Milk--one of the most controversial topics in the health food world. Some "experts" recommend raw milk, some adamantly warn of the dangers of it, and some say milk is only for babies. So what's a person to do?
I guess no single answer will be right for everyone. And while my answer may seem biased to some, it's important to remember that I have been on both sides of the issue. Six years ago, I was scared out of my wits to go near raw milk. But being the info-digging journalist that I am, I had to research it myself. There are many factors to consider on this topic, so let's go through some of them together. That way, everyone can make a decision for themselves based on what's best for them.
To begin with, we can start by first asking whether or not we think it's important to try and revert back to God's original design for our food. Do we trust that God's design is better than anything Man can design? If not, then I I think the decision would end here and leave the milk for babies, or drink milk that humans and factories have tampered with.
However, if we are to look to God for wisdom and instruction on this topic, we must go to His Word. This is the basis for and foundation of Healthy Families for God. So what does God say about milk?
Did you know that the Bible references milk over 50 times in the Old Testament, and every time it refers to spiritual blessing?
"On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands." Ezekial 20:6
“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit." Numbers 13:27
But what kind of milk was it? Some will say that the milk in Old Testament days was a nut milk such as almond milk. So, let's look at some more verses:
"The men did so, and took two milk cows and yoked them to the cart and shut up their calves at home." 1 Samuel 6:10
"Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate." Genesis 18:8
"For as churning milk produces curds/butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife." Proverbs 30:33 (You cannot get curds from non-animal milks.)
"There will be enough goats' milk for your food, for the food of your household and maintenance for your girls." Proverbs 27:27
"In that day, a person will keep alive a young cow and two goats. 22 And because of the abundance of the milk they give, there will be curds to eat." Isaiah 7:21
I think it's safe to say that these references to milk were for milk from animals such as cows and goats.
Did you also know that Abraham was from a pastorate tribe who traveled with the growing seasons to allow animals to graze, making milk one of the main (and often only) sources of nutrition? (The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid, ND)
Finally, did you know that one of the prophet Isaiah's prophecies about Jesus as a child discussed him eating/drinking milk (or milk product) and honey?
"He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right..."(Isaiah 7:15)
Unfortunately, aside from what the Bible says about milk, dairy in general has gotten a lot of bad attention lately. In the health world, many experts continue to preach that milk is food designed only for babies. Is this true?
For one thing, did you know that a cow raised naturally without hormones to unnaturally increase its production will produce about 4 gallons of milk per day? And do you know how much a calf drinks? 1 gallon. Could God have designed it this way to provide food for people?
But many people have thrived for centuries without milk, right?
"Yes, many cultures have prospered without milk. But these cultures obtain the nutrients concentrated in milk from edibles that rarely appeal to western palates, such as organ meats, blubber, raw seafood and insects; or that are time-consuming to prepare such as bone broths.
Non-milk-drinking peoples put a high value on guts and grease, foods that modern children often refuse to eat. But few youngsters need coaxing to drink delicious whole raw milk--which is rich in the very same critical nutrients that traditional peoples found in animal organs, animal fats and bones.
Raw milk provides the welcome answer to modern parents, desperate to get quality nutrients into their finicky young eaters..." Sally Fallon, Preface to "The Untold Truth About Milk"
If you still think milk is for babies, I challenge you to read on and see if you struggle with any of the health problems below, such as B-vitamin deficiency or difficult digestion due to lack of enzymes and probiotics. Milk can be an amazing source of so many nutrients that most Americans desperately need.
Fresh Unprocessed vs. Pasteurized/Homogenized
Considering some nutritional facts, it becomes clear to me that God would not promise a land flowing with milk and honey if that milk was pasteurized and processed the way milk is today. Many studies have linked consumption of pasteurized milk with:
Lactose intolerance Allergies Asthma Frequent ear infections Gastro-Intestinal problems Diabetes Auto-Immune disease Attention deficit disorder and Constipation
In fact, many people experience a regression of these health problems simply by avoiding pasteurized dairy products. The pasteurization process completely alters the protein to one that is highly allergenic. Studies prove that the alteration of milk proteins renders it more allergenic.
During a period of rapid population growth, the market for fluid pasteurized milk has declined at 1% per year for the past 20 years because fewer and fewer consumers can tolerate pasteurized (and ultrapasteurized) milk. (Don't Drink Your Milk, Frank Oski, MD, 1983).
