…there were pockets of extremely healthy, long-lived people scattered about the earth who used dairy products in various forms as the staple of their diets — further evidence that milk and its by-products were amongst the most healthful foods man has ever encountered.
-Tom Cowan, MD, Raw Milk
Do you ever wonder if weaned humans are supposed to drink milk? Or if we should even drink non-human milk at all? I used to.
All baby mammals produce the enzyme lactase, which is necessary to break down milk sugars, but the production of this enzyme declines or disappears after weaning. An estimated 30-40% of the world’s population produces the enzyme lactase in adulthood. That means that up 70% of people are lactose intolerant. It kind of makes you think that maybe we aren’t supposed to drink milk, right? At least not if we are one of the 60-70% that don’t produce lactase…right? Not necessarily so, and I’ll explain why this logic doesn’t work with raw milk.
Several years ago I read an article about the problems of pasteurized milk. Up until then, I thought that only a few people had problems with milk. I decided that milk was really an “optional” part of diet, since clearly not everyone could have it, and there were other ways to get the needed nutrients. I loved milk, hadn’t ever noticed problems with it (except for ice cream sometimes), so I kept drinking it. But when I became pregnant with my son, my belly expanded painfully whenever I had milk, and this clued me in that I was indeed intolerant of milk–I just had never noticed before. I started to restrict my dairy intake, but loved it too much to completely eliminate. At one time I noticed when I had too much dairy, I got brain fog. Another time I noticed my acne would flare up. Yet another time I noticed I felt the need to shower more when I had a lot of dairy. Dairy does not like me, I thought.
But I love dairy, and after reading about the benefits of raw dairy several months ago, I decided I was finally willing to pay the extra cost for it. And it’s a fairly hefty price tag compared to store-bought milk (perhaps due to the strict regulations on it?). For example, I was paying between $2.50 and $3 for store brand RBST-free milk and up to $5 a gallon for organic milk. I wasn’t willing to pay more than $5 a gallon for milk, and most the time I would get the $3 milk. Raw milk, on the other hand, goes for anywhere between $7 and $20 per gallon. Mine happens to be $9 a gallon, three times the price I was paying for store-bought milk, plus all the extra mileage to go out to the farm and get it (it’s not exactly just down the road like my grocery store). Husband wasn’t thrilled about my getting raw milk. In fact, he won’t drink it, I think because he thinks it costs too much (though I did the math, and it’s actually very cost-effective considering the nutrition it packs).
So why pay all the extra money and take all the extra time to get raw milk, instead of just dropping it from my diet? Milk may not be a superfood for everyone, but I believe it is for me. This may be due to my Northern European heritage and/or other factors. It is also extremely helpful in feeding my little boy a balanced diet, since he can’t have much fruit or vegetable (raw milk is his main source of enzymes). I’ll explain more about the benefits of raw milk below.
Problems with conventional milk
Now before you can say that you are one that cannot have milk, first consider a few things:
…the milk in your supermarket is bad for everybody, partly because the modern cow is a freak of nature. A century or two ago cows produced two or three gallons a day; today’s Holsteins routinely give three or four times as much. This is accomplished by selective breeding to produce cows with abnormally active pituitary glands and by high-protein feeding… Excessive pituitary hormones are also associated with tumor formation, and some studies link milk consumption with cancer. The freak-pituitary cow is prone to many diseases. She almost always secretes pus into her milk and needs frequent doses of antibiotics.
Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions
Is that not scary and disgusting? The hormones aren’t the only problem: Cows need to eat grass, but they are being fed soybean meal to increase milk production. Fallon suspects the abnormal protein diet may contribute the the milk protein allergies seen in people today. It also leads to terrible health problems in the cows, and a shorter life-span. Non-pastured cow milk also does not contain important nutrients like the Price Factor and CLA, and contains fewer vitamins and minerals.
Then there is pasteurization. Pasteurization is meant to kill harmful bacteria, but is also kills many many nutrients in milk. I would agree that it’s necessary when dealing with large factory farms, where farmers are unable or unwilling to follow the proper protocols for milking cows in a way that prevents contamination. However, pasteurized milk simply is not the same food as raw milk. It does take strict milking protocols to ensure that milk collected from a cow is clean, but if you take clean raw milk and clean pasteurized milk, and allowed a contaminant to get in, only raw milk has a way of defending itself from the invader.
Raw milk contains lactic-acid-producing bacteria that protect against pathogens. Pasteurization destroys these helpful organisms, leaving the finished product devoid of any protective mechanism should undesirable bacteria inadvertently contaminate the supply.
