The subject of milk sparks just about as much controversy as the subject of fats. Many alternative practitioners feel that it’s not necessary for humans to consume cow’s milk and link its consumption to health problems, such as ear infections, allergies, cancer and diabetes. On the other hand, the medical community has convinced us that if we don’t drink enough milk our bones will disintegrate. And the American Dairy Association wants us to think we’ll be cool like celebrities with milk mustaches if we drink lots of milk. For those who do–or would like to–drink milk and consume dairy products, then you need to know where your milk has come from and what it has been through.
Abraham Jacobi is credited with bringing pasteurization to the United States. He came from Germany after being kicked out for participating in a rebellion to overthrow the government. HE believed that raw milk was not safe for infants and took up the challenge of convincing the public that heating milk was a necessary precaution.
Jacobi is regarded as the Father of American Pediatrics for his work in the medical care of infants, children and adolescents. Interestingly enough he met Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in England before traveling to the United States, and for much of his life continued corresponding with Karl Marx. This is an important note to understand as Jacobi paved the way for much of the thinking around pasteurized milk and the treatment of children in America.
Jacobi was determined to push pasteurization in America and found a motivated benefactor in Nathan Straus who became pasteurization’s biggest booster. Straus, was a wealthy New York Merchant who co-owned two of the biggest department stores, lost a child from contaminated milk. This loss created a resolve and motivation to improve the problems rampant in the milk industry.
In 1892 he opened a milk laboratory and introduced low cost milk depots for the city’s poor.
“In 1894 when the lab opened, around 34,000 bottles of safe, pasteurized milk a day were distributed from the site, mostly within the neighborhood. By 1905, that number rose to 3 million bottles a day, for distribution throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.”
Heat-treated milk was believed to have helped reduce mortality in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Starting in 1897, the death rate among children in New York City dropped from 42% to 22%. Pasteurization began in 1895 and picked up momentum as it began to become clear that dirty milk was the cause for many deaths and health problems.
Study after study began to come out that raw milk was susceptible to all types of diseases and showed that the need to increase the standards of pasteurization were necessary. The standards were increased to 145 degrees for 30 minutes.
The problem was that pasteurizing the milk removed the responsibility for the milk industry to clean up their act. The cleanliness that was necessary to produce clean milk was ignored and the problems continued to exist. Pasteurization allowed the industry to keep doing what had been the fundamental problem.
In the beginning the dairy industry was adamantly opposed to pasteurization, this opposition continued among smaller dairy farmers that required investing money in pasteurization machinery and changing the ways of processing milk. As the pasteurization narrative began to pick up momentum publicly and politically, the dairymen accepted it and ended up realizing the benefits that came with it.
Pasteurization gave the dairymen many incentives:
- Heated milk wouldn’t sour quickly
- Heat treatment allowed sanitary procedures to not be necessary and make consumers believe the milk was fresh
- Companies were only concerned about shelf life not the nutritional content of pasteurized milk
Pasteurization allowed humans to not die from badly processed and unsanitary milk, but this eradication of “dirty milk” came at a terrible price. It substituted a superior nutritionally strong liquid with a nutritionally absent liquid that attributed to infantile allergy, colitis, heart disease, stroke, sexual impotency, and many other problems that come with digesting Frankenstein food.
Heat treatment of milk was better than continuing down the path that had allowed many infant deaths and health affects to the population, but the technology of sanitation engineering and standards more than 100 years later does not constitute continuing to impose pasteurization, a nutritionally dead liquid, on the masses.
There were many critics to pasteurization movement. They believed the real menace was dirty farms and distribution chains. There needed to be improvements of inspections and safety standards. Many accused the media of grossly exaggerating how often diphtheria and tuberculosis was introduced into household by milk. Raw milk became the perfect scapegoat for any outbreaks and diseases that were rampant in dirty and unhealthy cities. The media took advantage of the drama to push for pasteurization.
