Did you know that dairy may not be bad for you after all? The topic of milk is a tough one because there is a lot of confusion about what it does to the body. This can be a problem for some seeking to improve their health, because who are you going to believe? Who CAN you believe? Let us look at this topic logically for a moment.
I was once provided an article by Arjun Walia, titled “Milk Does Not Do A Body Good” (Walia, 2014). This article attempted to paint the picture that milk is evil. It talked about an increase in mortality rates for certain individuals, increased risk of fractures for certain women, the increasing percentage of people who have a reduced ability to digest milk, and so on. Then the article concluded by providing a small list of alternative foods rich with calcium, as though that were the only reason one might consume milk.
The problem with that article (and many like it) is that it does not address some of the underlying issues surrounding the milk supply itself or the policies that caused it. Because of this omission of information, it seems that people are more likely to become further confused about the health pros or cons regarding milk.
I want you to understand that this article is not meant to sell you one way or the other. Whether or not you drink milk does not concern me in the slightest. My intent in writing this article is to merely balance the heavily biased article by Arjun, which I believe to be flawed.
There are a few things to consider when it comes to milk, and none of these considerations were addressed in Arjun’s article. Simply spouting off a study that found a few bad things in a certain group of people is not enough and can be dangerous for the consumer. After all, we make decisions based on information. Unfortunately, so many times, people make decisions based on just a little information that is sold and packaged as a lot, even though the information provided may or may not pertain to that individual.
So let me also take a moment to point out that the article does not address the effects of processing the milk. For that matter, it also does not talk about the differences between raw, pasteurized, or homogenized milk, let alone any potential benefit of one type over the other. It has also omitted the proven benefits of milk, while at the same time, making some highly illogical claims – which I will get to shortly – and selling the position based on a small study and some talking points. You would think it could have at least mentioned antibiotic residue in the milk supply and its role in digestive issues, but that would have probably led to the discovery of raw milk and its role in digestion issue correction.
Regardless, the article makes the outrageous claim that “In fact, we are the only species on Earth that consumes the milk of another animal.” I am sorry, friends, but that is not a fact at all. On the contrary… that statement is completely and utterly false. What we are is the only animal capable of milking other animals in a production setting.
How often have we seen orphaned baby animals that are fortunate enough to find an adoptive and lactating “mother” that will nurse as much as possible? And what about the obvious example of adult cats, dogs, goats, ducks, etc., who when given an opportunity to consume REAL milk, will do so without a second thought, and do so as though you are giving them the nectar of the Gods?
When you think about it that way, you could also address the idea that we are also the only species capable of making alcohol. Still, we know that animals that can get their hands on some fermented fruit will consume it to inebriation. Similarly, humans are the only species that can cultivate gardens, too, so are we to believe that root veggies are unhealthy as well? That element of the debate is asinine and easily overcome with a little thought.
It seems to me that the milk debate should depend entirely on the TYPE of milk being discussed. I agree that milk (as sold in most stores) is bad for most people, but that is only because the vast majority of the milk sold in stores is homogenized; I would not drink it either. But does having homogenized milk in abundance mean that all milk is bad, or does that mean that people have just been making bad decisions? To answer this question, we need to discuss what the options are.
There are plenty of options, actually. There are basically three types of milk: Raw, Pasteurized, and Homogenized. True, there are mixtures as well. For instance, there is homogenized milk that has also been pasteurized. Of course, there are also different levels of pasteurization, from flash-pasteurized to ultra-pasteurized.
Pasteurization is the partial sterilization of milk. This is achieved by boiling the milk at a high temperature over a period of time in an effort to destroy objectionable organisms. The only problem is that pasteurization hurts your milk. It also destroys essential vitamins. Ultimately, this process can actually interfere with calcium absorption. So logically, pasteurized milk may not be the best choice for you, especially if you are consuming it for the vitamins and/or calcium. Some kinds of milk are vitamin enriched because of this process.
Homogenization is a much more involved process. It is my opinion that milk is simply not “milk” any longer after going through this process. There is actually a lot to this process, but I will focus on one part in particular (though I would encourage you to look this process up for yourself). Basically, they break down the fat globules so that they stay integrated rather than separating as cream. The problem here is that this also makes the fat molecules much smaller. They become “capsules” for substances that can bypass digestion, including the antibiotic residue, hormones, and proteins. So basically (and for instance), proteins that would normally be digested in the stomach are not broken down and are instead absorbed right into the bloodstream.
