The first adverse, allergic reactions to cow’s milk originate over 2000 years ago.
It was before 370 B.C. when Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine first talked about skin and gastrointestinal symptoms appearing after the consumption of bovine milk.
Another Greek medical researcher and one of the most influential and brilliant physicians in human history, Galen of Pergamon, also discovered a causal relationship between these side-effects and milk consumption .
At that time of ancient medicine, everything including the air, water and food supply was pure- no chemicals had been isolated, no hormones had been given to the animals and all dairy foods consumed by the people were 100% organic and unadulterated.
Even the cow feed was completely clear of all chemical contamination.
Despite that, issues with dairy were still evident.
What does this tell us?
Those health problems and allergic reactions associated with the consumption of milk products are derived from their naturally occurring proteins, fat and sugar- no matter if they are organic, grass-fed, or pasture-raised.
That consuming organic dairy is indeed less, but still deleterious to human health, as opposed to conventional dairy.
Regardless, it is only the last 50 years that various scientific groups have initiated the analysis of cow’s milk allergens.
In the meantime, the spectrum of allergy evoking proteins found in cow’s milk have been identified and several cow’s milk allergens have been characterized on their biochemical properties.
Simply put, the combination of traditional wisdom and modern research supports the conclusion that in most cases, cow’s milk is a disease-promoting substance.
The Problem with Cow’s Milk
Cow’s milk has been long touted by the mainstream nutrition world as an excellent source of calcium and protein, being a staple in many traditional cuisines around the world for thousands of years.
As the primary source of nutrition for the baby cattle before it can digest other types of food, cow’s milk is very rich in minerals, calories, hormones, growth factors, proteins and fats.
|Cow’s Milk (100 gr.)|
|Vitamin C||0 mg|
|Vitamin D (D2 + D3)||1.3 µg|
Nowadays, cow’s milk is one of the first foods introduced into an infant’s diet and also one of the primary food allergies in early childhood.
Some people argue that the nutrient profile of cow’s milk, especially in minerals, proteins (300% more casein than human milk) and fats may be beneficial for baby cows, but harmful to humans.
Cow’s milk is intended to help a baby cattle double its weight in 6 to 8 weeks, whereas a child’s body requires 6 to 7 months to double its weight.
Cow’s milk has at least four times as much protein and over six times as much mineral content as human milk, which renders it heavily concentrated and very hard for infants to digest.
Human digestive enzyme secretion and production for handling milk products is much inferior to that of a cow’s.
Without proper enzyme production, both in type and quantity, human babies and adults alike suffer nausea, diarrhea, digestive problems, intestinal cramps and mucus congestion in the sinus cavities, lungs, and ears.
On top of that, there is a widespread, general tendency in our society to not breast-feed our children.
Most of us were weaned on cow’s milk or synthetic formulas, which are overprocessed, denatured and multiple times more concentrated than milk itself.
Roughly between the age of three and four most children lose the enzymatic capacity to digest milk, especially the lactase enzyme, which breaks down lactose- the main sugar in milk.
This probably happens because nature has biologically programmed us to be weaned after the age of three or four.
The human body must exercise a vast amount of effort to metabolize cow’s milk and the result of this effort, coupled with the inordinate amount of casein present in milk, creates serious mucus congestion problems and ill conditions.
Casein: A Digestion Resistant Protein
Most adults, whether they acknowledge it or not, can not efficiently digest milk, which when consumed, ends up passing through their system partially broken down, feeding pathogens (like Candida Albicans), inflaming the mucosal lining and sticking to the gut walls, creating the notorious “mucoid plaque” (along with starch and flour products).
Milk’s adhesive qualities come from its extremely high casein content, which represents 80% of its total protein.
Casein, due to its oil permeability, is used for the production of various glue products in woodwork and furniture making, as well as transformer board manufacturing.
The other 20% of milk’s protein content is comprised of whey protein, an insulinogenic, easily absorbable, fast-digesting form of protein, widely used in powder form as a sports dietary supplement.
Casein carries the same amino acid profile as whey protein, but it is absorbed at a much slower rate.
After ingestion, casein interferes with the digestive juice creating a bolus or “large curd” in the stomach.
Additionally, morphine-like chemical compounds found in casein, known as casomorphins, induce neuroendocrine alterations in the body as they break down.
As casein gets slowly digested, the casomorphins attach to opiate and serotonin receptors in the brain, and can actually cause someone to become addicted to dairy products.
