Cow’s Milk – Friend AND Foe

Some people believe humans should avoid cow’s milk because it is designed for baby cows, not human beings.

Some say it’s toxic.

It’s certainly one of the most allergenic foods, but its ability to cause immune reactions and allergies may depend on its quality and how it’s processed.

Others stress the numerous benefits of cow’s milk based on its nutritional composition and properties.

I have even heard experts talk about how cow’s milk is the perfect food.

I’ve had clients whose symptoms cleared up dramatically when they eliminated cow’s milk from their eating regimen.

I’ve had clients who switched to raw, unpasteurized products and felt much better than they did when they were consuming regular commercial milk.

I’ve had some clients who really didn’t feel any different whether they consumed milk, irrespective of its quality.

The Cow’s Milk Conundrum

As with many issues in nutrition, I don’t think the cow’s milk debate is clear-cut for the following reasons:

  • Milk quality varies greatly, depending on how the cows are raised. I have seen footage of dairy cattle being kept in appalling conditions and there is no doubt that the quality of milk from animals raised in poor conditions is inferior to cows who happily roam around outdoors in the sunshine and on fresh green pastures.
  • I have personally witnessed situations in which clients used two different kinds of milk – i.e. different brands – and, where one brand caused symptoms, the other did not.
  • Most of the milk products sold in the supermarkets are pasteurized and sometimes homogenized. These techniques turn milk into a processed food and can affect its relationship with your body.
  • Some people seem to tolerate raw, unpasteurized cow’s milk better than processed versions, whereas in other people the pattern is reversed.
  • The nutritional status of milk is affected by the processing techniques mentioned above. Immune-supportive molecules, friendly bacteria, vitamins and minerals seem to be reduced, or become less available to the body, when milk is processed.
  • Cows in some dairy herds may have hormones added to their feed. Recombinant bovine growth hormone is a genetically engineered hormone used in some commercial dairies (in the US). It causes dramatic health deterioration in the health of the cattle.
  • Some cattle are dosed-up with antibiotics because they are not healthy enough to fight infections on their own, given their substandard and often appalling living conditions.
  • Certain ethnic groups seem to have more trouble with cow’s milk than others.

Whether or not you react adversely to cow’s milk may depend on one or more of these factors and ultimately the only way to know how you respond it to spend time avoiding it and then eating it, gauging how you feel as you go along!

Milk can be a healthy, healing food for some but a seriously damaging food for others.

In my experience, people whose digestive systems are damaged tend not to do very well on cow’s milk. But as the gut heals and nutritional/hormonal status improves, cow’s milk can often be reintroduced.

I highly recommend a DVD called The Truth About Milk as it provides a wealth of detail on exactly why pasture-fed, organic milk products are superior to their commercially produced counterparts.

The insights of Dr. David Getoff, ND, and Californian dairy farmer Mark McAfee are profound. Here are just a few of the key points raised in regard to commercial dairy and cattle farming:

  • The food industry is looking for cheap, large volumes of milk. A cow is part of a business plan for burgers or milk.
  • Some dairies have 15-20,000 cows.
  • They feed the cows for optimal milk production, not for the cow’s health.
  • They are fed grains, which fattens them up faster but also causes their nutritional status to drop. It also makes them ill. Cattle are designed to eat grass, not grain.
  • Dairy industry adverts and propaganda show cows roaming around on pastures. But the reality is that 99% of cows are in a confinement facility without ever seeing a blade of grass (this holds true for the US, not necessarily in Europe).
  • Most dairy farmers don’t have a creamery, which means they dump off their milk to a centralized creamery.
  • Many different dairies supply the same creamery, meaning that a single bottle of milk may be comprised of “standardized” milk from hundreds or even thousands of cows.
  • Commercially farmed milk has to be pasteurized because the raw milk is dangerously loaded with “bad bugs”. Tests showed that 31% of the raw milk from the cows raised under conventional conditions contained human pathogens as Salmonella or E. coli 0157.
  • In Mark McAfee’s pasture-fed, organic herd, not a single “bad bug” was detected in FDA testing: 5 years, 24million servings, more than 1,000 tests – no pathogens!
  • There are several types of pasteurization:
    • 140 degrees for 30min
    • 161 degrees for up to 30sec (HTST)
    • 280 degrees 3-5sec (UHT)
  • This process kills most of the bacteria in the milk, including the “good bugs”. Pasteurization doesn’t clean the milk: it just kills it.
  • Pasteurization causes bacteria to lyse (split open, or explode), which releases a lot of the bacteria’s internal proteins. Human immune systems can react to these proteins, which may result in allergies.
  • Pasteurized milk has high histamine levels, which can trigger asthma and other allergic/immune reactions.
  • In the US, milk companies do not have to declare what is in their milk (because as consumers, we assume “it’s milk”). Dry powder milk, preservatives and coloring can be added to the “fresh” milk by creameries.

Here’s what Mark and Dr. Getoff say about raw, organic milk products:

  • Raw dairy (unpasteurized) is whole, nutritious and alive. It is a living, breathing organism. It can be an incredibly healing food, but is only recommended if the cows are healthy and the farmer understands how to keep the milk clean and free from “bad bugs”.
  • When pathogens are added to healthy, raw milk intentionally and experimentally, these “bad bugs” die off rapidly due to the profound immune power of the milk components (lactoferrin, lysozyme, bacteria and colostrum).
  • Work conducted in the 1920s at the world famous Mayo Clinic demonstrated the benefits of raw milk in the treatment of a wide-variety of ailments, including leaky gut syndrome, gastroenteritis, arthritis, asthma, neurotransmitters (autism), body temperature (glycoproteins).
  • Information about these studies can be found here: http://www.realmilk.com/milkcure.html
  • Cities in India and in California where kids don’t drink raw milk have 13% asthma incidence, versus 1% children who are raised in the countryside drinking raw milk.
  • Pasture-fed cows feed on lots of different grasses: rye, alfalfa, clover, bermuda grass, sedan grass and johnson grass (lots of biodiversity). The cows eat a “smorgasbord” of foods – they can eat what they want when they need it.
  • These cows are healthier; the rumen is a different, healthier place when the cows don’t have antibiotics and grains. The cows live much longer.
  • These cows produce smaller milk volumes but the quality of the milk is superior (higher protein content, etc.)
  • Europe leads the US substantially in terms of raw, cultured dairy products.
  • Raw milk has a shorter shelf life, which means that it’s no good for corporate requirements (it isn’t as profitable).
  • Smaller, organic and pasture-fed dairies also produce foods such as colostrum and kefir, which can be very health promoting due to their immune properties (we use bovine colostrum supplements with clients to boost gut immune function).

As you can see, the milk’s source and whether/how it is processed largely determines whether it’s likely to be a health-promoting or potentially unhealthy food for humans.

Unfortunately, because most people are consuming commercially produced milk, it tends to cause a lot of problems, which is why I put it in the “bad food” category.

But milk and other dairy products such as cream, cheese, butter, colostrum, yogurt and kefir are used in The Hompes Method as healing foods when our clients are able to tolerate it.

We work closely with our clients to help them source high quality products and make sure their dairy consumption is having a positive effect as opposed to a detrimental one.

When folk can’t tolerate cow’s milk, we recommend they avoid it for a period of 90 days, and we may switch them to goat or sheep milk products, which are often better tolerated.

We always advise my clients to source milk locally, from farmers who care about their animals, allow their cattle to roam on fresh pastures and who care about the environment.

Perfection in Nutrition?