If I were to ask you to picture a cow, you would most likely see in your mind a cow grazing in an open pasture, like one you’d probably seen before on a small family farm. That’s a lucky cow, compared to most of the cows bred for dairy production in this country. The majority of commercial dairy cows don’t have the luxury of grazing on open fields. Instead they are kept in intense confinement, in individual stalls, on hard cement floors, hooked up to milking machines, forced to produce milk ten months out of the year, in an overcrowded building. This is how the average commercial dairy cow spends her short, miserable life–42 months on average, compared to 12-15 years for a cow on pasture.
Not only is the unnatural building environment a problem for the cow, but it can be a huge problem for the people around it as well. The massive amount of waste produced on a factory farm is overwhelming and can have devastating effects on the surrounding environment. Over one-fifth of the country’s dairy products are produced in the central valley of California where confinement operations create as much waste as a city of 21 million people! Much of that waste is forced unnaturally into the environment, polluting our lakes, rivers and streams. On the other hand, small farms are able to recycle manure back into the earth to enrich the soil.
A cow’s natural diet consists mostly of grass, but since there isn’t enough grass to go around on the factory farm, today’s factory cow is fed a diet of mostly grain, and other things that they would not normally eat. The bulk of the feed consists of corn and soy, which receives 80 percent of all herbicides used in the US. When we think of pesticides we usually think of produce, but animal products can contain up to 14 times more pesticides than plants!1
Simply switching the cow’s diet from grass to grain can cause many problems, but that’s only the beginning. According to a recent article in US News & World Report, some 40 billion pounds a year of slaughterhouse wastes like blood, bone and viscera, as well as the remains of millions of euthanized cats and dogs passed along by veterinarians and animal shelters, are rendered annually into livestock feed.
Animal-feed manufacturers and farmers also have begun using or trying out dehydrated food garbage, fats emptied from restaurant fryers and grease traps, cement-kiln dust, even newspapers and cardboard that are derived from plant cellulose. Researchers in addition have experimented with cattle and hog manure, and human sewage sludge.”2
When I first read this I thought there were probably only a handful of farmers crazy enough to feed dead cats and dogs and other animals parts to their vegetarian cows, but I was dead wrong! During the BSE scare, the FDA ordered a halt to feeding all slaughterhouse wastes to cattle and sheep in the US. At that time 75 percent of the nation’s 90 million cattle had been eating feed containing slaughterhouse by-products!
Like humans, animals need nutrients to thrive and be healthy. Obviously the feed given to factory farmed cows is not intended to provide proper nourishment. Instead, farmers, or shall I say food manufacturers, are interested in stuffing whatever they can into the cows to bulk them up as quickly as possible. This can quickly lead to sick animals and heavy doses of drugs. Like pesticides, these drugs end up in the milk of the dairy animals, as do trans fats from bakery wastes, undigested proteins from soy and animal foods and aflatoxins from moldy grain. To make matters worse, levels of vitamin A and D drop off precipitously when cows are given any feed other than green growing grass.
If you’re like a growing number of people today, you would rather not take antibiotics when you get sick. You may even be proud of the fact that you haven’t had to use them in years. However, if you drink commercial milk or eat commercially raised meats and poultry, you could be consuming antibiotics on a daily basis without even knowing it! Over 50 percent of all the antibiotics produced in this country are mixed directly into animal feed. Ideally, antibiotics should be used in farming only when necessary to treat infection. However, due to the sickly nature of factory farmed animals, they are fed a constant supply of antibiotics from birth until the time of slaughter.
Antibiotic resistance is a serious issue that has gotten a lot of press in recent years. Basically, bacteria are mutating and outsmarting the antibiotics, making them ineffective. (The same phenomenon is occurring on farms where bugs are mutating to withstand pesticide applications.) We criticize medical doctors for over-prescribing antibiotics, but that is only part of the problem. Not only are antibiotics overused in this country, but they are also over-consumed. People are unknowingly consuming more antibiotics than they are actually taking by choice. Due to the heavy doses of antibiotics used on factory farmed animals, your steaks, hamburgers, chicken, and hotdogs are all laced with antibiotics. Milk alone contains traces of up to 80 different antibiotics!3
Back in 1930, the average dairy cow produced 12 pounds (about a gallon and a half) of milk per day. In 1988, the average was 39 pounds per day. This was accomplished by selective breeding to obtain dairy cows that produced a lot of pituitary hormones, thereby generating large amounts of milk. But the industry was not satisfied with this output. Today rBGH, a synthetic growth hormone, is used to get even more milk out of the dairy cows, bringing the average up to 50 pounds (over 6 gallons) of milk per day.