Most babies and children begin to have chronic ear infections upon introduction of pasteurized milk. Instead of doctors recommending that parents remove pasteurized dairy, they continue to prescribe gut-destroying antibiotics and eventually surgery.
Did you know that the pasteurization process can actually further the chances of osteoporosis?
Pasteurization destroys all the enzymes in milk— in fact, the test for successful pasteurization is absence of enzymes. These enzymes help the body assimilate all bodybuilding factors, including calcium. That is why those who drink pasteurized milk may suffer, nevertheless, from osteoporosis. (Sally Fallon & Mary G. Enig PhD)
Apart from the calcium and enzyme loss, pasteurization destroys other essential nutrients.
Heat alters milk's amino acids lysine and tyrosine, making the whole complex of proteins less available; it promotes rancidity of unsaturated fatty acids and destruction of vitamins. Vitamin C loss in pasteurization usually exceeds 50%; loss of other water-soluble vitamins can run as high as 80%; the Wulzen or anti-stiffness factor is totally destroyed. Pasteurization alters milk's mineral components such as calcium, chlorine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and sulphur as well as many trace minerals, making them less available. There is some evidence that pasteurization alters lactose, making it more readily absorbable. This, and the fact that pasteurized milk puts an unnecessary strain on the pancreas to produce digestive enzymes, may explain why milk consumption in civilized societies has been linked with diabetes. (Sally Fallon & Mary G. Enig PhD)
Calves fed pasteurized dairy develop very poorly and often die before maturity. (A 90-year old dairy farmer with 70+ years of experience told me this, as well as other sources.)
The effect of pasteurization on milk's B-vitamin status is unfortunate as well: B6 deficiencies are widespread in America and contribute to carpal tunnel, infertility, PMS, morning sickness, toxemia in pregnancy, and more. The main source of this crucial vitamin is found only in raw milk--pasteurization destroys it. B6 from raw milk has also been proven to be highly effective in preventing blindness in diabetics.
The homogenization process and its health implications are highly controversial and have been for decades. In the 1970's, experts proposed that this unnatural process of forcing fat globules to be evenly dispersed throughout the milk so that the cream does not rise was contributing to heart disease. While the results about its contribution to heart disease are contradictory, we do know for sure that this process makes dairy much more allergenic:
"Homogenisation may similarly effect the way in which the human immune system interacts with cows' milk proteins in the gastrointestinal tract, and suggest that milk processing may be an important variable to consider in studies of human allergy to cows' milk proteins." (2010 Food & Agricultural Immunology, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09540109999771)
A study published in the medical journal Allergy discovered that any alteration, both pasteurization and homogenization, make dairy more allergenic, with each of these processes elevating the allergenic response individually and even more so collectively. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1398-9995.1988.tb00404.x/abstract
Drugs In Milk
Growth hormones are another big problem with conventional dairy products. Growth hormones, a synthetic form of a naturally-occurring hormone created by Monsanto, (rBGH/rBST) have been directly linked to breast and colon cancer.
Farmers use these synthetic hormones to increase milk production. Unfortunately, this also largely increases a cow's risk of getting mastitis. When this happens, not only will the cow be given antibiotics which are then in the milk, but the infected cow's milk will also contain pus. Processors must remove pus through a process called centrifugal clarification, adding one more step to the processing of conventional milk.
European nations and Canada have banned rBGH to protect citizens from health hazards and do not allow importation of conventional American dairy products with these hormones.
(For more information on Monsanto and genetically-modified foods and other creations, read my article about all of their chemical contributions to our environment here.)
Milk from dairy cows in conventional factory farms are often fed an unnatural diet of grain, namely corn. Because their stomachs were meant to digest grasses, the consumption of grains promotes the proliferation of dangerous bacteria. (This is why E.coli incidences are much more prevalent in conventional beef than grass-fed beef.)
To make matters even worse, 70% of the corn consumed by either people or animals is genetically modified (see earlier reference to Monsanto). GMO corn has been shown to cause or promote health problems such as food allergies, infertility, miscarriage, birth defects, and cancer.
While most Americans consume fractioned milk, such as skim, 1%, or 2% milk, in an attempt to prevent unnecessary weight gain, the opposite is actually happening. This belief is rooted in a very illogical and false belief that fat makes us fat. Fat, in fact, helps slow down the absorption of sugars (including milk sugars) into our bodies.
