By Lawrence Wilson, MD
© August 2012, The Center For Development
Milk is the basic dairy product. It can come from various animals, and is used around the world as a staple food. It is truly an amazing food when it is handled properly.
It can be consumed in its fresh state or processed into cheese, whey, cream, butter, colostrum, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk and other products. Sometimes milk is further isolated or broken down into substances such as casein, calcium supplements, sodium caseinate (milk proteins) or lactose (milk sugar).
In nutritional balancing science, dairy products can play a definite and important role. Dairy products should be raw, and preferably certified, although that is not always necessary because it can be too costly for small farmers.
If raw dairy is not available in your area, make an effort to contact a dairy farmer directly to obtain it. Dairy products that are pasteurized, homogenized and contain many chemicals are of lower quality, and should be limited or preferably avoided. Among the main problems with most dairy products today are:
1. Pasteurization. Pasteurization mean either heating milk to about 149° F. or 65° C. for about 30 minutes (the batch method). A more modern method is called the continuous method, and involves heating the milk to 161° F. or 72° C. for at least 16 seconds by passing it over copper rollers. Another method is called ultra-pasteurization that is at a higher temperature.
This process kills many bacteria and that is its rationale. Unfortunately, it also destroys some vitamin C, vitamin E, and other vitamins, denatures or ruins some delicate proteins in the milk, and severely damages the bioavailability of the calcium in the milk. In addition, it can affect hundreds of enzymes, hormone factors, immune factors, and more. No one seriously disputes this fact. It can also add copper to the milk, which is not desirable.
Pasteurization may have been necessary 100 years ago in America. Today, however, with modern refrigeration and clean farming practices, it is probably not needed, given the great damage to the milk. Yet the milk lobby vociferously defends the practice. The real reasons, I believe, are:
1. Pasteurization causes the centralized control of the milk industry. This is very hard on small dairy farmers, who are not permitted to sell their milk directly to consumers, but must cater to the centralized pasteurization facilities that can set milk prices, etc.
2. Pasteurization allows dairy farmers, particularly the large “factory farms”, to be more sloppy and to use the milk of sick, malnourished cows because the bacteria in their milk will be killed by pasteurization.
3. Most doctors, public health authorities and others in political positions of power do not understand the nutritional damage to milk thanks to pasteurization, and do not respect the right of people to have choice in their food, recognizing that there may be a greater risk of infection from the raw milk.
2. Homogenization Homogenizing the milk means that the milk is forced through tiny diameter tubes at extremely high pressure to break the fat globules in the milk into much smaller particles. The process can involve extreme heat, so it is something like a second pasteurization process, as well.
Homogenization is done because otherwise the fat in the milk rises to the top of the container and separates. This is considered inconvenient. Homogenization prevents this and keeps the fat particles from rising and separating from the milk.
Unfortunately, homogenization also damages the milk quite severely. It causes the fat particles to be surrounded by whey and casein, which is unnatural. Also, the fat particles may be absorbed directly into the blood stream without being digested because they are so small. This is very bad for the body because fat should be digested before it is absorbed. This can contribute to milk allergies and other problems.
3. Hybrid cows. Due to special breeding, most cows today produce a lot more milk than cows did 100 years ago. However, the cows are not hormonally balanced, and the result is a much less healthful milk. To counter this trend, a few dairies are bringing back what are called heirloom cows. These are some of the older breeds of cows, and this is an improvement.
4. Drugs in the milk. Antibiotics, and perhaps hormones and other drugs are given to some cows. These pass easily into the milk. Organic milk or locally raised may be better, but not necessarily.
5. Other additives. Some milk has chemicals added. Please avoid items such as chocolate milk, for instance, that has added sugar and other harmful ingredients.
CERTIFICATION OF MILK
Over 100 years ago, some doctors realized that pasteurized milk was unfit for babies, in particular, and made them ill. Pasteurization was used commonly to prevent diseases associated with drinking dirty or contaminated milk. As a result, a much better method of protecting milk was devised called certification of the safety of raw milk.
