Why Goats’ Milk is Good for Your Health
Goats are deeply rooted in history, folklore, fairy tales and mythology, from Arabia to Egypt and Scotland to China, the goat plays an important part in many different countries and cultures. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that goats’ milk also has a long history of use too, in fact more goats’ milk is consumed daily around the world than cows’ milk. To put that into context, it’s reported that 65-72% of the world’s dairy consumption is goat milk, so if you haven’t tried it yet and you don’t want to suffer with FOMO (fear of missing out), then what better time than now! This high popularity of goats’ milk highlights the importance of this food around the world, which provides a nutritional daily staple for millions of people. Apart from the fact it tastes delicious; the nutritional profile of goats’ milk also offers us many health benefits too.
People who suffer with conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, digestive discomfort, catarrh and sinus problems, asthma, constipation and bloating, often report a benefit, or symptoms relief, when switching to goats’ dairy as opposed to cows’ dairy. Although more scientific research is needed to prove the potential reasons behind these reported benefits, there are already some studies showing differences between goats’ milk and other dairy or dairy alternatives that may throw some light on why the popularity of goats’ dairy is increasing globally, and people with the above conditions are increasingly choosing it as a preference.
One reason that goats’ milk is excellent for health is due to its protein content. Protein is one of the three macronutrients along with fat and carbohydrates, and dairy products, including goats’ dairy, is an excellent protein source. Protein is essential for the growth and repair of tissues and for the production of hormones and enzymes, which support normal body function. Protein is also very important for our immune systems to work effectively, and a lack of good protein impairs our immune system and makes it less effective, reducing its ability to fight off illness and infection.
Proteins are made from smaller molecules called amino acids of which there are nine essential ones. Essential amino acids are ones that come only from food sources and have to be consumed in our diet as our body cannot make them. Some foods contain ALL of these nine essential amino acids and these are called ‘complete proteins’. Most animal products are ‘complete proteins’ including goats’ milk and thus it provides us with all nine essential amino acids required for good health. Some research has also suggested that goats’ milk may have higher levels of six of these essential amino acids compared with cows’ milk.
Digestive Health – Bloating & Discomfort
When it comes to digestive health, goats’ milk certainly has some advantages. For those people who suffer with bloating, digestive discomfort or IBS symptoms, the recommendation is to ‘ease the load’ on your digestive system by ensuring you consume foods that are more easily digestible and goats’ milk is one such food.
One reason for this is that the protein composition of goats’ milk means that during digestion a softer and more easily digestible curd is formed, which may help digestive comfort and allow it to pass more easily through the digestive tract without causing discomfort or bloating. This softer curd that is formed with goats’ milk consumption is mainly down to the fact that goats’ milk contains a lower amount of a protein called alpha-S1-casein compared with cows’ milk. This is one reason why many people often state they can tolerate goats’ milk better than cow’s milk. In fact this specific protein is understood to be one of the main proteins that can cause cows’ milk allergy.
Goats’ milk also contains slightly less lactose than cow’s milk and as lactose (the sugar found naturally in dairy products, including milk) can be difficult to digest in some people, eating less of it may also help alleviate digestive disturbances and discomfort. Please be advised though that for people with a lactose allergy or lactose intolerance, goats’ milk is not suitable.
Digestive Health – Prebiotics
Prebiotics and probiotics are two words you are likely to have come across before, especially in the last two years when the media has pushed them to the forefront of many health articles and probiotic supplements are increasing in popularity. Probiotics are ‘good bacteria’ that help the healthy functioning of your digestive system and maintain the ‘gut flora’. Prebiotics are the ‘food’ for probiotics, so both are essential in the diet. Goats’ milk contains compounds called Oligosaccharides, which act as natural prebiotics and encourage the growth and activity of the ‘friendly’ bacteria in the digestive tract, therefore promoting digestive health.
There is estimated to be 4-5 times more oligosaccharides in goats’ milk compared to cows’ milk and these goats’ milk oligosaccharides, have also shown to reduce intestinal inflammation in animal studies, and had a significant anti-inflammatory effect in mice with colitis. More studies need to be done to see if the same anti-inflammatory effect occurs in humans with colitis, but it certainly shows potential, so watch this space.
