This is a subject I’ve wanted to write about here for a while, but it is one that involves a few different issues, has become quite controversial in most states in this country, and there are so many different views on it, that I’ve felt a little overwhelmed.
There are many people who believe that cow’s milk is something that at best humans just don’t need, and at worst (for various reasons) humans just can’t tolerate. Certainly, for adults who are getting a well-rounded nutrient-dense diet that includes lots of bone-broths, free-range organic egg yolks, pastured organic meats (preferably some organ meats too), sea foods and fish, mineral and vitamin-rich plant foods such as sea vegetables, cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens, a good variety of lacto-fermented foods, well-prepared nuts, and some low-glycemic fruits (especially berries), there really is no need for cow’s milk, and even kids who nurse from their moms until they are at least 2 or 3, and who also consume ample amounts of the above foods, do just fine (or better than fine) without it. Most cultures around the world do not drink cow’s milk. A large percentage of people on the planet, past the age of nursing, are lacking a gene that enables them to produce the enzyme lactase, which enables the digestion of lactose. Only a few areas of the world have evolved to produce this enzyme. Many cultures drink goat, sheep, camel or yak milk, but only in early childhood, unpasteurized, and often fermented into yoghurt, kefir and other related lacto-fermented drinks.
However, for people who seem to tolerate milk well (in particular those of descent from northern europe and a couple of african nomadic cultures), and enjoy drinking it, there can be benefits, but there are a few issues.
One is that pasteurizing milk removes all the beneficial immune-boosting bacteria that aids digestion and fights bad bacteria in the gut. Pasteurization also destroys all heat-sensitive vitamins and minerals that raw milk contains in abundance (A, D, B6, C, folate among them), which then have to be synthetically replaced (for example, pasteurized milk is fortified with vitamin D2, ergocalciferol, a form of D that we can not readily absorb, rather than D3, which our bodies can utilize easily). Heat-sensitive enzymes are also destroyed with pasteurization:lactase that digests lactose, lipase that digests fats, phosphatase that absorbs calcium which in turn allows for the digestion of lactose. Raw milk also contains other immune-boosting factors like CLA and Activator X (Vitamin K2). Raw cream contains a cortisone-like agent (the Wulzen factor), which can help combat arthritis and arteriosclerosis among other things. I’m not going to go into greater detail here about factory-farmed pasteurized homogenized milk, or any of the lower-fat versions of milk (ie skim, 1%, 2%) that are on today’s commercial market. As far as I’m concerned, these are non-foods, and should not be consumed by anyone, human or otherwise, adult, child, whatever. Consume that stuff longterm and you are asking for insulin resistance and all the ensuing problems that arise. (I’m including these above links here that readers can check out for more detail on the perils [for us and the planet] of factory-farmed “milk.”)
So, if you are going to consume milk, you’ll be much better off drinking it the way it comes out of the cow, unadulterated. Here we arrive at the next issue:this raw milk needs to be from cows that are 100% pasture-fed, and that pasture needs to be 100% organic. If you can only find raw milk from cows that have been fed a modicum of grain for boosting their nutrition levels (ultimately this is to boost output, as they wouldn’t need their nutrition levels boosted if they were only feeding their calves, or only being milked in the spring/summer/early fall, as some farms still opt to do), make sure that grain is 100% organic. You definitely do not want to be drinking milk from cows that have been fed GMO corn, etc., which you are guaranteed to get these days if it is not 100% certified organic. However, keep in mind that even feeding cows a small amount of grain alters the chemistry of the fat in their meat and dairy considerably, drastically lowering the healthy omega-3s and abundant CLA.
The third issue with milk–which is more difficult to address, and of particular interest to diabetics and anyone with auto-immune diseases–has to do with specific beta-casein proteins in milk from specific breeds of cow. Apparently there are essentially two kinds of these proteins (at least that concern us as far as human consumption difficulties may go):A2 protein, a protein that has been around for millenia, and A1 protein, which is found in the milk of newer breeds of cows like Holsteins, the cows from which about 90% of the milk in the US is produced, be it organic or not. The only difference between the two is that the A1 protein has histidine as one of its amino acids, and can wreak havoc on the human immune system in myriad ways. Incidentally, upon digestion it converts to an opioid (ever meet a kid who just wants to drink milk all the time, can’t get enough, keeps asking for more? It happened to my daughter, for about a year before her type 1 Diabetes diagnosis). And I always thought it was just the sugar content. Sugar? Protein that acts as sugar and worse? Why were we drinking milk again (my daughter and I stopped recently, and feel much better in myriad ways. Fodder for a future post)…?
There is some controversy about the A1/A2 protein issue , but there’s enough evidence of doubt to keep me from feeding it to my type 1 diabetic daughter until further research has been done. Plus, it is now known that some of the proteins in milk cause extreme sugar spikes (see above link), so again:what is the point of drinking the stuff?
For the full story of A1/A2, check out Devil in the Milk, by Keith Woodford.
OK, I’ve been trying to write this, in fits and starts, in my 10 minutes every few days that I’ve gotten in the last couple of weeks. Sorry if it’s disjointed. I’ll try to get back to it and write some more, but for now I’ll put it up, so hopefully it will give readers a little bit of helpful info…