This sounds like a great thing for dairy farmers, right? However, when you mess with Mother Nature, you will suffer the consequences. FDA documents show that cows injected with rBGH are 79 percent more likely to contract mastitis.4 In 1991, a report on Monsanto’s BGH test herd at the University of Vermont found the same kinds of problems identified by the FDA, plus an alarming number of dead and deformed calves born to cows treated with BGH.5 Other problems include reproductive difficulties, increased need for antibiotics, digestive problems, enlarged hocks and lesions, and foot problems.
According to the Humane Farming Association, The FDA admits that BGH injections increase sickness and drug use in dairy cows. Consumer’s Union reports that because of increased udder infections, it is more likely that milk from treated cows will be of lower quality–containing more pus and bacteria–than milk from untreated cows.”6
Rest assured, with regard to hormones, clean raw milk from organic grass-fed cows contains only the precisely balanced trace amounts that nature puts there. To understand this important class of substances, (we tend to fear things we don’t understand) we’ll need to learn more about hormones themselves, how they work, and how they can impact our health in positive or negative ways.
In simple terms, all hormones are basically chemical messengers with various life-spans, which get released from one tissue or another, are transported via the bloodstream or intracellular fluid, and end up at target cells in the same region or different tissues entirely. In our bodies, the various glands of the endocrine, and other systems, secrete hormones that carry messages to speed up, slow down, turn on and off, increase, decrease, raise, lower and alter in countless other ways, the complex array of organs and systems that make up who we are.
Hormones, and compounds that behave like them in our bodies, are all around us. All animal products and a good many plants contain ‘bioactive’ substances- compounds that can affect our bodies either positively or negatively by locking into receptors normally reserved for our body’s own hormones. Some of these powerful substances come at us from unexpected directions- for instance, a substance in ever-present and annoying diesel fumes has been shown to have hormonal activity in humans.
Endocrinologists (scientists who study hormones) tend to lump them into four structural groups, based mainly on their composition. It’s fairly common for members from each group to have several properties in common with one another, which shows that their receptors are not as finicky as they could be. A good example of this is the growing number of chemicals in our environment that have been discovered to act like the hormone estrogen in our bodies (estrogen mimics), like phthalates, which leach from plastics. By the way, men, I regret to have to tell you that the bitter hops in beer (right) contains a potent estrogen mimic (8-prenylnaringenin)…
Peptide/Protein hormones, like insulin, are made from chains of amino acids (think beads on a string) called, peptides. Very long strands of peptides with complex bends and folds, more familiar to us as proteins, also exhibit hormonal activity. Usually they’re assembled in the scary-sounding storage/synthesis regions of the cell called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER).
Steroid hormones, such as the sex hormone testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol (left), are fat-like lipids manufactured in a back and forth shuttle between the tiny power plants of our cells (mitochondria) and the above mentioned ER. There, with the help of a bevy of enzymes, the hormone precursor or building block for all the steroid hormones, pregnenolone, is fashioned out of cholesterol molecules. Still other enzymes then customize the pregnenolone into the particular steroid hormone needed at that moment.
A number of other familiar hormones fall into the category known as Amino Acid Derivatives. Amino acids, remember, are the individual ‘beads’ that make up peptides and proteins. Tryptophan, of sleep-inducing warm milk and turkey dinner fame, is the precursor to the pineal gland hormone melatonin (and the depression-busting neurotransmitter, serotonin). The important thyroid hormone, thyroxine, and neurotransmitter/hormone epinephrine both get their start from molecules of the amino acid tyrosine.
The Eicosanoids, or Fatty Acid Derivative hormones get their start, as the name implies, from fatty acids, the chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms which form the bulk of fat (triglyceride) molecules. One of the better known groups of this class, the prostaglandins, figures heavily in the body’s inflammatory response. People with asthma and arthritis are all too familiar with these powerful substances.