Heat alters the amino acids in milk making all of the proteins less available, promotes rancidity of unsaturated fats, slaughters vitamins by 50-80% (depending on the type of vitamin), and reduces the availability of the important minerals in milk. Raw milk comes ready with all the enzymes necessary to digest it: pasteurization destroys every last one. Lastly, conventional milk is then subjected to the completely unnecessary process of homogenation, which has been linked to heart disease. Some brands of milk are even further assaulted by treatment of chemicals (I knew some brands of milk tasted like chemicals!) and some have powdered milk added (powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol, which is harmful). All brands of commercial milk have synthetic vitamin D added–sometimes it’s vitamin D2, which is toxic (naturally sourced D3 is the only kind helpful to our bodies).
Needless to say, conventional milk is not very nourishing for anyone!
Why raw milk is better
Vitamins are intact, and minerals are bioavailable in raw milk
For some reason, Fallon doesn’t discuss the benefits of raw milk nearly as much as she talks about the wondrous benefits of butter. However, everything that’s in butter is in the butterfat of whole raw milk. Whole milk contains contains a plethora of nutrients: vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, K, and the minerals folate, calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, iodine and others. They are easily absorbed from raw milk.
All raw animal fats contain the Wulzen Factor, which prevents degenerative arthritis, hardening of arteries, cataracts, and calcification of the pineal gland. It is destroyed by heat, and therefore not present in pasteurized milk.
Raw milk contains it’s natural enzymes and probiotics
Raw milk contains many enzymes as well as probiotics. Both of these are beneficial to digestion and the probiotics prevent the milk from going bad. When soured or cultured, raw milk actually increases in nutritional value and becomes more digestible. Raw milk comes with various enzymes, including lactase which is needed to digest lactose. The probiotics in raw milk actually predigest lactose and casein (casein is a protein that humans have trouble digesting without the enzymes and probiotics in the raw form of milk). So if you are of the 60-70% of people who have an intolerance to lactose, you may be able to drink raw milk. If you don’t tolerate lactose or casein well at all, you may be able to have cultured milk products, such as yogurt, since the enzyme content of cultured dairy is increased, while the lactose and casein gets predigested by the probiotics. Unfortunately, if you have a true milk allergy, you might not be able to drink even raw milk:
While a valuable food, dairy products, raw or otherwise, are not everyone’s cup of tea. Milk allergies are very real and serious threats today- just ask any pediatrician. Barring the small percentage of folks allergic to all forms of the milk protein casein, you might be able to tolerate raw milk with its self-digesting food enzymes intact. Again, fermented dairy products may be better tolerated by some individuals.
Some people are probably allergic to milk simply because they consume the denatured, pasteurized form, in which case the allergy may be reversed. However, some milk allergies may be caused by other factors. Use caution if you are allergic to milk.
Type of cow matters
Many raw milk farmers understand that milk from Jersey, Asian, African or Guernsey (especially Guernsey) cows is the safest and most beneficial . This is partly because Holstein cows (and some other bovine breeds) have a genetic mutation that allow a small protein called BCM 7 to become liberated in the GI tract of animals and humans who drink their milk. (The cows with this genetic mutation are called A1.)
BCM 7 has been shown to cause neurological impairment in animals and people exposed to it, especially autistic and schizophrenic changes. BCM 7 interferes with the immune response, and injecting BCM 7 in animal models has been shown to provoke type 1 diabetes. [There is] research showing a direct correlation between a population’s exposure to A1 cow’s milk and incidence of autoimmune disease, heart disease, type 1 diabetes, autism, and schizophrenia.
BCM 7 isn’t a problem for everyone, but some individuals cannot efficiently get it out of their bodies, so it builds up and causes developmental delays in babies, and illness in people of all ages. It’s important to remember that BCM7 can come in either raw or pasteurized milk; it just happens that commercial dairy farmers generally use Holstein cows (A1 cows) because of their high yield, and most raw dairy farmers understand that A2 ( Asian, African, Jersey, Guernsey) milk is better. So when you choose raw, you are most likely also choosing A2 and avoiding BCM 7 (but I would ask your raw milk farmer just to be sure).
Raising method matters
The best quality milk comes from cows allowed to feed on pastures, especially the fast growing grass of spring and fall. Hay is fine when the grass isn’t growing enough, such as in winter. Cows raised in confinement and fed animal feeds that contain grain do not produce good quality milk. It will have fewer nutrients and may be lacking entirely of some nutrients such as the Price Factor (discovered and named “Activator X” by Weston Price which is now believed to be vitamin K2) which acts as a catalyst in absorbing vitamins A and D. Pastured cows are also much healthier, as they are eating their natural diet, being allowed to exercise, and not being crammed into close quarters with too many other cows (and the waste they produce) which encourages the spread of disease. Naturally, healthier cows produce safer, more nutritious milk.
