Asthma is a condition characterised by episodes of narrowing in the airways (bronchospasm). The condition can be related to one or more of several underlying factors, including food sensitivity. In some individuals, specific foods seem to have the ability to trigger immune responses in the lungs that cause bronchospasm. While any food may do this in theory, experience in practice reveals dairy products, particularly cow’s milk and cheese, to be common culprits.
Because of this proposed mechanism, I was interested to read reports today of a study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Allergy which has found that children drinking unpasteurised milk are at significantly reduced risk of having asthma. The study, which assessed almost 15,000 children aged 5 to 13 in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, found that those children drinking unpasteurised milk were 25 per cent likely to suffer from asthma compared to children who did not .
One theory that has been put forward to explain this finding is that unpasteurised milk contains healthy bacteria – probiotics ” that can reduce the risk of allergic conditions, including asthma.
This explanation is plausible, though there are other potential reasons why raw dairy products may be better for us than pasteurised products.
In natural medicine, food sensitivity is often taken to be the result of the absorption of incompletely digested protein molecules through the gut wall, which then go on to trigger immune responses. Pasteurisation is believed to change protein molecules in a way that makes them, essentially, more difficult to digest. Because of this, pasteurised dairy products should, in theory, be more likely to give rise to problems with food sensitivity and related conditions such as asthma compared to raw products.
I am not aware of any research which proves this theory, but anecdotally many individuals report that they tolerate raw milk products better than pasteurised fare. This most recent research in children seems to bear this out.
Raw dairy products are, unfortunately, not a viable option for many of us. However, I generally suggest considering goat’s and sheep’s products as an alternative to cow’s dairy products. In my experience, goat’s and sheep;s products (e.g. milk, cheese and yoghurt) are usually much better tolerated, and far less likely to cause food sensitivity issues.
1. Waser M, et al. Inverse association of farm milk consumption with asthma and allergy in rural and suburban populations across Europe. Clinical & Experimental Allergy 2007;37(5):661″670.