Many hormones, especially the eicosanoids, are short-lived, staying active for only a few seconds. Others, in the protective folds of large protein molecules, last for hours. The steroids typically exhibit effects until either deactivation by metabolic changes in their molecules or by excretion in the waste, which can be a few days. This very transitory nature of hormones makes testing for content levels in milk tricky at best. The bulk of the studies I came across showed quite a bit of variation both in amount and just which hormones were present in the samples tested.
Other major factors contributing to uncertainty in hormone content/concentration include the breed of cow, time of year, stage of the lactation cycle and what the cow was fed. The composition of milk very definitely reflects the diet from which it is produced. High-percentage grain diets and production-enhancing hormone injections increase the volume of milk produced, but dilute overall levels of nutrients and can skew growth factor content upward. Since none of the studies mentioned the diet composition of the cows whose milk they examined, the variation in results came as no surprise.
Delving into the world of hormones can be a lot like wading in alphabet soup. Take a deep breath and jump in anyway! Leaving this section with even a rudimentary understanding of the amazing hormonal system of checks and balances (called ‘feedback loops’) in clean raw milk will help allay any concerns you may have that this food can negatively impact your health. Hopefully, as you read, you’ll discover, as I did, what an amazingly complex tapestry the bioactive components of raw milk actually weave.
While I can’t verify the presence, concentration or activity of each substance on the following list, it’s indisputable that nature’s genetically controlled concentrations of promoters and inhibitors in organic raw milk, left to their own devices, assure that key nutrients are carried to where they’re needed, unwanted excesses are suppressed and that growth and maintenance are the order of the day.
THE LIST OF HORMONES AND GROWTH FACTORS REPORTEDLY FOUND IN RAW MILK:
(Just a few words about the units of measurement used here- a gram [g] is pretty light- there are 28.35g to an ounce. A microgram [mcg] is one millionth of a gram. A nanogram [ng] is one billionth of a gram. A picogram [pg] is one trillionth of a gram- only a little bit more than none at all. A mililiter [ml] is one thousandth of a liter and there are just under 30ml to the fluid ounce.)
- Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH): A 39 amino acid polypeptide hormone that acts in the cortex of the adrenal gland to increase production of corticosteroid hormones, two groups in particular- the glucocorticoids and the mineralocorticoids. The glucocorticoids, such as cortisol, control stress response, protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and have anti-inflammatory properties as well. The mineralocorticoids, like the hormone aldosterone, control water and electrolyte levels in the body by inducing the kidneys to retain sodium. ACTH has a very short half-life of 10 minutes. The term half-life refers to the amount of time it takes 50% of a substance to degrade or lose activity. In the case of ACTH, every 10 minutes, another 50% of what’s left degrades until it’s completely gone.
- Bombesin (Gastrin Releasing Peptide- GRP): A 13 amino acid neuropeptide that works with gastrointestinal tract neuroendocrine hormone (GTNH) to induce gastrin release. It also teams up with cholecystokinin (CCK) to signal satisfaction from hunger (satiety).
- Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH): A protein hormone secreted by the cow’s pituitary that regulates growth and development of the animal. Due to similarities in receptors for the milk production (lactation) hormone prolactin (PRL), BGH can also induce lactation. BGH also stimulates secretion of insulin-like growth factor-1. Due to differences in molecular shape, BGH is believed not active in humans. BGH: < 1 ng/ml
- Calcitonin: A 32 amino acid polypeptide hormone that aids in proper calcium and phosphorus metabolism, prevents hypercalcemia (elevated calcium levels) after meals, and reduces blood calcium levels by regulating calcium ion absorption in the intestines, lowering osteoclast (bone absorbing cell) activity and decreasing kidney tubule calcium and phosphate reabsorption rates. It also enhances mineralization of skeletal bone and helps reduce bone calcium loss during pregnancy and lactation. As if that weren’t enough, calcitonin also regulates Vitamin D, and, along with CCK and GRP (bombesin), helps to signal satiety. Its actions are offset by PTH, which increases blood calcium levels.