These fractioned milks have the added problem of containing dried nonfat milk which in animal studies, oxidized cholesterol triggers a host of biological changes, leading to plaque formation in the arteries and heart disease. Spanish researchers reported in 1996 that these changes also make the oxidizied cholesterol mutagenic and carcinogenic.
Pasteurized, homogenized and often fractioned milk from cows loaded with drugs is neither health-promoting nor safe. Fortunately, this kind of milk is not our only option. There are many forms of milk--fresh, unprocessed milk from animals raised the way God intended (fed on pasture, not given medications, etc.), store-bought milk from factory-farmed animals (fed on corn and raised in unnatural and dangerous conditions, given growth hormones which stimulate many cases of mastitis requiring many more medications. . . .), store-bought organic milk, and a few forms in between.
Just like God's original Word had 3 different words for our one word "love," we should have different words for the one word "milk." Now that we can see what happens to the nutritional value of milk when it is processed, let's look at another choice--fresh, unprocessed milk from animals raised naturally:
Health Benefits of Unprocessed Milk
Milk from cows, goats, and other animals raised on pasture the way they were originally designed to be raised provide milk and meat with amazing nutrients, many of which are lacking in today's diet. Unprocessed milk provides many of those benefits, including more than can be offered by eating meat because some of the nutrients are destroyed by cooking/heat (as described earlier regarding the pasteurization process).
For instance, we have learned that the pasteurization process destroys some or all of the valuable vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, and the B-vitamins with the main one being B6 (Pyridoxine).
Another critical nutrient for adrenal function is vitamin B6, which participates in carbohydrate metabolism and glucocoricoid regulation. Animal products are the richest source of vitamin B6. This water-soluble nutrient is very heat sensitive and thus is primarily available through unheated animal foods. Dr. Tom Cowan
B6 is important because, as we learned earlier, it plays a huge role in maintaining estrogen balance. At least 90% of my clients have estrogen dominance, a hormonal imbalance that creates many health problems as a result of having too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. Fresh, unprocessed milk from naturally-raised animals is one of the few sources of vitamin B6 left in our food supply.
This is just one of the many benefits of this amazing vitamin. B6 is essential for all stages of protein and amino acid metabolism, and in making hemoglobin. Rather than drinking protein shakes, those wanting to build and tone muscles would be better off drinking raw milk. According to Dr. Michael Colgan:
You cannot get toned and slim, nor put on a molecule of muscle, without sufficient pyridoxine.
The crucial nutrients, including protein and fat-soluble vitamins, was well known for thousands of years in primitive groups of people around the world. From Switzerland to Africa, ancient wisdom taught them that a woman of childbearing age must consume fresh whole raw milk from cows grazing the rapidly-growing spring/summer grass in order to have a healthy pregnancy and successful lactation period.
"Among the primitive Masai in certain districts of Africa, the girls were required to wait for marriage until the time of the year when the cows were on the rapidly growing young grass and to use the milk from these cows for a certain number of months before they could be married. It is their belief and practice that by the use of fresh grass milk for three moons, they will prepare their bodies for marriage and reproduction." Weston A. Price, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration
To that extent, some women today are regaining this wisdom and are finding a large glass of this fresh vitamin-rich drink to cure inadequate breastmilk supply overnight.
As we can see from the information in the rest of this article, many of those nutrients are lost and/or unnaturally distorted when exposed to the heat for pasteurization processes.
Most importantly, unprocessed milk contains the necessary beneficial bacteria/probiotics and enzymes for proper digestion. These both are destroyed by heat but coincidentally are crucial for digesting the other things in milk. This is why formula-fed babies (milk in formula is heat-treated at least a couple times) have such a difficult time with digestion.
The presence of the naturally-occurring enzyme in unheated milk is the reason why many people who have difficulty with pasteurized milk are often able to drink unprocessed milk.
These probiotics and enzymes don't just help us digest milk. They help keep our entire GI system functioning and digesting other foods well. (For my post on how essential probiotics are to our lives and how a deficiency of them is the cause of so many health problems, go here.)
With the enzyme properties intact, unprocessed milk also becomes a great source of calcium. As we discussed earlier, the pasteurization process can actually lead to osteoporosis since it no longer contains the necessary combinations of enzymes and vitamins to absorb the calcium.
All of these factors combine to avoid the nutrient deficiencies and altered proteins that can cause or exacerbate the many health conditions listed above.
