Tag Archives: IBS


Are dairy products good for you?

I’m a dairy lover. I mean, not the nut milk kind, the real kind. I have no problems at all with a reasonable amount of full-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese in my diet.

Wow. Some of you are probably going to hit the ‘unfollow’ button now I’ve got that little number off my chest, BUT you know I’m not one for trends. In this post, I want to give you the ‘upside’ on real, animal-based dairy – are dairy products good for you and what might be a better dairy milk alternative. I also want to provide you with some ‘detective skills’ to determine if you can or can not truly tolerate dairy. And then, I want to give you some options you could consider ‘beyond the cow’ if dairy is proving to be problematic for you.

Please, let’s challenge ourselves to keep the conversation around this positive, given its perhaps the most controversial topic in the nutrition world today.

First, some pros for dairy:

  1. It’s a great source of calcium. Over 60% of Australians over the age of 50 have poor bone health. Getting enough calcium will help reduce this epidemic. K2 is another important ingredient for bone health – this is found in butter and cheese. Eat your breakfast on the porch in the sun? Well, you’ve got the whole recipe for beautiful bones thanks to the vitamin D you’ll absorb through your skin. (Note: For those converted nut milk drinkers, buy the best quality nut milk you can afford. Higher quality brands may have up to 300mg of calcium per serve, which is similar to the amount in dairy. The cheap stuff? It’s basically expensive, cloudy water. For more on bone health, see this post)
  2. It’s a source of protein that isn’t meat. This is a plus for the vegetarians out there. When I’m working with vegetarians, I want to minimise exclusions other than meat. A varied diet reduces our chances of nutrient deficiencies. Plus, it’s more interesting. Fancy being a vegetarian who didn’t eat dairy or soy? You’d have to be pretty devoted to legumes! On another note, having some non-meat meals for everyone, vegetarian or not, has health and environmental benefits.
  3. It provides us with options for snacks that are refined sugar-free. This is particularly important for kids who tend to require smaller meals more frequently. Some natural yoghurt sweetened with whole fruit or some full-fat cheese with some vegetable sticks or even some plain crackers is far better than most of the ‘stuff’ out there labelled as ‘snack food.’
  4. Yoghurt, in particular, is a great source of probiotics or good bacteria. Whilst fermented vegetables like kraut have seen a resurgence in recent times, it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea. Yoghurt is an easy, cheap, daily ‘probiotic.’
  5. Umm, it tastes damn delicious!

Now, let’s look at some of the genuine signs and symptoms that you may have an issue with dairy:

  1. You run to the bathroom straight after eating it. Could be lactose. Could simply be an issue with the ‘richness’ of the dairy selected. Maybe try one with a lower fat content before dismissing it altogether? Natural yoghurt, for example, is not as fatty as Greek in general.
  2. You are consistently congested through the sinus area and/or you suffer a lot of hayfever and/or you get headaches on a regular basis that feel like ‘pressure’ in the head and/or you have asthma. Whilst the asthma foundation continually denies the link between asthma or congestion in general with milk, I have seen countless cases where minimising cow’s dairy in the diet provides relief from the before mentioned symptoms.
  3. On the contrary, to point 1 above, you suffer from constipation. Could be casein, another type of protein in dairy.

In relation to the above, please work with a professional to determine if your symptom/s are linked to dairy as all of the above could be a response to something entirely different. It’s always better to get professional help, otherwise you run the risk of basically eliminating everything!

Moving on, maybe you’ve done the detective work and/or seen someone to confirm that dairy is indeed an issue. Maybe, you don’t have to dismiss it altogether? Perhaps, skipping out the cow’s milk products will see an improvement in your health, but before jumping on the nut milk bandwagon, did you ever think about dairy from a goat?

Here are some interesting facts about goat milk products:

  1. A 2010 study revealed that milk from a goat is actually higher in calcium, phosphorus, zinc and selenium than milk from a cow. So, switching to goat’s milk will not compromise your calcium intake, it might actually increase it.
  2. The structure and type of fat from goat milk is very different from cow’s milk. There are more fat globules, but they have a much smaller diameter. This makes it easier to digest. Goat milk also contains a higher proportion of short and medium chain fatty acids than cow’s dairy, as well as more medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). These fatty acids have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties and also aid nutrient absorption. Furthermore, they have proven anti-inflammatory effects particularly in conditions that include irritable bowel disease and atherosclerosis (plaque in the arteries).
  3. Specifically, the conjugated linoleic acid in goats milk has anti-allergenic properties.
  4. The form of casein protein in goats milk differs from the form in cow’s milk, making it gentler and easier to digest.
  5. There is more taurine in goat’s dairy. Interestingly, taurine assists with the formation of bile salts, which again help us to digest fat and fat-soluble vitamins. This is another reason why goat milk may be more tolerable.