- Cholecystokinin (CCK): A peptide hormone with forms containing either 8, 33 or 58 amino acids that stimulates digestion of fats and proteins by triggering the pancreas to secrete the digestive enzymes lipase, amylase, trypsin and chymotrypsin, and by stimulating contraction of the gall bladder to release fat-emulsifying bile into the small intestine. It works with bombesin, and calcitonin to mediate feelings of satisfaction after eating.
- Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF): A 53 amino acid protein that stimulates growth and repair of tissues in the gastrointestinal tract, especially keratinocytes (a special type of skin cell) and fibroblasts (cells that form structural fibers in collagen and other connective tissues).
- Erythropoietin (EPO): A 165 amino acid glycoprotein hormone (glycoproteins consist of several sugar molecules linked with a protein molecule). EPO stimulates erythrocyte (red blood cell) production in the bone marrow, boosting the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. Studies have shown that significant amounts of EPO resist digestion and survive to reach receptors in the intestinal tract. One raw milk-drinking athlete was wrongly accused of blood-doping, so there’s at least anecdotal evidence of EPO’s activity in our systems!
- The Estrogens: An important and often controversial class of steroid sex hormones including estradiol and estrone, usually associated with females, but present, and with important functions in males as well. Aside from their obvious influence on breast and uterine development, the estrogens (which are actually derived from the male sex hormones or ‘androgens’ testosterone and androstendione) bolster bone maturation, strength and density, regulate formation of sperm cells and play crucial roles in fat (lipid), circulatory, respiratory and nervous system metabolism. The trace amounts present in bovine milk are considered too low to exhibit any physiological activity. Progesterone, also present in raw milk, has an inhibitory effect on the estrogens. Estradiol: 160 pg/ml, Estrone: 34-55 pg/ml
- Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): A 210 amino acid glycoprotein hormone which promotes the maturation of immature ovarian follicles. In men, FSH facilitates production of proteins crucial to formation of sperm cells. The half-life of FSH is 3-4 hours, so unless you’re drinking straight from the cow, chances are there’ll be little, if any, active hormone left by the time your raw milk makes it to the refrigerator.
- Gastrin: A peptide hormone with forms containing 14, 17 or 34 amino acids. Gastrin functions to stimulate parietal cells in the stomach to secrete hydrochloric acid. It causes other cells to secrete pepsinogen, (an inactive form of the digestive enzyme pepsin) that converts to pepsin in a low pH (acidic) environment. It also stimulates production of pancreatic enzymes. Gastrin secretion is regulated by gastrin releasing hormone (GRH) and gastrin inhibitory peptide (GIP), both of which are also found in raw milk.
- Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH1): A 10 amino acid peptide hormone that triggers the release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) from the anterior pituitary gland. GnRH1 is degraded by proteolysis (digestion of proteins by cellular enzymes called proteases) within a few minutes of secretion. GnRH1: 0.1-3 ng/ml
- Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH): A 44 amino acid peptide hormone that stimulates secretion of growth hormone (GH) from the anterior pituitary gland. GHRH also helps promote slow wave or Stage 3 and 4 sleep. It’s action is opposed by somatostatin, also present in raw milk.
- Insulin: Well-known polypeptide hormone that, among a multitude of other functions, chiefly regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Bovine insulin differs from the human form by only three amino acids and appears to share a similar level of activity. Insulin: 4-6 ng/ml
- Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1): A protein hormone with a structure similar to insulin, produced in response to growth hormone (GH). It regulates growth and development in just about every cell in the body. Abnormally low levels are considered diagnostic for growth hormone deficiency. Most IGF-1 is carried by binding proteins that can prolong its half-life (to about 6 hours) but reduce its activity. Free (unbound) IGF-1has a half-life of about 10 minutes. IGF-1: 1-10 ng/ml
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH): A 23 amino acid glycoprotein that triggers production of steroid sex hormones in both males and females. In men, certain cells in the testes react to LH by producing testosterone which, by the way, is a precursor for the female sex hormones. In women, LH induces cells in the ovaries to form estrogens, such as estradiol, estriol and estrone. LH has a half-life of only 20 minutes, which virtually assures little, if any, will be left in your raw milk by the time you get it home.
- Mammary-derived Growth Inhibitor (MDGI): A polypeptide found in milk fat globule membranes that has been shown to inhibit proliferation in several types of mammary epithelial (barrier) cells.