The standards include that the herd of cows be free of tuberculosis and brucellosis, with tests every two years. Also, the milk must contain less than 10,000 bacteria per milliliter. Equipment is inspected and the milk testing frequently. An even stricter system is the newer Raw USA milk standards.
Lobbying by the large dairies has contributed a lot to banning the sale of raw milk in most states in America. The large dairies see it as competition which they cannot control. However, in my experience, raw milk that is produced in a healthful way, as most of it is, is safe and a much better product than pasteurized and homogenized milk.
Organic Milk. A recent attempt to improve the quality of milk by the health food community is the development of a standard called organic dairy products. While I am not sure of the exact requirements, presumably fewer drugs, pesticides and other harmful practices are used in the production of this milk. In fact, it does appear to be a better product, although most, sadly, is still pasteurized and some is homogenized as well.
MILK AS A FOOD, NOT A BEVERAGE
Milk is often treated as a beverage. However, while it can be drunk, it is really a very rich food. Downing a huge glass of milk is not wise at any time. Milk should be sipped, as babies take it, to obtain all the nourishment it offers. Drinking huge quantities at once are harmful, as it is not that easy to digest.
There are several reasons for this. Whole milk is very rich in fat. This is not easy to digest and is one reason that milk is processed to remove the fat. Second, milk is rich in lactose, a sugar that is also difficult for many adults and also for some children to digest. This is another reason why mixing it thoroughly with saliva in the mouth is a very wise idea. This is one reason that cheese and yogurt are much easier to digest than plain milk, especially for many adults.
Babies who drink milk or formula too fast often vomit it up rather than try to digest it when it has not mixed with some saliva. Saliva can help greatly to digest milk sugar.
In addition, milk is high in calcium. Calcium is a needed mineral, of course, especially for babies. However, drinking too much of it at once tends to alkalinize the stomach. This is not healthful because the stomach is supposed to be quite acidic for proper digestion.
OTHER TYPES OF MILKS
Whole milk is the milk as it comes directly from the source. It is called whole because it contains all of its cream or fatty part.
However, milk is also commonly sold in containers that offer low fat, 2% cream and no fat milk, which is also called skim milk because the fat is skimmed off the milk at the dairy or a processing plant.
Some people buy the low-fat varieties because they believe or are falsely told it will keep them and their children from gaining weight. The opposite is often true, however. The fat is needed. If the child does not get it, he will drink more than he needs of the skim milk, causing him to ingest too much sugar in the process. Sugars often cause most weight gain, not quality fats as are found in quality milk.
Eating more fats actually helps many children and adults to lose weight, especially those with fast oxidation rate. See the articles on the Oxidation Types to understand why. Skim and low-fat milks are not good for most adults, either. It is too high in sugar in many cases.
Buttermilk. This is a partially fermented milk, often with a high fat content. It is easier to digest for some adults than regular milk because the yeast or ferments consume some of the sugar in the milk. However, the ferments can make it more difficult to digest for others. For this reason, it is not highly recommended. A small amount on cereal may be okay, but that is all that is best. Children who are fast oxidizers may feel better on quality buttermilk, which is hard to find because it should be organically raised and minimally processed, which means certified raw.
Colostrum. This is the first milk that a female animal produces after giving birth. It has a slight bluish color and is the finest milk in the sense that it contains special immunoglobins and other substances that help prepare the intestinal tract of the baby to receive all food items in the future.
Recall that until a baby begins to feed, the intestinal tract is not in use, since all nutrition and development depends on the blood that flows from the placenta to the baby through its naval or bellybutton area. Thus the intestinal tract must be primed, so to speak, with bacteria and other flora in order for it to work correctly.
For this reason, the horrible practice of starting a newborn on formula in the hospital if the mother cannot begin to breastfeed immediately is a totally insane practice that just causes illness in the baby. Every effort should be made to assist a baby to obtain colostrum immediately when he or she wants to begin feeding. There is no reason to force this process, as the baby may require rest or sleep for hours after a difficult delivery, or any birth, for that matter.
