Mothers Milk is the perfect food. It symbolizes the connection between mother and child. Cow’s milk is also considered an excellent food due to its high quantities of calcium and protein. But is it really? Studies show that countries that consume the highest amount of dairy also have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. Furthermore, depending on a person’s condition or symptoms, naturopathic doctors or nutritionists may suggest that they stop consuming milk and dairy products as part of an elimination diet.
So what is wrong with milk?
The answer to this question becomes clear when we analyze the composition of milk, the processes that it undergoes before it hits the market, and some of the illnesses that have been linked to its consumption.
What happens when a human being drinks the milk of another animal?
AnnMarie Cobin, author of Food and Healing, makes some interesting comparisons between the nutrient compositions of cow’s milk and mother’s milk. There are some very obvious differences in the two types of milk, for example:
- Cow’s milk has 3 times more protein and almost 4 times more calcium than human milk. This excess of protein and calcium can build up inside our bodies and lead to ailments such as infection, allergies, leaky gut, and pimples. Many of these types of conditions clear when milk is removed from the diet.
- The ratio of calcium to phosphorus in human milk is 2:1 while the ratio is about 1:1 in cow’s milk. Studies show that only foods with a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1 should be consumed by humans because phosphorus can prevent calcium absorption in the digestive system.
- Human milk has about the same amount of fat as cow’s milk, yet we skim the fat from cow’s milk and disturb the foods natural balance. The fat in milk is also necessary because it helps with calcium absorption.
- Human milk has double the carbohydrates of cow’s milk. Perhaps this is why we end up drinking milk with sugary carbohydrates like cereals or cookies, to make up for this deficiency.
- Cow’s milk has more than 3 times the sodium of human milk. This is a source of excessive sodium intake that we do not need to add to our diets.
A look at pasteurization and homogenization:
The above facts clearly indicate why cow’s milk may not be ideal for human consumption. The pasteurization and homogenization of milk offer even more compelling evidence. While pasteurization is necessary due to the unhygienic management of milk, and to increase its shelf life, it unfortunately destroys very important nutrients in milk such as vitamins C, B, and E, as well as calcium, probiotics and valuable enzymes. The purpose of the homogenization of milk is to keep it from separating into fat and water. This process involves reducing the size of fat globules within the milk, making them tiny so that they are less dense and do not separate from the water. The drawback of this process is that these fat globules become so small that they are more difficult for our enzymes to find and digest. Therefore undigested globules can get into the blood stream and cause milk allergies. Did you know that milk is the number one allergic food? Children and adults alike can react to the primary proteins in milk such as casein and lactalbumin. This reaction can manifest in many ways such as skin rashes, eczema, pimples, diarrhea, nausea, headaches, ear infections, and hyperactivity in children.
What about milk and vitamin D?
Finally, milk has been touted for containing the illusive vitamin D. The addition of synthetic vitamin D in milk was introduced initially to prevent rickets in children. It also encourages calcium absorption in the body. With the assistance of vitamin D, excess calcium, which we can obtain from drinking too much milk, can deposit anywhere in the body. It sometimes ends up in the wrong places leading to problems such as kidney stones, ovarian cysts, and atherosclerosis.
Other problems with milk:
Other issues surrounding milk include a potential cancer risk. Milk contains growth hormones that make baby calves grow very big, very fast. These growth hormones stimulate hormones within our own body, particularly IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor – 1). This hormone is a member of a family of proteins involved in mediating human growth and development. Studies show that people who drink 3 glasses of milk per day have about a 10% rise in IGF-1 in their bloodstream. This increase in IGF-1 has been linked to an increase in prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. Milk is also mucous forming and cancer feeds off of mucous.
A less serious condition than cancer, lactose intolerance, is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar naturally found in milk, due to the lack of the enzyme lactase. People with lactose intolerance will suffer from indigestion when consuming dairy products. About 70% of the world adult population is lactose intolerant. This condition is quite normal; once you no longer need to digest mothers milk the body simply stops producing the enzyme.
The good stuff about milk:
Now that I have thoroughly discussed the downsides, I should also point out that there are some good points about consuming cow’s milk. Good quality unpasteurized (raw) milk can be a healthy choice because it still contains the enzymes needed to make it digestible as a whole food. Yogurt and fermented milks like kefir and buttermilk are more easily assimilated because lactose has been broken down by the fermentation process. Finally, good quality unpasteurized cheeses make for a healthy snack. Still, it may be a wise choice to consider giving up our milk moustaches in favour of other sources of calcium in our diets, such as those listed below:
- Beans and nuts
- Greens like broccoli, kale, parsley, dandelion
- Sea vegetables
- Sesame seeds and tahini
– Bateson-Koch, Carolee. Allergies Disease in Disguise. Summertown, TN: Books Alive, 1994.
– Colbin, Annemarie. Food and Healing. Toronto, ON: Random House of Canada, 1986.
– Holmes, M. (2002). Dietary Correlates of Plasma Insulin-like Growth Factor 1 and Insulin-like Binding Protein 3 Concentrations. Retrieved from http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/11/9/852.short