- Nerve Growth Factor (NGF): A protein that stimulates growth and maintenance of neurons (nerve cells) and glial (non-nerve support) cells in the central (brain/spine) and peripheral nervous systems.
- Neurotensin (NT): A 13 amino acid peptide that acts as both a neurotransmitter and hormone. NT has powerful analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties, various regulatory roles in the gastro-intestinal tract, and controls the release of numerous other hormones including somatotropin (SS), luteinizing hormone (LH) and prolactin (PRL). Neurotensin has a very short half-life.
- Parathyroid Hormone (PTH): An 84 amino acid peptide hormone that raises calcium levels in the blood. It does this by fostering growth of osteoclasts, a type of cell which breaks down bone, by causing the kidneys to reabsorb calcium and by boosting intestinal calcium absorption through increased production of vitamin D. The hormone calcitonin offsets PTH activity by lowering blood calcium levels.
- Parathyroid Hormone-related Peptide (PTHrP): A protein hormone similar to PH and necessary for proper eruption of the teeth. PTHrP also regulates cerebral blood flow and helps lower blood calcium levels by increasing osteoclast (bone absorbing) cell formation. PTHrP: 58-185 ng/ml
- Progesterone: A multi-functional steroid hormone that belongs to a group called the progestagens– hormones that counteract the effects of estrogens on the body and that inhibit the production of sex steroids. It functions mainly in regulation of the menstrual cycle, gestation and embryonic development. Progesterone also has a number of important roles beyond the reproductive tract, including reduction of inflammation and immune response, assistance with thyroid activity and bone construction, reduction of gall bladder activity and raising of the core body temperature (thermogenesis). It’s blockage of estrogen may help with inhibition of breast and endometrial cancers. Unfortunately, progesterone is poorly absorbed orally. Progesterone: 18-23 ng/ml
- Prolactin (PRL): A 199 amino acid peptide hormone with numerous functions, the main being stimulus of mammary gland milk production. PRL-inhibiting factor and PRL-releasing factor, also present in raw milk, govern PRL secretion and expression. PRL: 6-8 ng/ml
- Somatostatin (SS): A 42 amino acid peptide hormone that inhibits release of growth hormone (GH) by opposing the effects of growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH). It also inhibits release of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and suppresses or inhibits numerous gastrointestinal bioactives, including gastrin, CCK and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP). It also slows the rate at which the stomach empties, and thus enhances digestion.
- Testosterone: A familiar steroid hormone typically associated with male sex traits, but present in females as well, in much lower concentrations. Classed as an androgen, testosterone controls the development of numerous masculine characteristics (including deepening of the voice in both sexes), but is also converted to the estrogen hormone, estradiol, which speeds up the conversion of cartilage into bone during periods of rapid growth. Testosterone: 40-75 pg/ml
- Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH): A pituitary hormone that triggers release of thyroxine (T4) and tiriodothyronine (T3) from the thyroid gland, both of which play key roles in determining the body’s metabolic rate and temperature, rate of protein synthesis and sensitivity to a class of substances called catecholaminesthe best known example being the neurotransmitter/hormone epinephrine or adrenalin. TSH is inhibited by somatostatin.
- Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone (TRH): A three amino acid tripeptide that induces the anterior pituitary gland to release thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and prolactin (PRL). TRH: 16-34 ng/ml
- Transforming Growth Factor-Beta-1 (TGFB1): A polypeptide growth factor which regulates cell differentiation and proliferation. TGFB1 has been shown to inhibit the growth of epithelial cells. Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs), other growth factors in the TGFB1 family and possibly present in raw milk, cause the formation of new bone and cartilage.
- Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide (VIP): A 28 amino acid peptide hormone that stimulates secretion of water and electrolytes, dilates (widens or expands) intestinal smooth muscle and peripheral blood vessels, and inhibits gastrin. It also stimulates gastric acid secretion. VIP has a 2 minute half-life in the blood.
That ought to suffice for now. As you can see, there’s a lot more to raw milk than meets the eye. Bear in mind, this survey of its bioactives and their interactions is far from complete, and, undoubtedly, there are many more yet to be discovered.