For those of you who might not be biology majors, you should know that the body can react negatively to having foreign proteins mainlined into the bloodstream, often by producing histamines and then mucus. This is more often than not recognized as “intolerance.” So think about it; we see substantial increases in milk intolerance, and the vast majority of the milk being consumed is the type of milk that will produce these effects. It seems simple. This does not mean that the milk is bad for you. This means that the process you just put the milk through might not be the best one.
Still, for thousands of years, consuming milk was not an issue, and with raw milk, it is still not. This is because raw milk has long been considered a “perfect food.” Raw milk comes from the animal and is put into a bottle or directly into the mouth. If left out, it separates, provides cream and all sorts of great treats. I find this ironic because it is unlawful in many places to purchase raw milk; because evidently, about 1 in 6 million people might get sick from contamination. This stat may sound high, but considering that 1 in 6 (six) people get food poisoning each year (CDC, 2016), it is really not that big of a deal at all.
Furthermore, when you consider what we get from raw milk, you really have to ask yourself how this debate ever started. Think about it; cheese, butter, cream, yogurt, kefir; all things generally considered “healthy.” So what happened?
And let me be clear; I drink milk on occasion, but I do not drink homogenized milk, and I do not drink milk specifically for calcium or vitamin D. Instead, I drink milk for the essential fatty acids. The raw milk – and to some degree, even flash pasteurized milk – that I buy usually comes from cows that graze on grass. Evidence suggests that milk from these cows has higher levels of fat-soluble vitamins and higher conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and essential fatty acids (Daley, Abbott, Doyle, Nader & Larson, 2010). In laymen’s terms, this is brain food.
Also, (regarding the intolerance of milk) many people experience digestive and other problems when they consume some pasteurized or homogenized milk. Still, they do not seem to have trouble with raw milk. This is because the necessary enzymes are intact and are not destroyed via pasteurization or homogenization.
In my humble opinion, we could have the same debate with ANY type of food really. REAL veggies vs. GMO veggies. REAL meat vs. hormone laced meat. REAL milk vs. tampered. No one wants to consume something fake, dead, or super processed.
But sometimes observation is the best teacher. You could put out a glass of all three types of milk and let them sit for a week past their due dates, and one will smell like putrid death, one will smell somewhat bad, and one will smell kind of sweet. Do a smell test yourself and then decide which you would be okay with consuming.
Since the article in question decided to blast everyone with a study highlighting a specific negative, let me provide a study from the very same US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health with a general positive.
“There is substantial epidemiological evidence from studies in Europe that consumption of RAW MILK may protect against asthma, allergies, and other immune-mediated diseases. A large cross-sectional study demonstrated a significant inverse association between “farm milk” consumption and asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, sensitization to pollen and other allergens” (Waser, 2007).
It gets better, though. Some research also suggests that unpasteurized milk contains antimicrobial components absent in pasteurized milk (Marek, 2004) (M P Doyle & Roman, 1982). The point is that the debate may not be as simple as what some have made it out to be, but nature seems to have been right once again.
All that being said, I generally agree that dairy should probably not be a huge part of your diet. However, it should not be demonized and completely removed. For me, I consume real butter, real kefir, real cheeses, real yogurt, and so on.
I do not get “low fat” anything, and I try to ensure that “live cultures” are present. Ironically, even some of the dedicated Paleo-Diet gurus can agree on the benefit of live cultures. This is because they are necessary. Finally, when I buy milk, I purchase whole milk or raw milk, and I do my best to avoid anything homogenized. Put good in; get good out—simple stuff.
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This article was originally published as a chapter in the book Natural Health Made Easy: The Briobiotic Protocol (2016)
Dr. Robertson is a health researcher and educator, not a physician. The information provided here is not medical advice, a professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment, or service to you or any other individual. The information provided is for educational and anecdotal purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation, or the advice of your physician or other healthcare providers. Dr. Robertson is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or additional information, services, or product you obtain or utilize. IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY, YOU SHOULD IMMEDIATELY CALL 911 OR YOUR PHYSICIAN.