Healthy Immune Function
If you didn’t already know, approximately 70% of our immune function is found in our digestive system so the prebiotics mentioned above, which have a positive effect on gut flora, will also directly impact the effectiveness of our immune system. Not only that, but goats’ milk is an excellent source of the mineral Selenium, which is essential for improving immunity and its deficiency, amongst other things, can cause immune impairment. Dietary intake of selenium in many countries (including the UK) has been found to be lower than government recommendations, so it’s important that foods naturally high in selenium are eaten regularly and goats’ milk is again, one such food. In fact, goats’ milk actually contains about 27% more selenium than cows’ milk, so makes an excellent addition to the menu for maintaining a healthy immune function.
Getting a good night’s sleep not only makes us less grumpy and function more effectively, it also ensures our immune system is working optimally too. There are many reasons why goats’ milk may be helpful to aid sleep and sleep quality, one being that it is a good sourge of magnesium, which is shown to be helpful in aiding sleep by helping our muscles relax and helping to promote sleep.
If it is restless leg syndrome you suffer with that prevents you falling asleep, then research shows that low magnesium levels contribute to this condition, so giving yourself a magnesium boost before bedtime by drinking goats’ milk could well help your legs be less restless. Goats’ milk also contains the amino acid called Tryptophan, which has shown in studies to help induce a state of calm and relaxation, just what you need before bedtime.
The calcium content of goats’ milk also helps to aid sleep, as calcium is the mineral that is needed by our brain to manufacture the sleep inducing hormone melatonin. Melatonin is needed to help us fall asleep and higher levels of melatonin cause us to feel sleepier and reduce core body temperature, preparing us for good quality sleep. Calcium is therefore not just for bones, but for brain too!
Cholesterol & Heart Health
According to the NHS, more than two in five people in the UK suffer with high cholesterol, which puts them at greater risk of developing heart disease and suffering heart attacks and stroke. Adjusting your diet to try and reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL Cholesterol) levels can be hard, especially when you are told to reduce dairy in your diet. It’s therefore important to know that goats’ milk contains slightly less dietary cholesterol than cows’ milk.
Blood pressure is also a common condition effecting millions of people worldwide. Two widely known minerals required to help maintain and regulate a healthy blood pressure are Calcium and Potassium and it just so happens goats’ milk is a good source of both.
Many people with a range of skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, itching have found relief by switching to goats’ dairy including goats’ milk. Although more scientific investigation is needed into exactly why goat’s milk can seemingly help improve skin health, one reason is likely down to the hypoallergenic properties and anti-inflammatory action that have been shown in some animal models.
The high nutritional profile of goats’ milk also plays a part in improving skin health and Vitamin A in particular, a high component of goats’ milk, is critical for new skin cell production and also promotes the skin’s natural moisturising ability. This can be helpful for people suffering with dry skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis. The fatty acids found in goats’ milk can also help repair the skin and skin membrane, and the lactic acid found in the milk has shown to act as an exfoliator when applied topically. These benefits help to explain the increasing popularity of goats’ milk cosmetics such as soaps and creams that many people with skin conditions have found relief with.
Although no specific research has been done on the benefits of asthma sufferers consuming goats’ dairy products, there is research that shows its effectiveness in individuals suffering with inflammatory and allergic conditions, so could well have some benefit to asthma sufferers. A recent study done in mice, showed that consuming goats’ milk during pregnancy and lactation offered a protective benefit to the offspring by alleviating inflammation in the airways in allergic asthma cases. There was also a big difference in the ‘gut flora’ between the offspring of pregnant mice fed with goats’ milk and those just fed with water which showed a protective effect, especially for airway inflammation. It is not to say the same effect will be had in humans, but interesting to see there was benefit in animal models that may give some hope for future.
With all the good health benefits provided by goats’ milk there is nothing stopping you doing what millions of people worldwide are already doing and that’s making goats’ milk, your milk of preference.
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