Casomorphins are potent peptides- they are stronger than morphine itself.
They have also been found to exacerbate most of the typical behavioral and cognitive symptoms in children on the autistic spectrum .
Casein is a digestion-resistant protein and when it is broken down to casomorphins instead of amino acids (due to the lack of specific alimentary enzymes), serious health problems arise.
This is a big reason why alternative healthcare practitioners typically remove dairy from the diets of autistic children.
However, not all types of dairy are harmful and it being always the bad guy is not necessarily the case.
There is a type of milk that has been proven to be very particularly beneficial in the treatment of autism- camel milk.
In recent years, some researchers have investigated the potential therapeutic effect of camel milk in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
A study conducted in children on the ASD spectrum has shown great improvements in their behavior and general well-being after camel milk administration , rendering it a promising therapeutic intervention for the disease .
Pasteurization Makes Milk More Inflammatory
On top of all this, we also cook (pasteurize) cow’s milk.
Heat alters the chemical structure of the milk, as well as changing its metabolic end-products from alkaline-forming to acid-forming.
In order to retain homeostasis, our body maintains a strict and specific pH balance on every tissue.
For example, the pH of our stomach ranges between 1.5 and 3.5, which is considered extremely acidic.
This level rises when food enters the stomach; it can reach up to six, but it lowers again throughout digestion as stomach acid is secreted.
Normally, our blood’s pH ranges from 7.35 to 7.45.
This means that the blood is naturally slightly alkaline or basic.
Certain health conditions, such as kidney disease, heart disease, asthma, gout, poisoning, infection or diabetes, as well as some medical emergencies can push our body to become too acidic or too alkaline, by affecting the pH of our blood.
Metabolic end-products of food digestion can also alter the blood pH equilibrium, often obligating the body to use its resources to balance it out.
A good example is the calcium-buffering system, where the body leaches the alkaline mineral calcium from bones and teeth to buffer and neutralize dormant acids.
Physiologists have known for a hundred years how critically important this acid-base balance can be in disease and health, and how tightly regulated this balance is in our bodies.
Extremes in either direction, acidosis or alkalosis, can be life threatening.
For that reason we have complex biochemical mechanisms available in our cells, as well as in the blood and in the fuilds of our tissues, to keep acid and base levels under control.
We continually produce acid wastes, such as lactic acid, as a product of cellular metabolism, and we produce buffers such as bicarbonate, a powerful antacid, to neutralize excess acidity.
Acidic or alkaline molecules can be excreted efficiently through the kidneys, as needed, or released through breathing to maintain the appropriate acid-base levels.
For example, carbon dioxide (CO2), the waste product of cellular respiration, can be converted to carbonic acid in the body.
By increasing the rate of breathing, we can rid ourselves of excessive CO2 and, in effect, lower the body levels of circulating acid.
In chemistry, one of the primary ways to alter the structure of a chemical component is by subjecting it to heat.
Through the application of heat, the 3D structure of a chemical substance gets broken down and unfolds.
For example, proteins get deaminated and depurinated, and fats get denatured and oxidized.
Similar chemical alterations occur when heat is applied to the consituents of milk.
Furthermore, heating and pasteurization drastically decrease all water-soluble vitamins, especially B and C, kill beneficial bacteria (probiotics) and inactivate critical enzymes necessary for digestion.
Milk that has not been pasteurized (raw milk) contains the enzyme phosphatase and other crucial enzymes necessary for the absorption of calcium, which are all destroyed by cooking.
That’s a possible explanation why several research papers have stated that dairy consumption contributes to the onset, rather than the prevention of osteoporosis [2, 3, 4], which definitely holds true when it comes to pasteurized milk.
The dramatic effects of milk pasteurization are also evident when calves are fed pasteurized milk instead of their fresh, raw milk; they rapidly start to deteriorate and eventually die in a matter of few months.
The pasteurization of milk originated when the dairy industry turned into “big business”.
This is because it is a practical impossibility to handle vast quantities of milk and dairy products, transporting them long distances from the place of origin to the large distributing centers, without considering spoilage.
And such spoilage naturally involves financial loss.
Moreover, the process of milk pasteurization is no safeguard for the health of the people either.
What it offers is basically shelf-life extension; the high heat kills specific strains of bacteria and enzymes, rendering the milk biologically inactive (and thus less bioassimilable), preventing it from souring.