Milking protocols matter
It’s extremely important to buy raw milk from a farmer that practices strict milking protocols to avoid contamination of the milk. I will be writing more about this later.
It’s a real food
Raw milk is completely natural, and if it comes from the right kind of properly raised cow, and is handled properly, it’s completely safe. We all have different bodies, so milk may not be an excellent food for everyone, but for those whose bodies do like milk, it’s amazing. It contains digestible protein, nutrient-rich fat, and healthy carbohydrates at a very balanced ratio. It has enough nutrients that one could almost live off of it alone–in fact, one group of traditional people, called the Masai, do live off of mostly dairy.
I used to wonder if it was true that weaned humans should not consume milk, and that no humans should consume the milk of another animal, which is a belief held by some natural health gurus. One can philosophize for or against this idea, but the fact is that many of the healthy traditional groups of people that Weston Price studied did consume dairy, and it was evident that doing so contributed to their good health.
It’s more than just a food
The 60 or so enzymes in raw milk are very beneficial for our digestion. Most Americans do not get enough enzymes in their food, and we need to consume enzymes with every meal for optimum digestion. When we don’t consume enough enzymes it taxes our body, which can only make so much of its own enzymes. Enzymes are absolutely essential for breaking down food. Because there are such a variety of enzymes in milk, it can truly help heal digestive issues. The probiotics also help improve digestion. It can help the whole digestive tract, including bowel movements.
There are many raw milk advocates that say raw milk promotes healthy teeth, including Weston Price (the dentist/scientist who studied isolated groups of people in order to discover the cause of tooth decay), Ramiel Nagel (author of Cure Tooth Decay), and many raw milk consumers who have never had any cavities. People who switch to raw milk have noticed their teeth becoming stronger, even stopping cavities and having their teeth remineralize. It is believed to promote healthy skin, and that switching to raw may clear up eczema . Some studies suggest it may prevent asthma or help with seasonal allergies.
Raw milk has been used as a therapy in folk medicine — and even in the Mayo Clinic — for centuries. It has been used in the pre-insulin days to treat diabetes (I’ve tried it — it works), as well as eczema, intestinal worms, allergies, and arthritis, all for reasons which can be understood when we realize just what is in milk — such as the cortisone-like factor for allergies and eczema.
-Tom Cowan, Raw Milk
Just imagine, you could avoid having your teeth drilled or taking various medications or supplements just because you drink good old-fashioned raw milk. When milk is part of a balanced, whole foods diet, it may help thwart common modern-day ailments:
In these experiments Dr. Pottenger fed one group of cats a diet consisting of raw milk, raw meat and cod liver oil. Other groups were given pasteurized milk, evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk instead of raw milk. … Those that ate raw milk and raw meat did well and lived long, happy, active lives free of any signs of degenerative disease. Those cats on pasteurized milk suffered from acute illnesses (vomiting, diarrhea) and succumbed to every degenerative disease now flourishing in our population, even though they were also getting raw meat and cod liver oil. By the 3rd generation a vast majority of the cats were infertile and exhibited “anti-social” behavior — in short, they were like modern Americans.
Scientists are discovering the many powerful healing properties of human breastmilk. Turns out that bovine milk also has healing properties, which were known in the early 1900’s, maybe even earlier. Back then, a protocol called the “milk cure” was practiced:
When sick people are limited to a diet containing an excess of vitamins and all the elements necessary to growth and maintenance, which are available in milk, they recover rapidly without the use of drugs and without bringing to bear all the complicated weapons of modern medicine.
…The results have been so regularly satisfactory that I have naturally become enthusiastic and interested in this method of treating disease. We used good Guernsey milk…
…The improvement in tuberculosis or nephritis is equally interesting but there is no similarity in these diseases. I once heard a very distinguished medical man discussing a case of psoriasis. He said, “This was the worst case of psoriasis I have ever seen. This boy was literally covered from head to foot with scales. We put this boy on a milk diet and in less than a month he had a skin like a baby’s.”
The colostrum of bovine milk has some interesting properties you can read about here.
…helps to restore and reset the immune system, speeds healing of surgical wounds, burns, and skin injuries, alleviates asthma and other inflammatory diseases, boosts athletic performance and protects against numerous disease-causing pathogens.
If you are knowledgeable about breastfeeding, you probably know that breastfeeding a baby is the best way to protect it from disease. If the mother has an illness such as the cold or flu, her body will make antibodies in her milk which pass to the baby. If it’s the baby that is sick, the contact of the baby’s mouth on the mother’s nipple also encourages production of antibodies in her milk. Apparently cows work the same way:
As if colostrum’s healing powers weren’t amazing enough, nature takes things one giant step further. It turns out, the cow’s udder is, for want of a better comparison, an honest-to-gosh biochemical laboratory! Researchers discovered that injecting a pregnant cow’s udder with pathogens or allergens caused the manufacture of antibodies to those substances which were then expressed in her colostrum, creating what’s known as immune milk or hyperimmune bovine colostrum.