Every effort should also be made to assist the mother to start breast feeding, since the colostrum is the finest product for the baby. If the mother cannot breastfeed and the baby is calling for milk, another woman should be found to offer some milk, preferably, before resorting to formula. This may sound unclean, but it is far healthier in most cases than formula of any kind and would result in far healthier babies.
In many nations formula is given out to hospitals and birthing centers at no charge by companies that want to “hook” the babies on the taste of formula. Then they will never want to breastfeed. This supports the formula company, but does nothing beneficial for the child or the mother. The mother is left with engorged breasts and a colicky child in most instances. We can only hope that the practice of giving formula in the hospital to newborns will be abandoned sometime soon, though I doubt it as it is “convenient” and inexpensive.
Colostrum is also sold today dried as a powder or in capsules. It can help boost the immune response in a person, although I am not sure how effective it is and it appears unnecessary and is somewhat costly.
Yogurt, Kefir and other fermented milk products. These are very popular. They are often easier to digest because the milk sugar, to which some are allergic, has been consumed by the fermenting organisms added to the milk.
The best kinds are made from organic milk, and plain rather than sweetened with fruit or other sugars. Also, the best are full-fat and live culture. This means the fermenting organisms are still alive. Many, such as lactobacillus acidophilus, are healthful for the human intestine in many cases. Most yogurt and kefir that is sold, however, is pasteurized, homogenized, flavored, low-fat and not live culture. This is not a very healthful product and should be eaten only rarely.
Powdered and Canned Milks. These are poor quality products and should only be used if no other alternative exists. Fresh milk is almost always much better.
Powdered milk is much harder to digest in most instances, as it is prepared by spraying the milk over copper rollers in many cases that add copper to the milk, a chemical element that is not usually found in milk in any appreciable quantity.
Canned milks are usually even worse, and are often old. Never use this product if the expiration date has passed, as it could be full of bacteria, since milk is quite difficult to preserve unless it is fermented or made into cheese.
Chocolate Milk. This is a horrible concoction for anyone. Don’t ever give it to children, as it is mostly sugar. Once I visited a milk processing facility and was told that the chocolate milk was made from milk that had “gone bad” and could not be sold as fresh milk. If you must give your child or yourself chocolate milk, make it yourself. It is easy to mix some cocoa powder into a glass of milk. It is not that bad a combination, etiher. Just don’t sweeten it any more than needed. And do not allow a child to live on it, as too many do. It is never a healthful food, even if home-made.
MILK AND BABIES
While there is much controversy over the nutritional wisdom of eating dairy when one is an adult, most agree that babies love milk, especially human milk.
Mother’s milk is by far the best for babies for dozens of reasons. I will just name a few, however, to make the point.
To begin with, it is uniquely made for human babies. A second reason is that it is free from harmful bacteria in most cases. When formula is made up, the purity of the water and even the container are unknown. This is a common source of infection among formula-fed babies.
A third reason is the nutritional content is far better than any formula, and much better than cow or goat or sheep milk as well. For more breastfeeding, an extremely important subject, see our article entitled Breastfeeding.
Alternatives to Breast Feeding. If mother’s milk is not available or is not tolerated well, a number of options exist. Here is a list of these, from best to worst. Please look at it carefully, because too many babies are immediately placed on store-bought formula which is about the worst alternative.
1. A Wet nurse is, by far, the best alternative to having one’s own mother’s milk, and may be better if for some reason the baby will not tolerate the mother’s milk. This could be due to the mother’s health, psychological condition or some other incompatibility.
For this reason, nursing mothers need to exercise care when taking vitamins or any medications, even over-the-counter drugs. Babies can be extremely sensitive to them. Always take the vitamins or medication at least two to three hours before starting breast feeding.
If the baby will not tolerate the mother’s milk for any reason, a wet nurse is an old idea that should be revived. Some nursing women have too much milk and would gladly help with another baby. The baby could feed at the breast or the milk can be expelled or pumped into a container. Even a little of this is wonderful.
