Leery of Lactose? Facts & Fictions About Raw Milk
By Justin P. Doyle
How many of those silly old wives' tales about your health do you still believe? If you swallow a watermelon seed, it will grow in your stomach. Going out in the rain will make you catch cold. And—pasteurized milk is safer and better for your health than raw milk.
You'd probably guess the first two are untrue, but what about the third? Although raw milk has long been said to be a hazard, when properly handled and stored, it is actually a safe and extremely nutritious food, helping countless generations of human beings to good health.
Raw milk contains every vitamin and mineral essential to the human body—especially the fat-soluble ones that are so lacking in most people's diets—as well as essential amino acids, fats, enzymes, and many other nutrients. It combats allergies and fatigue, helps build up the immune system, and even aids its own digestion. And despite negative claims by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control, properly produced raw milk is quite safe—equipped with its own built-in safety mechanisms.
Part of the reason raw milk is such a safe food, says Dr. Michael Gaeta, is the same reason it's good at building up the immune system: it contains a large number of naturally-occurring antibodies. Because baby animals do not produce their own antibodies for their first year of life or so, Nature loads them into mother's milk. This protective substance keeps drinkers free of disease and discomfort in just the way Nature intended.
The Surprising Truth About Lactose Intolerance
Of course when it comes to milk, a big problem for many people is lactose intolerance. This occurs when a person fails to produce sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose in the gut and allows it to be digested. While some sufferers choose to avoid dairy products completely, others spend up to $15 a bottle on lactase supplements. Both might solve their problem by drinking milk that has not been pasteurized.
Raw milk naturally contains lactase in sufficient amounts to digest lactose. Unfortunately, this lactase is destroyed by the high heat of pasteurization, meaning lactose intolerance is most likely a problem associated only with pasteurized milk. (A more accurate term for it might be "pasteurization intolerance," says raw-milk expert Sally Fallon Morell.)
Tellingly, Dr Gaeta reports that in twenty years in practice, one hundred percent of his patients with sensitivities to pasteurized milk have had no problems after switching to raw. One woman, he says, suffered so greatly from pasteurized dairy products that a single drop of pasteurized cream would leave her doubled over in pain. After recommending she give raw milk a try, he watched several weeks later as she drank a pint of raw milk with a smile on her face.
Unfairly Singled Out?
While the government claims that pasteurization is necessary because raw milk is particularly susceptible to pathogens and thus likely to cause illness, it is, like any food, actually quite safe when produced and handled properly. Maybe even more so.
In addition to high levels of antibodies, raw milk also contains factors such as the anti-microbial protein lactoferrin and the enzymes lactoperoxidase and lysozyme, which actively destroy harmful pathogens and bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella.
Statistics bear this out. In the ten-year period from 1998 to 2008, the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) reported a mere 1,676 illnesses related to raw milk and unpasteurized dairy products. That's about 170 cases a year, or about 0.0003 percent of the estimated 50 million food-borne illnesses Americans endure annually.
Many foods we consume every day pose a much higher health risk than raw milk but are overlooked as potential hazards. Seldom are we warned about the dangers of raw lettuce or tomatoes, for instance. And when did the CDC or the FDA last issue an announcement denouncing meats in the deli case—foods that are ten times more likely to cause illness than raw milk.
While pasteurization has long been heralded as the only way to make dairy products safe for human consumption, the scientific community has known for years that this is not true. In fact, many studies have shown that pasteurization is downright unhealthful.
"The big lie about pasteurization is that it somehow cleans milk," Dr. Gaeta says. "It doesn't clean anything; it just kills the bacteria often present in excess as a result of conventional milk production, which then are left dead in the milk along with the toxins they release upon death. So you have filthy dead milk instead of clean living milk."
In addition, pasteurization destroys the milk's natural antibodies, leaving it defenseless against newly invading bacteria and other pathogens. Unsurprisingly, pasteurized milk is associated with many chronic illnesses, such as allergies, asthma, diabetes, ADD, and autoimmune disease.
Feel Good Food
In addition to good health, the consumption of raw milk offers other benefits. One of the best things about it is that it must be produced on small farms, in safe quantities, where the animals are able to graze on pasture and live happy, healthy lives.
In purchasing raw milk, people support local farms while helping create community and fostering the health and humane treatment of cow herds. In addition, many raw-milk dairies encourage customer participation on the farm, providing people with firsthand knowledge and appreciation of where their food comes from and how it is handled.
This transparency is important to consumers like Carole Huber and John Harner, who each hold a cow share with Larga Vista Ranch in southern Colorado.
Carole made the switch to raw milk because of her concerns with how badly cows are treated in the conventional dairy industry. And while ethical reasons also played a part in John's decision, he's stuck with raw milk in part because of the improved health he's noticed in his son, who suffers from allergy-induced asthma.
Healthy and happy, Carole and John have no intention of going back to the "other stuff."