I could seriously go on and on about reasons to consider goat’s dairy, as I have found this research into other dairy milks really fascinating. Two relatively easy reading research papers discussing the benefits of goats dairy can be found here and here for those of you who are interested. Both also discuss the anti carcinogenic properties of goat milk – wowzer, how cool is that?

In a nutshell, those who may benefit from considering goat’s milk over dairy from a cow include:

  • New Mum’s when weaning bubs off the breast as its more digestible than cow’s milk and closer to human breast milk in its composition.
  • People suffering from irritable bowel (IBS) like symptoms including constipation, diarrhoea, bloating and gas.
  • Those suffering from allergies, hayfever or asthma.
  • Those wanting to improve their cardiovascular health, particularly anyone who is at high risk of stroke due to a high calcium score (i.e. plaque built up in the arteries).
  • Honestly anyone. Even for those of us who do tolerate cow’s dairy, variety provides us with a wider nutrient intake so why not switcharoo from time to time?

It’s common for goat or sheep dairy (a topic for a future post) to come up as a recommended protein for my Metabolic Balancers. It might seem a little strange but, honestly, is getting milk from a goat any weirder than drinking it from a cow? It’s pretty common in European countries, it’s just a bit of a brain twist for us Aussies.

You will find both goat milk and goat yoghurt in your supermarket. Some feta cheeses are made from goat’s milk or a combination of goat and sheep. Many delis and IGAs provide a wide variety of speciality goat’s cheeses and even ALDI has a beautiful goat’s cheese log.

Gotta go. Off to fetch some goat’s milk.

Coeliac, gluten and autoimmunity

If you’ve been following me even for a short while, you should know I am not a ‘gluten is evil’ kind of nutritionist. However, early diagnosis of coeliac disease and recognising when someone may have a genuine issue with gluten is important for avoiding serious, long-term health consequences.

Here are 10 important considerations concerning coeliac and gluten generally:

  1.  If you have a first degree relative with coeliac, you have a much higher chance of having the condition yourself. You should always mention family history to your GP or any health professional, as it may help their ‘differential diagnosis’ (see note below). We always take a comprehensive family history during our initial fact-finding appointment.
  2. Coeliac disease seriously compromises your absorption of nutrients. Usually, one of the first issues to show up in pathology results is iron deficiency. Ongoing iron deficiency, despite supplementation and a balanced diet, in combination with other signs and symptoms may indicate the need for coeliac testing. A nutritionist can test for coeliac disease.
  3. Coeliac disease is not the same as being gluten intolerant. Please do not self diagnose yourself as coeliac, but not bother getting tested. You do need to know. And, if you are coeliac, you need to share this information with blood relatives because it’s important to know you have a genetic predisposition to certain conditions. See point 1 again.
  4. Coeliac is an autoimmune condition. Knowing you have an autoimmune condition, I believe, is important. Not only do you need to avoid gluten forever, but you do also really need to look after yourself. Look at your lifestyle, try to minimise stress and eat well to avoid ongoing nutrient deficiencies, as these are physically taxing to the body. Why? Because having one autoimmune condition increases your chance of others developing. It’s not a life sentence – but an awareness of your overall, holistic health is critical. In an ideal world, we should all think like this, but it’s even more important for those with coeliac and/or other autoimmune conditions.
  5. Newly diagnosed coeliacs benefit from nutritional counselling. There are many traps for new coeliacs – many foods contain trace amounts of gluten and cross-contamination can also be an issue. Being a coeliac = absolutely. No. Gluten. Ever. The end. (I’m sorry, ut you will thank me in the long run.)
  6. Gut work and supplements are often important initially in coeliacs, to correct deficiencies and assist with the healing of the ‘villi’. Villi are the finger-like projections of the small intestine that are responsible for the absorption of nutrients and are severely damaged in newly diagnosed coeliacs.
  7. If a coeliac is left undiagnosed for a long time, there can be all kinds of consequences… poor bone density, absence of periods, exhaustion and depression, infertility, dental issues. If you have any of these issues, it’s time to speak to a health professional even if it’s not related to gluten.
  8. Being gluten free has become somewhat trendy these days. Coeliac isn’t trendy. It is serious. In all honesty, I don’t really think that many people have serious issues with gluten – more have serious issues with wheat than gluten (which are different things – see point 9). However, coeliac disease is a serious issue. And it’s also seriously missed. Too often.
  9. Wheat and gluten are not the same. Gluten is in wheat, but gluten is also in other grains, including rye, oats and barley. Some people may be fine with rye, oats and barley, but not wheat. Others may be fine with all types. Please don’t judge your tolerance for gluten on how you felt after eating a Big Mac or even a cheap, white loaf of bread from the supermarket.
  10. I do believe that gluten intolerance is a thing. Research suggests that people who carry a gene for coeliac may be more sensitive to gluten without actually being coeliac. Some cases of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) do improve dramatically with gluten elimination. However, we are not all gluten intolerance. And you do not have to avoid gluten in order to be healthy.

