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What is it about milk that causes digestion problems or even allergic reactions in humans? Most of the time it’s the casein protein molecule.
Although both goat milk and cow milk contain casein protein, goat milk contains far less A1 beta-casein, the most inflammatory casein found in milk, and far more A2 beta-casein, the easier-to-digest form of casein.
Casein is one type of protein found in dairy, responsible for giving milk its white color. Different types of dairy have different types of casein, and other proteins like whey, in varying amounts. Each type of protein found in dairy affects our digestion differently (although some people are sensitive to all of it).
Not all types of dairy contain the same protein in the same amounts, and some who can’t tolerate cow dairy can eat sheep or goat with very little problems. Why?
It’s because the casein proteins in each kind of milk are different. The beta-casein in mammal milk has two variants, A1 and A2. However, A1 beta-casein is the only casein that creates beta-casomorphin-7, a naturally occurring opioid peptide and direct histamine releaser that can be a risk factor for heart disease, type 1 diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome. When breeds of cattle in a particular region don’t change for over 50 years, heart disease mortality rates have correlated with the consumption of A1 beta-casein.
Digestion of A1 beta-casein, at the least, can lead to some adverse gastrointestinal effects that resemble lactose intolerance. In one double-blind study, 45 subjects drank milk with both variants of casein, along with milk that only contained A2 beta-casein. Compared with milk containing only A2 β-casein, the consumption of milk containing both β-casein types was associated with significantly greater PD3 [post-dairy digestive discomfort] symptoms; higher concentrations of inflammation-related biomarkers and β-casomorphin-7; longer gastrointestinal transit times and lower levels of short-chain fatty acids; and increased response time and error rate on the SCIT. Consumption of milk containing both β-casein types was associated with worsening of PD3 symptoms relative to baseline in lactose tolerant and lactose intolerant subjects. Consumption of milk containing only A2 β-casein did not aggravate PD3 symptoms relative to baseline (i.e., after washout of dairy products) in lactose tolerant and intolerant subjects.
Is there casein in goat’s milk? Yes, there is, but not in the same form as cow dairy. Goat dairy contains much less or no A1 beta-casein; instead, it mostly contains the more easily digestible A2 beta-casein, which is a big part of the reason goat milk is believed to be healthier.