Sadly, the sale and consumption of raw milk is not legal everywhere in the U.S. Fortunately, grass root movements are helping more and more states make this traditional, nutritious, farm-friendly alternative available to everyone.
To find out whether you can purchase raw milk from a farm near you, or to get involved with your local raw-milk movement, visit the Campaign for Real Milk at www.realmilk.com—and lend a helping hand to both your community and your health.
Justin Doyle is a freelance writer in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A regular drinker of raw milk, Justin is passionate about the nutritional and communal benefits of local and naturally raised foods.
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Nutrition in the Kitchen
Teeming with lactic acid and live cultures and with all its nutrients intact, raw yogurt is the ultimate probiotic. The recipe below comes from raw-dairy expert Phyllis Quinn, who reminds first-time yogurt makers that while the process is quite simple, it does require some patience (and it does fail on occasion, no matter how many times you've made it!). Try preparing the milk and culture after dinner and leaving it in the oven overnight. Rich, nutritious yogurt will be yours in the morning.
1 quart raw milk
1/4 cup starter yogurt culture*
1. Preheat the oven to its lowest setting (about 170 degrees).
2. In a large saucepan, heat the milk to 109 degrees. You can use a candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer for this. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk the starter culture into the milk.
3. Turn the oven off but leave the oven light on. Pour the milk into a quart-size jar or a casserole and cover with a lid.
4. Place the container in the oven, shut the door, and allow it to sit undisturbed, with the oven light on, for 12 hours or until the yogurt has the desired sourness. (Bear in mind that homemade yogurt does not get super thick like most commercial yogurts.) Eat or refrigerate for later use.
* As the starter culture for your first batch, you can use any plain, full-fat commercial yogurt, such as Brown Cow or Mountain High, or you can use a powdered starter culture. (In the latter case, use the amount recommended by the producer.) Once you've made your own yogurt, you can use a portion of that as the starter for your next batch.
Phyllis Quinn is an ex-restaurateur who has been developing recipes made from raw cow milk and raw goat milk—including yogurt, fresh cheeses, curd, and whey—for the past six years. She lives in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado, with her husband.
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Ask the Doc
In each issue, we put readers' questions to a doctor rooted in the holistic nutritional principles of the great Dr. Royal Lee. If you have a nutrition-related question you'd like our doctor to answer in a future newsletter, please email it to
Dear Dr. Gaeta:
Q. My practitioner says spring and fall are the best times to do a cleanse. Why is that?
A. In Chinese medicine, each organ system has a particular season it relates to. The liver and gallbladder, for instance, are associated with the spring. Since most purification programs specifically support the liver—our most important organ of detoxification—a spring cleanse takes advantage of this seasonal association.
Also, energetically, spring is the time of new growth and expansion, and clearing the system of waste and toxins optimizes these processes. For these reasons, springtime is usually when I recommend a cleanse.
Autumn, on the other hand, corresponds to the lungs and large intestine and the energy of "letting go." So an autumn cleanse would be in harmony with the releasing quality of the large intestine or colon.
Another advantage of a spring or autumn cleanse is it avoids the winter, a season during which I rarely recommend a cleanse. Besides the holding and storing quality of the winter season, it is generally enough for a person to conserve their energies somewhat and avoid sickness in cold weather, without the additional "healthy stress" of a purification program.
Summer, since it is not cold, is an acceptable time to do a cleanse. It just doesn't take advantage of the expansive nature of the spring or the releasing quality of the fall.
Q. What are the benefits of doing a cleanse?
A. Let's start with why we do a cleanse: to clear the body of toxins. A toxin is a chemical that will harm the body if not eliminated. Each day Americans are exposed to a staggering amount of toxins in the form of thousands of synthetic chemicals in our air, water, food, and body-care products. All told, this is more than the human body can handle without specific and deliberate support.
Dozens of adverse effects are directly caused by toxic overload, mostly relating to chronic inflammation and hormonal and neurological impairment. Symptoms may include fatigue, pain, allergies, asthma, blood-sugar imbalance, headaches, rash, chemical sensitivity, menstrual problems, weight gain, poor digestion, decreased concentration, and reduced mental acuity.
In addition to helping prevent these issues, a balanced cleansing and exercise program promotes robust health and is one of the best ways to get to and maintain your ideal weight. Other common benefits include improved energy, better digestion and elimination, clearer thinking, mastery of food addictions, improved physical appearance, and reduced pain.
The cleansing program I've found to be the most natural, balanced, and effective is the one produced by Standard Process. Unlike most other cleansing programs, it does not rely on artificial vitamins, synthetic amino acids, and purgative herbs. Also, it teaches people how to eat a healthful diet, a habit they learn over the three weeks of the cleanse.
In my twenty years of practice, I've found that an annual, professionally-guided cleansing program is one the most profound and effective ways to increase one's vitality and resilience and help prevent the chronic illnesses that so many Americans needlessly suffer.