The ingredient list for a food as powerfully healing and restorative as this is bound to be complex- and while the hormones and growth factors above certainly add to that complexity (and controversy), this amazing fluid has withstood the test of time. Organic raw milk has been, and continues to be, a food you can use to achieve and maintain good health- both for yourself, and for your family.
Pasteurization is a process of heat treating milk to kill bacteria. Although Louis Pasteur developed this technique for preserving beer and wine, he was not responsible for applying it to milk. That was done at the end of the 1800s as a temporary solution until filthy urban dairies could find a way to produce cleaner milk. But instead of cleaning up milk production, dairies used pasteurization as a way to cover up dirty milk. As milk became more mass produced, pasteurization became necessary for large dairies to increase their profits. So the public then had to be convinced that pasteurized milk was safer than raw milk. Soon raw milk consumption was blamed for all sorts of diseases and outbreaks until the public was finally convinced that pasteurized milk was superior to milk in its natural state.
Today if you mention raw milk, many people gasp and utter ridiculous statements like, “You can die from drinking raw milk!” But the truth is that there are far more risks from drinking pasteurized milk than unpasteurized milk. Raw milk naturally contains healthy bacteria that inhibit the growth of undesirable and dangerous organisms. Without these friendly bacteria, pasteurized milk is more susceptible to contamination. Furthermore, modern equipment, such as milking machines, stainless steel tanks and refrigerated trucks, make it entirely possible to bring clean, raw milk to the market anywhere in the US.
Not only does pasteurization kill the friendly bacteria, it also greatly diminishes the nutrient content of the milk. Pasteurized milk has up to a 66 percent loss of vitamins A, D and E. Vitamin C loss usually exceeds 50 percent. Heat affects water soluble vitamins and can make them 38 percent to 80 percent less effective. Vitamins B6 and B12 are completely destroyed during pasteurization. Pasteurization also destroys beneficial enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Pasteurization destroys lipase (an enzyme that breaks down fat), which impairs fat metabolism and the ability to properly absorb fat soluble vitamins A and D. (The dairy industry is aware of the diminished vitamin D content in commercial milk, so they fortify it with a form of this vitamin.)
We have all been led to believe that milk is a wonderful source of calcium, when in fact, pasteurization makes calcium and other minerals less available. Complete destruction of phosphatase is one method of testing to see if milk has been adequately pasteurized. Phosphatase is essential for the absorption of calcium.
As the dairy industry has become more concentrated, many processing plants have switched to ultrapasteurization, which involves higher temperatures and longer treatment times. The industry says this is necessary because many microorganisms have become heat resistant and now survive ordinary pasteurization.
Another reason for ultrapasteurization is that it gives the milk a longer shelf life–up to four weeks. The grocers like this but many consumers complain of a burnt or dead taste. The milk is virtually sterile–is that what you want to drink?
Milk producers are not advertising the fact that they are ultrapasteurizing the milk–the word is written in very small letters and the milk is sold in the refrigerator section even though it can be kept unrefrigerated until opened. Horizon, the major organic brand, is ultrapasteurized, as are virtually all national brands.
Milk straight from the cow contains cream, which rises to the top. Homogenization is a process that breaks up the fat globules and evenly distributes them throughout the milk so that they do not rise. This process unnaturally increases the surface area of fat exposing it to air, in which oxidation occurs and increases the susceptibility to spoilage. Homogenization has been linked to heart disease and atherosclerosis.
Milk: To Drink or Not to Drink?
Considering how modern commercial milk is produced and processed, it’s no wonder that millions of Americans are allergic to it. An allergic reaction to dairy can cause symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting (even projectile vomiting), stomach pain, cramping, gas, bloating, nausea, headaches, sinus and chest congestion, and a sore, or scratchy throat. Milk consumption has been linked to many other health conditions as well, such as asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, chronic infections (especially upper respiratory and ear infections), obesity, osteoporosis and cancer of the prostate, ovaries, breast and colon.