*Differential Diagnosis: If someone presents with fatigue for example in the clinic, there’s a gazillion reasons why they might be feeling exhausted. They could have a virus, they could have blood sugar imbalances, maybe their thyroid is out, or perhaps it’s as simple as them not sleeping. The more facts we have about a person’s health history and the more details they can provide about their symptoms, their diet and their lifestyle, the more certain we can be about what is going on that might be making them feel so rotten. This is the process of differential diagnosis – taking someone with symptoms and narrowing it down to what is most likely may be caused by.

If you suspect you have an issue with gluten, or perhaps you are an overwhelmed, newly diagnosed coeliac wanting some guidance, please book an appointment to see us.



Thanks to the emerging interest in all things ‘gut health’ related I am seeing many clients coming into the clinic who are already taking a probiotic.

9 times out of 10, after taking a case history, I arrive at the inevitable point that the probiotic they are taking isn’t going to work out for them and it’s probably doing very little to help their specific condition. So, to help your hip pocket, here are some basic things to consider if you simply want to purchase a probiotic for ‘general gut health’ so you spend your $ on something useful.

  1. Is there anything wrong with your gut? Are you uncomfortable after eating, feeling bloated or over full, experiencing pain or reflux or have constipation or diarrhea? If yes to any of these then consider a consult because 1 probiotic isn’t going to fix it. You need to look at food, lifestyle and potentially other supplements instead of an immediate probiotic.
  2. Probiotics are ‘strain specific.’ The strains should be listed on the bottle. This will generally mean that each ingredient has 3 parts. E.g. Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07. If it doesn’t list all 3 names then you don’t really know what you are taking. So you can’t really be sure what the probiotic is for. Because each of these strains may benefit different systems. E.g. some strains may assist with immune health, others help in diarrhea management, others assist with constipation, some have research to support their use in allergies. You see what I mean? Do you go car shopping and buy a car? Or do you go and but a Ford Mustang 2017? (nice car by the way).
  3. If you know the strain and you are hungry for knowledge, you can look it up yourself. Type the strain into google. What comes up? I mean, scientifically validated research etc. Is there science to back up its use?
  4. Fridge stable… are you sure? Did you read the label? Does it say ‘fridge stable’ to 25 degrees? Remember we live in QLD… some of these fridge stables are likely fine off the shelf in Tasmania but not in Brisvegas. No point taking ‘dead’ bacteria.
  5. CFU: colony forming units. These bacteria are little. Teeeny tiny. And they are measured in ‘colony forming units.’ Get something a bit gutsy. Some of the brands available have 1 to 2 million CFU per capsule and that’s not going to really do too much. Therapeutically, very generally speaking, a good probiotic will offer 10 times this amount minimum. (N.B. with the exception of sacchroymysis boulardi strain, measured differently, more a yeast than a bacteria).
  6. Is there someone in the shop you can talk to? A nutritionist or a naturopath on the floor? A lot of pharmacists and health food shops will have someone professional on the floor. And hopefully I am hoping your eyes to the fact that ‘taking a probiotic’ doesn’t fully answer the question ‘what are you taking.’
  7. Have you thought about feeding your own friendlies? Maybe that’s a good place to start? You can encourage the health of your own gut bacteria by eating fibre rich foods and resistant starches… probiotics are transient.
  8. Are you buying online? Is the product TGA regulated? Reread my post on supplements, I personally don’t stock anything anymore that is not TGA listed. Or promote anything for that matter.
  9. More is not necessarily better. I..e if there are heaps of bacteria in it, doesn’t mean necessarily its better than just 2 or 3 strains. Refer to point 2 and 5. Also if it is just for ‘general health’ consider that strains in the ‘bifido’ and ‘lacto’ families are the main ones in our gut.

I hope that helped. And not confused you. I simply see many people spending hundreds of dollars on well marketed natural supplements including probiotics and then deciding it doesn’t work. It does. It’s just that there’s a bit more too it then just picking something off the shelf like dress shopping and trying it on for size. Furthermore, supplements are supplements… they don’t work unless you do. I.e. they supplement a good, basic, whole foods diet. And make up for the extra demands we are putting on our bodies in this day and age.