Milk is a comfort food for me. Nothing beats a big warm mug of milk + Bournvita + coffee and zillion spoons of sugar..... ahhhhhh pure bliss! I could have easily had three mugs a day, until one day I nearly passed out minutes after having milk. This was around 3 years back.
The symptoms had started few weeks earlier but I kind of ignored them. Symptoms like flatulence, stomach upset, loosies, nausea, vomiting, stomach rumbling, uneasiness - all within minutes after drinking milk.
Well I checked with my most trusted ally, Google! I was shocked to know that I was Lactose Intolerant. It is our inability to digest lactose, a sugar compound found in milk and dairy products, causing side effects. Surprisingly, I survived being heavily on milk for almost 3 decades. (There are many reasons for that though. A bit of Google search helped me understand how but will park that for a later discussion.)
I still didn’t take it so seriously until I chanced upon an article on the site of The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (IAHP). It referred to a connection between milk intake and speech development in children.
Coincidentally, I have been reading many queries on social media in the recent past about delayed speech/language development amongst kids. Apart from external environmental factors like lack of appropriate modeling of language, changes in family styles from joint to nuclear, lack of quality time with parents/caregivers, some internal factors are also at play for delayed speech. Some of these causes are avoidable - one of them, apparently, is the dietary intake of Dairy.
Surprised? Well, I was too, but hold on and think...
As human babies are weaned off breast milk, they are given cow’s or buffalo’s milk as an additional source of calcium at least twice a day.
So it set me thinking when I read this article by IAHP- Children’s health often improves when dairy is eliminated, how does this actually work? Why are dairy products such a problem for the human body?
As IAHP puts it, dairy products are derived from the milk of cows. Cow’s milk is a highly specialized baby formula designed for baby cows but not designed for baby human beings (or adult human beings either!). It contains special hormones for baby cows. These hormones are not good or even suited for human beings. That is why even organic milk is still not as good for your child as is human breast milk.
In addition, cow’s milk that is not organic contains antibiotics and growth hormones to increase milk production. These antibiotics and additional growth hormones are also rather harmful for human beings, especially those young human beings whose immune systems can be fragile, states the IAHP article.
While I knew this already, I dug deeper till I found something startling. 'Cow’s milk contains casein, which reacts with the opiate receptors in the temporal lobes of the brain. The temporal lobes are involved with speech and auditory integration. When casein reacts with the opiate receptors in the temporal lobes, it can mimic the effect of opiate drugs, and this may negatively impact speech and auditory integration.'
In India, milk, especially for young children is sacrosanct and we have been trained to think that milk brings about growth and development in them. So, as mothers, we think something terrible will happen if our kids don’t drink milk. Well, when I stopped taking those 3 mugs of milk completely, I stopped having constant phlegm and ear pain. The lethargic feeling went off and I was more active.
As the IAHP article puts it - 'The trips to the doctor, or worse, the hospital, will become fewer. Appetite, sleep, and behavior – all may be much better. For some children, understanding and language will improve as well.'
Great but does that mean that I don't have milk anymore? Not really. I still at times have half a cup of milk occasionally (maybe once or twice a month) like an addict wanting to have one last fix.
But I definitely do not force my daughter to have milk any more. I give her lots of fresh vegetable juices in the morning. Carrot - tomato, Spinach- mint - gourd or beetroot-tomato-carrot are some we have explored. Most of us like or dislike foods by memory. So it takes a while to forget what you once liked and develop a taste for them. So from one spoon, my daughter has progressed to half a glass. I am happy so far and so is she!
If your child is falling sick too often or you see some unusual symptoms that you can’t get to the root of, try giving up milk for a limited period of time. The symptoms might just disappear!