The absorption and availability of these unaltered nutrients create the amazing, complicated design of this almost perfect food God designed for us.
In fact, raw milk has even been proven to reduce the incidence of asthma and seasonal allergies. According to a study published in 2011 in the Clinical & Experimental Allergy journal:
"There is a growing body of epidemiological evidence suggesting that consumption of unprocessed cow's milk does not increase but rather decreases the risk of asthma, hay fever and atopic sensitisation." http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2222.2010.03665.x/abstract?userIsAuthenticated=false&deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=
Unfortunately, these benefits are lost in store-bought organic milk as well due to the pasteurization, homogenization, and sometimes fractioned milk processes.
But Raw Milk Is Dangerous!
We've discussed how pasteurization and homogenization is harmful to our health. After seeing the scientific/medical evidence showing how dangerous pasteurized, homogenized milk is for our health, we can choose to continue that risk or look for a safer alternative. So could unprocessed milk actually be a "safer" alternative?!
Before we can even discuss whether unprocessed milk is safe or dangerous, we must first look at the beginnings of pasteurization:
As big city living began to replace more rural lifestyles in the 1800’s, cows were taken off their natural pasture land and corralled in inner city pens where they were given grain feed. Since the war of 1812 cut off the supply of whiskey from the West Indies, grain distilleries were built which produced a grain byproduct that could cheaply be fed to cows. This produced inferior quality milk which, combined with the filthy crowded conditions in which the cows were forced to live, created dairy products that were deficient in nutrients and laden with disease-causing microbes. Impure water and poor sanitation added to this bleak situation and tuberculosis reached epidemic levels. The infant mortality rate rose dramatically during the next several years, and it was thought that the milk was largely to blame. It seemed that pasteurization, a process by which the milk is heated to at least 161 degrees to kill pathogens, was the answer.
However, for awhile, some doctors fought to make certified raw healthy pasture-fed dairy available. Unfortunately, in spite of a study that showed that children fed raw milk had more resistance to TB and less tooth decay than children fed pasteurized milk (Lancet, 1937), pasteurization of all dairy became mandatory in most states by the 1930’s.
In fact, up until the early 1900's, even the Mayo Clinic successfully used raw milk as therapy nutrition for disease-inflicted patients.
It's interesting to note that the tests conducted on "raw milk" to prove that it is high in dangerous pathogens were done on milk from factory-raised cows in unnatural conditions, milk that was only destined (and only safe) to be consumed after pasteurization. Bacterial counts on milk from cows (and goats) raised the way God intended reveal a much different story. The farms that I have visited and purchased milk from in my state freely offer printouts of their bacterial counts to which I can see that they are very very safe.
So why did pasteurization become mandatory? Safety? Or profit?
As we can see from the picture above, distillery dairy cows lived in inhumane conditions. Dangerous bacteria was a major problem. In order to try and combat some of that, the milk was heated in an attempt to destroy at least some of the bacteria. Unfortunately, some of the dangers of milk from cows raised this way could not be destroyed simply by heat. Still, this is where many people believe pasteurization became mandatory. However, even with cows raised in healthy conditions, why is it illegal in many states for stores to sell the milk without it being first heated?
"The standardization of the process began because there was much competition among milk producers in the 1940′s and 50′s based on the “cream line.” Customers valued the cream–which separates in raw milk–and judged the quality of the milk they bought on the depth of the “cream line.” The problem: if the full amount of cream was left in the milk, it could not be used in more profitable products like ice cream.