2. Formulas: A meat-based formula is one option. It is best using lamb, for example, that is cooked, preferably boiled for a while and then shredded. This, however, is a lot of work and may not taste best, either.
Also, be sure with any bottle feeding not to warm the milk, either mother’s milk or other, in a microwave oven if possible. Use a pan with hot water in it and place the bottle in the water. This is not only much gentler. It will not burn the milk, or introduce plastic from a plastic bottle as much into the milk. Microwaves may also damage the nutrients in the milk.
For recipes for a meat-based or milk-based formula, see the book, Nourishing Traditions, 1999, by Sally Fallon. The formulas are excellent for many babies as far as we have seen.
3. Animal Milks. This is almost as good a the meat formula and much easier to prepare. Goat milk, preferably raw and certified, is often less allergenic, but organic cow milk, preferably raw and certified, is also superb for many babies. Always modify non-human milks for babies by adding fish or flaxseed oil and vitamins and minerals. The essential fatty acids contained in these oils are critical for a baby’s brain development.
4. Nut, seed or bean milks. These technically should not be called milks because they are not nearly as nutritious as real animal or human milk. So do not use them unless a baby has severe food allergies to animal milks.
The best is usually almond milk, followed by rice milk. The best is home-made from organically grown, unprocessed ingredients with spring or distilled water.
Unless an emergency exists or nothing else will be tolerated, it is better to avoid soy milk altogether. It contains anti-nutrients and estrogen-like compounds that are hard to remove unless the soy is fermented. Even then, the protein is of lesser quality and the fat content is lacking. It is usually much less healthful and often genetically modified, even if the label does not say so.
Making Almond Milk. Soak almonds overnight and then grind them up or blend them into a drink. Grinding them and then adding water is probably slightly better than blending them, because grinding exposes them to a little less air. Then add a multi-vitamin/mineral for children and fish or flaxseed oil, at the very least. One could add other ingredients, as suggested in books such as Nourishing Traditions, referenced above.
Making Rice Milk. Cook rice for at least two hours and then add water for consistency. Add a multi-vitamin/mineral for children and fish or flaxseed oil, at the very least.
Soy milk is difficult to make correctly. Unfortunately, store-bought soy milk or other store-bought nut or seed milks are often made with poor quality water, added sugars and chemicals, may be old, and are often the least desirable. However, they are easiest if this is a prime consideration.
5. Grocery Or Drugstore Formula. The worst food for babies is often a drugstore formula that is loaded with sugar, artificial flavors, some powdered milk or milk substitute and comes in a can.
OTHER DAIRY PRODUCTS
All dairy products should be eaten in as natural and whole a state as possible. Organically raised animals are the best sources, where this is possible.
Cream And Butter. Whole milk separates if left standing for several hours or more. The liquid part is called milk and goes to the bottom. On top is the fat, which is called cream.
If the cream is whipped or churned for an hour at least, it changes form and becomes butter. This is actually an interesting chemical reaction.
Butter is very similar to cream, but is much harder at room temperature and can be more easily spread on foods like bread. Butter is not quite as healthful as the original cream because the chemical reaction needed to make it destroys a little of the cream’s beautiful structure. However, butter and cream are both excellent fats, especially if the cows are allowed to graze freely. In this case, the butter and cream have a rich texture that contains a good quantity of omega-3 fatty acids that are much needed today. Sadly, if one pasteurizes the cream or butter, much of this is destroyed. If possible, always use raw butter and cream and do not cook them. If they are to be added to a dish, cook the rest of the dish and add the cream at the end.
Cheese is made in special ways that change the properties of the milk substantially The process varies, but is basically the following:
It begins with heating the milk to above room temperature, but not to a boil. Then a “culture” is added to the milk. This consists of live yeast organisms in most cases, though it could be a different fungal strain or even a bacteria. In the warm milk the culture organisms grow fast. The product is left overnight, and sometimes for much longer.
