If you have been following PCOS Diva for a while, then you know that I advocate a low dairy or dairy-free lifestyle. You can read my post about dairy here. I have invited Dr. Lara Briden to share more information about casomorphins and dairy. I hear from many PCOS Divas who are “addicted to cheese.” They can give up the milk and ice cream but, cheese is so alluring. I think you will find this information fascinating. Now you’ll know why it is so difficult to give up cheese.
Guest Post by Dr. Lara Briden, ND
For some of you, dairy is inflammatory, and a big problem for PCOS. For a lucky few of you, organic dairy is probably OK.
The problem with dairy is not the lactose, or the fat. The problem is a protein called A1 casein. When A1 casein hits your digestion, a part of it breaks off to become casomorphin or BCM7. Casomorphin is an opiate, just like morphine is an opiate, or codeine. Casomorphin is a drug, which is why it causes brain-fog in some people, and why so many people crave dairy.
There’s more to casomorphin than its sedative effect. Casomorphin also causes inflammation, and inflammation is exactly what you don’t want when you have PCOS. Inflammation impairs insulin sensitivity, and damages the hormone-signalling of ovulation. Inflammation also makes hormone receptors overly sensitive to androgens like testosterone.
Here is where it gets interesting. Some people digest and excrete casomorphin before it enters their blood stream. Those lucky people don’t suffer the inflammation of casomorphin, and can enjoy organic dairy as a healthy food. The rest of us need to get casomorphin out of our diet.
How do you know if casomorphin is a problem for you?
In theory, you could test BCM7 in your urine, but – as of yet- that test is not widely available. Another way to detect a casomorphin problem is to look for symptom clues:
- Did you suffer recurring tonsillitis or ear infections when you were a kid?
- Do you suffer chronic hayfever or sinus now?
- Do you crave dairy?
If you answered yes to any or all of these problems, then you probably have a casomorphin problem.
Not all cows produce A1 Casein
A1 casein is present in the milk from Holstein cows, which are the predominant dairy herds in USA, Canada, Australia, and the UK. A different type of casein – called A2 casein – does not form casomorphin BCM7, and does not cause inflammation. The milks of Jersey cows, goats and sheep, are predominantly A2, and are fine for most people. Cheeses like Ricotta are ok, because they are mostly whey protein. Butter is Ok because it is mostly fat.
I switch many (not all) of my PCOS patients to Jersey, goat or sheep dairy, and they do very well. The first thing to improve is their acne, usually within a few weeks.
Other PCOS symptoms also improve off A1 dairy, but they take a little longer, usually 3-4 months. In fact, any good treatment for PCOS takes 3-4 months because that is how long it takes for a follicle to develop all the way to ovulation. It’s a 100 day journey to ovulation, and the journey cannot start until inflammation ends.
Anti-Inflammatory approach for PCOS
After 18 years of treating PCOS, I am convinced that inflammation is the major underlying cause for many types of PCOS. It is not the cause for every type. Some types of PCOS are caused by post-Pill syndrome. Some types are caused by leptin or a thyroid problem. In my clinic, I use blood tests to differentiate types of PCOS, and inflammation is one of the things that I measure.
Going forward with an anti-inflammatory approach, it is important to understand that A1 casein is just one source of inflammation. Inflammation also comes from gluten, sugar, environmental toxins, and intestinal permeability (leaky gut). Intestinal permeability is usually the result of antibiotics and/or the birth control pill.
Lara Briden is a Naturopathic Doctor with a busy women’s health practice in Sydney, Australia. She has a strong science background, and worked as an evolutionary biologist before qualifying as a Naturopathic Doctor from Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto in 1997.
Over the last 2 decades, thousands of women have entrusted Lara with their thyroid disease, PCOS and other hormonal conditions. She is incredibly grateful for that clinical experience because it has taught her which natural treatments actually work for PCOS and other hormonal conditions.
Lara is passionate about helping women to reclaim their hormonal health. She blogs her ‘Search for Truth in Natural Medicine’ at Lara Briden’s Healthy Hormone Blog (http://www.larabriden.com/). Her new book Period Repair Manual is now available. Lara lives in Sydney with her husband and stepdaughter.