As Steve Bemis states, “Homogenization, which effectively removes the cream line, solved this problem.” The homogenization process starts with the removal of all the cream. Some cream is added back to produce the various grades–whole, 2%, 1%, 1/2%, and of course no cream in skim milk. After creating the new types of milk, the milk is homogenized so that no “cream line” is visible–you can’t tell how much cream (or how little!) is left. The actual process of homogenization involves thousands of pounds of pressure that break down the fat globules in the milk. These small particles will no longer rise to the top. However, homogenizing the milk did create another problem! Homogenized milk “with no further processing will go rancid within a matter of hours.” That’s where the requirement for pasteurization comes in. Pasteurizing the homogenized milk extends its shelf life by killing the “liquid phase enzymes.” So, “once the dairy industry took the homogenizing step to follow the dollars, it had to pasteurize.” Pasteurized milk does not need to be homogenized, but homogenized milk must be pasteurized, and the profit to be gained from homogenizing the milk led the way to the requirement for pasteurization." http://www.realfoodhouston.com/2011/04/14/milk-why-homogenized-pasteurized-follow-the-profit/
We have been taught that pasteurization is a good thing, a method of protecting ourselves against infectious diseases, but closer examination reveals that its merits have been highly exaggerated. The modern milking machine and stainless steel tank, along with efficient packaging and distribution, make pasteurization totally unnecessary for the purposes of sanitation. And pasteurization is no guarantee of cleanliness. All outbreaks of salmonella from contaminated milk in recent decades — and there have been many — have occurred in pasteurized milk. This includes a 1985 outbreak in Illinois that struck 14,316 people causing at least one death. The salmonella strain in that batch of pasteurized milk was found to be genetically resistant to both penicillin and tetracycline. 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. Raw milk in time turns pleasantly sour while pasteurized milk, lacking beneficial bacteria, will putrefy. (Sally Fallon & Mary Enig, PhD)
Two glasses of milk left out the same length of time. The milk on the left is raw; the milk on the right is pasteurized. Raw milk sours; pasteurized milk goes putrid.
Naturally, milk contains lactic acid-forming bacteria that prevents pathogenic (bad) bacteria from forming. When milk is heated, the lactic acid (and thus its natural protection) is destroyed.
Compared to raw milk there are 515 times more illnesses from L-mono due to deli meats and 29 times more illness from L-mono due to pasteurized milk. On a PER-SERVING BASIS, deli meats were TEN times more likely than raw milk to cause illness. (Based on data in a 2003 USDA/FDA report)
Raw milk laws make it difficult to obtain this wonderful beverage, but the benefit of those laws is that consumers are forced to visit the farm where their milk comes from. The most important part of eating or drinking anything is that we see where it comes from and how it's grown/raised, and raw milk is no exception. In fact, I never recommend that anyone drink raw, unprocessed milk from somewhere unless the see the cows for themselves. Visit the farm where you plan on getting milk and see how they are raised. Ask the farmer questions, such as do they test their milk? Are the animals given synthetic hormones/antibiotics? What do they do if a cow gets mastitis? How often do the animals graze? What do they feed them in the winter?
So is it safe during pregnancy?!
What do you think from reading the above information? When we compare facts and numbers, we can clearly see that fresh unprocessed milk from animals raised the way God intended are safer than many foods pregnant women eat that are not warned against by their doctors, such as lunchmeat, hotdogs, and conventional beef and milk from feedlot animals. (See FDA report info above.) If a woman would drink pasteurized, store-bought milk from feedlot animals, then they must realize their risk of having pathogenic-ridden milk is lower in fresh unprocessed milk from grassfed animals.
To me, the benefits of fresh raw milk from healthy animals is too important for a healthy pregnancy to avoid it on the scare tactics or the very tiny risk of any bad bacteria. In his book Healing Our Children, author Ramiel Nagel agrees:
"Any policy that advises pregnant women to avoid raw grassfed milk is a policy aimed at thwarting Nature's laws for health. These policies and guidelines must have been designed with one purpose--to propagate weakness and deficiency in pregnancy and early childhood."
For those who are looking for a good source of fresh, unprocessed milk, I suggest the following:
2. Ask around at farmers' markets. If you see someone selling goat's milk soap, for instance, ask where they get their milk! It's illegal in our state and many others for farmers to advertise the sale of raw milk, so it can be difficult to find on websites and even on street signs. All of the milk sources I have found were discovered by word of mouth and off of a tip. One tip led me to drive around on country roads for an hour before I finally found what I was looking for! Now, many of my family and friends get their fresh milk there too!
God's Design Or Man's Inventions
Like many other things in this world, it becomes quite clear (to me anyway) that the milk God designed to nourish life (from infancy to adulthood) only gets worse the more Man tampers with it. If we go back to His original design, obey His word (For example--"A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel." Proverbs 12:10 NASB) to raise animals the way He meant for them to be raised, they will provide us with healthy, nourishing food that will benefit our health rather than destroy it.
For those who have problems accessing fresh milk or have allergies to it, read my post here on Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives.
Of course, milk alternatives do not offer anything close to the natural nutrients found in raw animal milk, so I would recommend supplementing as many of those as possible with food-sourced vitamins/nutrients, bone broth, etc.
Blessings of good health, Sara