Think of it. We have the technology to make a customized injectable vaccine that is completely safe and free of side effects, that is so inexpensive to manufacture it could be available to all, that jump starts the immune system and protects against bacteria, viruses, protozoans, fungi and allergens, and that is backed up by numerous studies attesting to its safety and efficacy. One’s heart must ache at the thought of all the unnecessary suffering caused by the suppression of this amazing substance.
Apparently creating “immune milk” for humans is illegal in the United States. Surprised? Neither am I.
But do you need dairy?
Based on what I’ve learned about food, and what I’ve read in Nourishing Traditions, the only food we truly need is animals (especially for the protein and fat, but organs and bones are also fantastic for us). The amount of animal we need to eat depends on our constitution and what else we eat. A person could eat just animals, as long as he was sure to eat the organs, bone marrow, and consume bone broth. Or a person can eat a varied diet, including fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fermented grains, in addition to smaller amounts of animal flesh. The nutrients found in these varied foods can also be found in raw animal meat, organs, fat, and bones. Some people seem to even thrive on just raw vegetable matter, although it’s up for debate whether that can be sustained long term.
But what of dairy? Dairy contains many valuable nutrients, and it’s one of the two sources of calcium that are most bioavailable to humans. The other one is bones. So if you aren’t going to consume dairy, you would be wise to consume plenty of bone broth. Butterfat is also an important source of vitamins A, D, and K. There are other ways to get these nutrients, but consuming plenty of butter or drinking whole raw milk is a really easy way to get them, especially for Americans. If you can’t or don’t want to consume dairy, not even butter, then I recommend looking into a paleo diet, as I really can’t tell you exactly how to fulfill all nutritional requirements without dairy.
How to best consume dairy
Obviously, the first thing you want to do is make sure it’s raw. It would be better to switch to a paleo diet than to consume conventional milk. Cultured pasteurized dairy may be acceptable, because the probiotics increase it’s nutritional value.
Secondly, you want to make sure it’s whole. Skim milk may still have calcium and protein, but it’s completely lacking in the most nutritional part of milk–the butterfat! Drink whole milk, and eat plenty of butter and cream. If you really feel like you need to throw out part of your milk, make sure it’s the skim part, not the fat. (You can clabber the skim milk and give it to your chickens for protein, if you want). If you have fat phobia like many Americans do, I will calm your fears by assuring you that the USDA highly underestimates our need for fat, especially saturated fat, and overestimates our need for carbohydrates. Also, the fat from pastured animals is very, very good for you.
Next, you should consider culturing your dairy, especially if you have issues with casein or lactose. I can drink it fresh from the cow without any problem, so I don’t consider culturing necessary. However, culturing does increase its nutritional content, pretty much turning it into a superfood (as if it wasn’t already super with all its healing properties). Culturing increases enzymes and probiotics, as well as other nutrients. Americans need to consume more foods with high enzyme content as well as probiotics. Pasteurized cultured dairy does not usually contain enzymes (especially not the 60 or so found in raw milk), but it does contain probiotics. Since probiotics are seriously lacking in the American diet, it would be better to have cultured pasteurized dairy, such as yogurt or kefir, than to have no probiotic foods at all; but of course, raw cultured dairy is king.
Raw milk is my hero
Raw milk is my enzymes. Sometimes I still take my enzyme supplement because my digestion is so weak, but having milk with all my meals helps a lot. I struggle with getting fresh produce into every single meal, but since I love milk, it’s easy just to have a glass. It’s also my probiotic, along with my store-bought Greek yogurt that I can’t seem to give up (it’s SO good). Sometimes I drink a glass of milk when my energy is low or I feel hungry for a snack but I don’t know what, or I finished a meal and feel like I still need a little something–it’s got so many nutrients and such a good balance of macronutrients, that it’s bound to cover whatever my body needs. It is also great for helping my little three year old eat in a balanced way.
When I started to drink raw milk only about five or six months ago, I secretly hoped it would work wonders for me. Well, not really. I was realistic enough to know I needed to make a lot of changes, not just one. However, I could tell a difference right away from the milk. My digestion was better, I had a little more energy, and I just felt more alive. Raw milk does not give me the problems that pasteurized milk does. My seasonal allergies disappeared over the summer. Yes, as far as I can tell, my hay fever is essentially cured; if you suffer from seasonal allergies, you know how HUGE this is! Apparently it’s really good for kidneys, too…I’m seriously thinking I should be drinking more of this stuff.