Once you understand how modern milk is produced and processed, it seems logical to just avoid it altogether. But Real Milk–full-fat, unprocessed milk from pasture-fed cows–contains vital nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A and D, calcium, vitamin B6, B12, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, a fatty acid naturally occurring in grass-fed beef and milk that reduces body fat and protects against cancer). Real milk is a source of complete protein and is loaded with enzymes. Raw milk contains beneficial bacteria that protects against pathogens and contributes to a healthy flora in the intestines. Culturing milk greatly enhances its probiotic and enzyme content, making it a therapeutic food for our digestive system and overall health.
So the answer to the question is–go ahead and drink milk only if you can get unprocessed milk from pastured cows. In the meantime, here are a few steps that can help you make the transition to more natural dairy products.
Remove Commercial Milk from Your Diet
Normally I propose a step-by step process for making a dietary change, but considering where commercial milk has come from, and what it has been through, it is best to just remove it from the diet altogether. Instead use some of the better quality dairy products such as raw cheese, good quality whole yogurt, butter and cream that has not been ultrapasteurized. (You can use butter or cream mixed with water on breakfast porridge.) Check the Weston A. Price Foundation Shopping Guide for a listing of good quality dairy products sold in supermarkets and health food stores.
Real Milk (Raw Milk)
If you’ve been told that drinking raw milk is dangerous, you’ll be surprised to know that you’ve been mislead. The truth about raw milk? An extensive look into research and claims made by the FDA and CDC related to raw milk being dangerous have been found to be completely unwarranted. It actually benefits your body in many ways, and although it might have earned a reputation among some for being dangerous, you shouldn’t miss out on all this amazing superfood has to offer because raw milk benefits are truly impressive.
Raw milk comes from grass-fed cows, is unpasteurized and unhomogenized. This means raw milk contains all of its natural enzymes, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals — making it what many refer to as a “complete food.”
But can’t raw milk cause problems due to the risk of consuming bacteria? The risk of this happening is very, very low. In fact, according to medical researcher Dr. Ted Beals, M.D., you are 35,000 times more likely to get sick from other foods than you are from raw milk. (1) The CDC reports that there are an estimated 48 million foodborne illnesses diagnosed each year. Of these 48 million illnesses, only about 42 (about 0.0005 percent!) each year are due to consumption of fresh, unprocessed (raw) milk. (2)
Dr. Chris Kesser did a thorough investigation to get the true impact of raw milk illness and death, as the CDC makes it sound inevitable, and found that your chances of becoming hospitalized from a bacterial illness caused by raw milk is three times less than your chance of dying in a plane crash. In fact, he discovered that you have a better chance of death by infection from raw oysters than you do of ever getting sick at all from raw milk!
As you can see, most accusations and concerns over raw milk have been overstated, and therefore its heath benefits remain underrated. Raw milk benefits are numerous and can help address a large number of nutritional deficiencies that millions of people, especially those eating the standard American diet, are currently experiencing. For instance, raw milk benefits allergies and skin, all while containing beneficial nutrients without the processing dangers.
In states like California, getting real milk is easy because raw milk is sold in health food stores. In other states you need to either purchase raw milk from a farm or through a cow-share program. The best place to start is by contacting your local chapter or visiting the realmilk.com website. Most people who cannot tolerate commercial milk do beautifully on Real Milk–milk that comes from pastured cows, that contains all the fat and that is unprocessed. It is an especially good food for growing children who need extra nutrients during their growing years.
Many consider raw milk to be an “alternative” form of milk, but it is actually how all milk used to be consumed. High-quality raw milk from a reputable source is far preferable to the pasteurized CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) milk found in most supermarkets.
High-quality raw milk has a mountain of health benefits that pasteurized milk lacks. For example, raw milk is:
- Loaded with healthy bacteria that are good for your gastrointestinal tract
- Full of more than 60 digestive enzymes, growth factors, and immunoglobulins (antibodies)
- Rich in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which fights cancer and boosts metabolism
- Rich in beneficial raw fats, amino acids, and proteins in a highly bioavailable form, all 100 percent digestible
- Loaded with vitamins (A, B, C, D, E, and K) in highly bioavailable forms, and contains a very balanced blend of minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron) whose absorption is enhanced by live lactobacilli
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