The enzyme lactase can be reduced or even absent altogether – during which case supplementation is simple and often beneficial in breastfed children. There is much research on this matter, however little of it is accepted or shared by medical experts.
This takes us to the sensitive topic of formula-fed infants. Aside from a human’s milk (thankfully milk banks are now popping up) an infant should never be fed another species’ milk. And yes, that includes goats’ milk. Your child will most likely survive drinking it, just as humans have done since supplementary feeding began, but life will become a domino-effect of digestive and other mucous-affected health issues (respiratory, reproductive, skin, obesity, infections, etc). People who gently try to put forward breastfeeding arguments come under fire – unfairly and in direct knee-jerk reaction to guilt, frustration and yes, by some admission, embarrassment.
While it’s not always the fault or choice of the parent as to whether a child is breastfed, many say in hindsight that if they had the choice or options available to others, they would have. One truth I have found is that in 3rd world situations I have visited or worked in, for mothers (who do not have a choice), it’s either find a way to breastfeed or lose the child. Where we have options, we often choose what may not be the best option after all. Lactose intolerance doesn’t just pop up by chance – like anything. Nor is it an unexplained genetic disorder. It is food based – what you eat, what your parents ate, and now, what you feed your child. DNA can alter purely by what goes into the body (see Robert Young’s definitive research on this topic) – build your child’s DNA by encouraging them to eat the right food and drink the right liquids.
I know of many vitally healthy babies/children who have been raised on fresh vegetable juice and nut milk – no, don’t reach for a carton of V8 juice – I am talking, like breastmilk, about the original option. Get a juicer, make your own. Of course, if a baby is less than 4-5 months, this is just not enough – otherwise, like formula-fed babies, they miss out on probiotics, colostrum and immune-enhancing compounds being passed on. Get a blender, learn how to soak nuts and make your own – I am yet to see a child who does not love nut milk – and in fact, fresh juice. More on what to use later. But on the milk front, if not mother’s milk (human in some form) any other dairy is just not the best option.
DO CHILDREN NEED CALCIUM SUPPLEMENTS?
The answer to this question is not a simple yes or no. Supplementing calcium, like iron, is a definite no. Supplementation in general is an unfortunate necessity in life – our soil, water and air are suitably stripped and poisoned leaving us ALL needing some form of supplementation – whether that is via juices or superfoods or organic, nonGMO tonics (ie not pharma owned as an increasing number of nutraceutical companies now are) yes, it’s definitely needed. Like those who drink cow’s milk, your child will survive without supplementation, but it will be the difference between freedom from allergies and ENT issues, or vital health. It’s the same reason you can stand in a room of children and see the difference between shiny-haired, glowing-skinned, bright-eyed children, and dull, dry and lack-lustred appearance with the look of either out of control or poor concentration in the eyes.
The issue with supplementation is simple – each time the pharma industry, and eventually medical industry discover (ie scientifically proven after decades of denial) the benefits of a nutrient, they then begin, with the instruction of well-trained pharma reps, to prescribe hand-over-fist and sadly, usually a single nutrient that the body cannot possibly assimilate, nor know what to do with, considering there is no synergy or co-factors to trigger absorption and use. Calcium and protein are two such nutrients. Just like our body does not ‘make’ protein by eating animal protein (it re-forms chains of amino acids into the specific proteins needed), our body cannot assimilate most calcium supplements – leaving large molecular deposits in soft tissue (plaque, rheumatic deposits), on the outside of bones (spurs) and causing constant irritation and storage of what is in essence foreign matter, destroying digestion further than incorrect diet is already doing.
From the time a child can eat or drink other than breastmilk, my favourite supplementation is superfood supplements – snacks, smoothies, juices etc. Children learn food habits – and if offered healthier choices as infants, they wont copy a parent’s learned/bad habits. My kids were often made fun of (called fruit bats, mungbeans, weirdos) – mostly by parents – because they happily headed for salad, fruit, nuts (“Don’t give her that, it’s dangerous…”) over lollies, cakes and junkfood. Years later it’s nice to have validation by many of these same people, over the fact that my children ‘look so healthy’ and are free of the issues plaguing so many of their peers. Likewise, many parents who just could not see the point in stepping away from the norm, now bemoan the fact their grown up children are plagued with chronic ill health. That is not chance!
WHAT CAN MY CHILD EAT OR DRINK IN PLACE OF DAIRY?
I would change this question to ‘what can my child eat or drink for good health?’ Aside from initial breastfeeding, which contains all the nutrients your child needs (and more than formula can emulate, even in 2013), the focus should be on providing the most nutritious, beneficial food and drink for your child’s health and future growth. We have already established that dairy cannot possibly provide what your child needs, while filling the body with what they don’t need. Milk alternatives (plant based) are great BUT I would go so far as to say make your own (as above). Whether almond, cashew, sunflower, macadamia, hazelnut, flax and much more, you simply sprout (ie soak overnight and allow nutrient and enzyme release which otherwise would remain locked away forever), one cup of RAW nuts, drain and cover with twice as much filtered water, blend for a few minutes with a little Himalayan salt, pitted dates (optional) – strain and seal/refrigerate until use.
For cheese, yoghurt and icecream alternatives, see these less some magic white nutrient pill, and see instead as something they enjoy – cheese alternatives are available in health shops, vegan outlets and organic food suppliers. There are now many kids’ recipe books with countless icecream, yoghurt, dip, pudding ideas that provide more nutrients than any current off-the-shelf dairy treats that can be made in minutes at home. In fact, by a young age, my children were often making their own.
For a high nutrient pudding, soak a tablespoon of chia seeds, 1/2 cup raw almonds and 1/2 cup hazelnuts in filtered water overnight, and blend on high speed with a tablespoon of raw cacao powder, 3 pitted dates, 1 tablespoon coconut oil, and pinch Himalayan salt until smooth.
For a dip that every child loves (of any age) – soak a cup of chick peas overnight, and blend on high speed with 2 garlic cloves, juice of one lemon, 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds, heaped teaspoon dried parsley, teaspoon Himalayan salt (electrolytes), 1 cup olive oil and water as needed. This is a variation of hommus and so high in both calcium and protein it beats any dairy product hands down. Kids will eat it like dip, or added to mashed vegetables, on crackers or bread, on vegetable sticks, as a sauce – limited only by your imagination.
For more extreme, high nutrient recipes please see my facebook page for vegan recipes and especially for kids – via the pics and headings
We really need to think less of what dairy replacements there are, to simply what high nutrient, healthy foods can my child eat every day. A well balanced diet is NOT one made of the 5 food group or food pyramid chart mentality. Instead, consider the following images –
One food made by another species for its own baby cannot possibly provide all the nutrients that all of these foods can. That is a fallacy planted by the dairy industry. Once you overcome that image, you soon realise it’s not even an issue. If your child drinks filtered water, and a variety of fresh foods, that is all he/she will need.
Don’t get conned into carton juice, cordial, vitamin C drinks or worst of all, carbonated drinks – aside from what you can make at home for a rare treat – ie soda water with added freshly made fruit juice.