Goat and cow’s milk are nutritionally similar, though definitely not equal. The main difference is that goat's milk has smaller fat globules. This helps to lessen the strain on a child's immature digestive system. Consequently, goat’s milk may reduce the possibility of allergies, asthma and other ailments. Children who are allergic to cows milk often thrive on goat's milk.
Goat’s milk also has a closer protein composition to human milk. This also helps to explain the low allergy rate. Beta caseins are found in both human and goat’s milk. These have a softer curd and easier digestibility than the alfa caseins that are so prevalent in cow's milk. Goat's milk also does not contain Agglutamin. This is the reason fat globules do not cluster, assisting digestion. On average, goats milk contains more calcium, vitamin B6, vitamin A, potassium, niacin, chloride, copper, phosphorous, manganese and selenium. It is slightly lower in folic acid (1), has less arginine and less sulphur-containing amino acids (particularly methionine) but more glycine than cow's milk (2). Goats also are more finicky eaters than cows – meaning they eat a more varied diet, usually richer in minerals. While switching from cow’s milk to goat’s milk, it is recommended you mix a littleof the cow’s milk with the goats milk to help adjust to the new taste.
Goat's milk enriches intestinal flora and can be used to relieve constipation. Cow's milk conversely may result in constipation in children with a sensitive digestion. Laura Morales from the Even Star Goat Dairy in Lowood (near Toowoomba) says that Goat’s milk is also considered to be less phlegm producing.
If the milk is pasteurised, boiling it will assist in the digestion. Pasteurisation partially dismantles the protein structure. This makes the milk more difficult to digest. Boiling the milk finishes the process and decreases the chance of allergic reaction (1).
Ideally however, purchase 'raw' or unpasteurised milk. This has many advantages. Goat's milk is one of the best sources of dietary fluorine, nearly ten times higher than cow's milk. Fluorine helps build immunity and strengthen teeth and bones. Fluorine is depleted during the cooking process so is only present in unpasteurised milk. The chemical "fluoride" does not have the same healing properties (3) and is best avoided wherever possible.
Pasteurisation also destroys the beneficial bacteria that assist in digestion. These can only be replaced by culturing the milk and is why yoghurt is easier to digest than milk. The proteins are pre-digested by the bacterial action of the souring process.
If goat's milk is not available (or the taste is disagreeable), one ways to increase the digestibility of the milk from the cow is to soften the curds by adding gelatin. This will bring it closer to resembling the soft curds of Goat’s milk and mother's milk . Adding gelatin also emulsifies fat and by stabilising the casein (protein), improves the digestibility of the fat, which would otherwise be carried down with the casein in a lump mass. Vomiting, upper respiratory infections, constipation and diarrhea may also be reduced by the addition of gelatin (9). Use one teaspoon per four cups of milk. Prepare the gelatin as per the usual instructions by dissolving it in half a cup of water (or more). Mix with the milk and drink or refrigerate.
In Ayurveda (Indian medicine), fresh cow’s milk is thought to be excellent for those with a strong digestion who want to increase their weight. They believe it is a sattvic food, meaning that it can help develop Spiritual awareness. On the other hand, they also believe that homogenization makes the fat in the milk nearly indigestible and causes toxic residues (ama) to form in the body (5).
Homogenisation allows the enzyme xanthine oxidase to penetrate the intestinal wall, move into the lymphatic system and then to enter the bloodstream, instead of being excreted as would normally occur. When this enzyme enters the heart and arteries, it scratches and corrodes the membranes, creating primary lesions or scar tissue. The body then releases cholesterol into the bloodstream in an attempt to lay protective fatty material on the scarred areas. This can result in clogging the arteries (5) (1). Homogenisation also makes the fat and cholesterol more susceptible to rancidity and oxidation (7) and creates trans fats in the milk - these are rigid molecules that are so altered that the body doesn't recognise them as natural. (8) Fortunately goat's milk is never homogenised - another plus for it.
In summary, the deciding factors are - does cow's milk agree with the person consuming it? If not, try goat's milk , if this still doesn't agree, life will be no poorer without dairy. If dairy does agree, ensure a quality product is consumed - ideally organic and non-homogenised. The best dairy products of all, are non-pasteurised! More on this in the next issue.
(1) Echo Mountain dairy - information obtained through the University of Delaware and Texas (2) Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol med (1962): M. Lee, M.Rohitkumar & S. Lucia. (3) Diet and Nutrition: R Ballentine. (4) Healing with Whole Foods: Paul Pitchford (5) Prakruti: RSvoboda (6) Homogenized!: N. Sampsidis (7) Nourishing Traditions: Sally Fallon (8) Eat Fat, Lose Weight, The Right Fats: Ann Louise Gittleman (9) Gelatine in Nutrition and Medicine: N.R. Gotthoffer.