The result is called curds and whey. Both are nutritionally rich. The curds are more solid and contain more protein. They are also far more difficult to digest without the whey. The other product, whey, is usually watery, richer in certain sugars and has a sweeter taste in most cases.
Cottage Cheese And Cream Cheeses More Healthful Than Most Others. The next step is to separate the curds from the whey. This is done traditionally by forcing the water out of the curds with a cheese press or squeezing the curds in a cheese cloth, a semi-permeable piece of cloth that only allows the whey to pass through.
If the process stops here, one gets what is called cottage cheese, named after people making simple cheese in their own homes. Among Italians, a fresh cheese that is healthful is called ricotta.
Aged Cheeses Harder To Digest. If cheese processing continues, the cheese is allowed to dry somewhat and usually is placed in molds to form its shape. Often the cheese is aged, which means it is left to settle for a number of days or longer. This product is called aged cheese and is usually harder in texture and also more difficult to digest.
However, most cheese should be eaten in only small quantities by all adults because it is somewhat difficult to digest and utilize properly. The ferments or yeasts in the cheese should make it far easier to digest than just drinking regular milk, but usually the wrong ones are used, as they may be more costly or don’t taste as good. Also, if cheeses were made of raw, certified milk, which is hard to find today, it would be much easier to digest and would be a staple food.
Junk Cheeses. Most cheese today is mass-produced in huge batches and many shortcuts are taken to make it ferment faster. For instance, many chemicals may be added to it, it is not aged naturally and preservatives and other chemicals are added or sprayed on later to make it keep longer.
As a result, most cheese is close to junk food status, unfortunately. This is what your child is eating when he or she eats most pizza, for example, or most Mexican dishes. It is especially the case in restaurants, where cutting costs is the primary consideration, and not your health.
The worst cheese is called “cheese food” or “processed cheese”. Velveeta and Kraft make this fake food. Its ingredients don’t let you know that it may be made from rejected milk and other dairy products that cannot be sold fresh. Then many chemicals, colors, flavors and more, are added and even glue is added to give it “consistency”. This is not really a food, but it is what is served in some schools, many restaurants and even in fancy establishments as well.
Eggs are sometimes considered a dairy product although they are from chickens, not dairy cows. They should also be naturally raised and allowed to run free. Some omega-3 eggs are excellent, while others are not fed as balanced a diet.
A Word About Margarine. Margarine, shortening, Crisco, non-dairy creamers and related products are often found in the dairy section of supermarkets. However, they bear little resemblance to real dairy products. They contain hardly any nutrients and many toxic substances.
Do not eat these unless you are starving to death and they are the only available foods. They are all quite harmful to our bodies. Despite scientific evidence regarding their harm, they are widely used in restaurants, in particular. They are also found in hundreds of prepared food items from peanut butter and eggs cooked in them, to almost all pastries, rolls and other baked goods.
For more on this subject, see the article on this website entitled Butter Versus Margarine.
MILK PRODUCTS AND ADULTHOOD
Many adults (and children, too) have a milk sensitivity or “allergy”. This can cause stomach pain, a runny nose and many other possible symptoms. In a few cases, it seems to result in a milk addiction. Read Food Addictions for more information on this interesting topic.
The adult problem with most milks may or may not be due to the casein (milk protein) or lactose (milk sugar). However, it can be to other constituents of milk as well.
Some contend that the reason for the allergies is that adults should not consume dairy products as they are designed for suckling babies. However, most cultures in the world do consume dairy into adulthood, including many extremely healthy populations in Europe, for example. Asians seem to have more problems with dairy products as a rule, and consume much less of them. It appears that the Caucasian or white race can digest dairy protein better.
Allergies or sensitivities to dairy products are particularly common among blacks in America and elsewhere. Some of this, however, is due to impaired digestion, leaky gut syndrome and other digestive problems. Part of the problem is also the poor quality of most dairy products today. Our experience is that nutritional balancing programs will often reduce allergies to all dairy products. Also, one may need to try various products to find a good one that does not cause digestive upset, since most are not healthful.