Michael Gaeta, DAc, MS, CDN, is a dietician-nutritionist, acupuncturist, and herbalist who lectures nationally on holistic health, offers phone consultations to clinicians and patients, and practices in Boulder and New York. Dr. Gaeta may be reached at 917-613-4501 and www.gaetacommunications.com.
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From the Archives
In each issue of Milk and Honey, we reach into SRP's Historical Archives—a free, searchable database of seminal works in the history of nutrition—to examine the investigations of nutrition's great pioneers.
Raw Food Redux
By Patrick Earvolino
When raw-food advocates speak to the benefits of a no-cook diet, the talk is usually all about digestive enzymes. But back in 1930 the Swiss doctor Paul Kouchakoff revealed a phenomenon that may be just as responsible—if not more so—for the reputed benefits of "going raw."
In his landmark report The Influence of Food Cooking on the Blood Formula of Man, Kouchakoff discusses his investigations of "digestive leukocytosis," a weighty term describing the fact that the number of white blood cells (leukocytes) in our blood tends to increase in response to eating.
Or, as renowned medical authority Dr. Ralph Bircher once put it:
"Some message sent by the palate to the marrow through the vegetative [autonomic] nerve system releases a deployment of leucocytes which swarm out to the walls of the intestines—as if to defend a frontline."
This mobilization of our immune system in response to taking in food was considered normal, presumably a measure of thwarting the potential invasion of pathogens in or on our food.
Since cooking is credited with destroying many of these potential pathogens, one might expect the reaction of digestive leukocytosis to be diminished for cooked foods relative to raw ones, i.e., foods as they appear in nature, loaded with all those microbes from the wild.
"Au contraire!" Dr. K might have said.
Remarkably, Kouchakoff's investigations showed that digestive leukocytosis did not occur at all when his subjects ate raw foods. Only when they dined on cooked food did the number of white blood cells in their blood increase.
Even more intriguing were the results of feeding subjects "manufactured foodstuffs," that is, processed foods such as sugar, chocolate, etc. Here, not only did the number of white blood cells in the blood increase, but the ratio of the different types of white blood cells changed.
In other words, when we eat processed foods, not only does the immune system get ready for a fight, it seems to begin mounting a specific defense, something that starts to sound a lot like a food sensitivity.
The Critical Temperature
In conducting over 300 experiments, Kouchakoff observed that digestive leukocytosis occurs only when a food is heated to a certain "critical temperature" (CT).
While each particular food has its own unique CT, the doctor found the CT of every food tested to lie within a range of 190 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit, as shown in the table below.
|Food||Critical Temperature (°F)|
Here's where things really get interesting.
Kouchakoff discovered that if a cooked whole food and a raw whole food were eaten at the same time, digestive leukocytosis would not occur if the CT of the raw food was the same or higher than that of the cooked food, but it would occur if the CT of the raw food was lower.
This phenomenon was true only when two foods were eaten. When it came to combinations of more than two foods, the doctor observed a host of "rules" regarding whether the leukocytotic reaction took place, all depending on the CTs of the raw and cooked foods involved.
Even processed foods appeared to benefit from being eaten along with raw foods. While the rules here seem less clear, one finding stands out:
Eating just one raw food with a meal containing processed foods keeps the ratio of the types of white blood cells from changing. That is, the specific-defense reaction is thwarted (though the total number of white blood cells still increases).
While Kouchakoff's rules of combining cooked and raw-foods are fairly complicated (see his report for more details), the take-home lesson is this:
Including in your meals a generous amount of raw foods that have a high critical temperature—such as carrots, strawberries, and figs—appears to be a good way to keep your immune system from being triggered when you eat.*
Lost in Time?
Amazingly, Kouchakoff's experiments have not been followed up by any modern-day investigators. Yet, anecdotal evidence and informal surveys of raw-food converts consistently report benefits such as the abatement of allergies, arthritis, and other autoimmune-type conditions upon removal of cooked foods from the diet.
It's also worth nothing that while the critical temperatures of the foods Kouchakoff tested are below temperatures typically reached in cooking, they are all considerably higher than the fabled 118-degree mark—the temperature at which enzymes are destroyed—believed by most raw foodists to explain the benefits of raw foods.
Which raises the question: in how many more ways might raw foods differ nutritionally from cooked?
As the raw-food movement continues to grow, perhaps science will feel impelled to answer this question. At least let's hope some plucky young investigator revives Dr. Kouchakoff's studies, lest the implications of his discoveries remain one of the great lost threads of nutrition history.
*Dr. Bircher-Benner, a contemporary of Dr. Kouchakoff, claimed that simply starting a meal by eating some raw vegetable prevents digestive leukocytosis regardless of what is eaten afterwards.
Patrick Earvolino is a Certified Nutritionist and founder of New Basics Nutrition, a company dedicated to spreading the truth about what we eat. He is available for nutritional counseling, writing, or public speaking at 303-513-1996 or
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