Long before pasteurization became prevalent in the late 1800s, people were enjoying dairy products in their raw form without getting sick, as raw milk naturally contains many anti-pathogenic components, which get largely inactivated by the application of heat over 115 Fo/46 Co.
Secondly, in the past, cows were grazing free and happy in the fields, not wallowing in mud and muck, as it happens in most confinement dairies today.
Therefore, raw milk that has been produced under sanitary and healthy conditions is a safe and healthier option to consume, considering that the cows are healthy and tested to be free of infections (such as mastitis), tuberculosis, brucellosis, diphtheria and undulant fever.
Their feed should also be comprised of mostly grass, hay or silage, with only a small amount of grains during the winter months.
The raw milk should not be skimmed, as most of the important anti-microbial and health-promoting constituents are found in the fat.
The cows should also be milked under sanitary conditions and the milk chilled down immediately to prevent the growth of potentially pathogenic microorganisms.
The Benefits of Going Dairy-Free
Children of all ages, adolescents and adults invariably show great improvements when cow’s milk has been omitted from their diet.
Children who were perpetually afflicted with colds and ear-aches become healthier and stronger, teenagers dealing with cystic acne witness their face getting cleared up , men suffering from an enlarged prostate can finally empty their bladder completely, women with breast cancer observe their tumors getting smaller- all after completely removing cow’s milk from the diet.
People of all ages afflicted with asthma, eczema, psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hay fever and other mucous conditions also respond instantly to the elimination of milk from the diet, especially when starches are also excluded.
Dairy-Free Calcium Sources
While it is true that cow’s milk contains a very high percentage of calcium, which is extremely important for countless biochemical and metabolic reactions, its other components render it inflammatory and not beneficial for human physiology.
Besides, it has been showcased that a high dietary animal protein consumption, including milk, is accompanied by significant amounts of calcium loss through urine as part of the body’s calcium-buffering system .
Calcium is readily extracted from various places of the body, including the teeth and bones, and used as a buffer for the acidic metabolic by-products of animal protein breakdown, such as phosphoric and sulfuric acid.
It is also an abundant mineral with many great and tasty food sources.
The highest, most-bioavailable concentrations of plant-based calcium are found in sesame seeds (including tahini, pasteli and halva), figs, dark leafy greens and sea vegetables, like kelp.
Other rich sources, such as beans, must be specially prepared to fully remove their lectin content, through soaking and pressure cooking.
Soy products of all types should better be avoided altogether, due to the presence of phytoestrogens and possibly crop genetic modification (GMOs).
Concerning the presence of anti-nutrients, some vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes and rhubarb are high in oxalates (oxalic acid), which have been shown to inhibit calcium absorption and promote kidney stone formation [9, 10].
Oxalates are tiny molecules found in many plant-based foods, such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, chocolate, and tea.
They bind with calcium and other minerals (like magnesium and iron) forming insoluble salts that are not absorbed by the intestine.
Many times, depending on the body’s ability to metabolize them, they lead to the formation of calcium oxalate stones.
60-80% of all kidney stones are calcium oxalate stones, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid oxalate-rich foods, which almost all constitute nutrient powerhouses.
Thankfully, the problem of oxalates can be solved by simply cooking the vegetables or any other high-oxalate food, since heat induces the thermal decomposition of the oxalic molecule.
Boiling substantially reduces the soluble oxalate content by 30-87% and is more effective than other cooking techniques, such as steaming (5-53%) and baking .
The following table shows the oxalate content present in 100 grams of selected raw vegetables:
|Raw Produce (100 gr.)||Oxalic acid (gr.)|
|Swiss Chard, green||0.97|
In addition, calcium requires the presence of magnesium to be properly utilized.
In the plant kingdom, calcium and magnesium are most often found together, acting synergistically.
Dark green leafy vegetables are full of calcium, magnesium, vitamins, polyphenols, bioflavonoids, all of which need each other for proper utilization.
In cow’s milk, we find a lot more calcium than magnesium.
This adds to the lack of utilization of calcium found in milk.
Actually, it has been estimated that less than 30 percent of milk calcium is being absorbed .
We utilize quantities of calcium twice as high from dark leafy vegetables than we do from milk.
1/2 kg of raw green, leafy vegetables in the form of cold-pressed juices/smoothies, along with 1/2 kg of steamed/boiled vegetables, easily meet the intake of 1000-1500 mg/d, which is above the RDI .
As previously mentioned, when milk is pasteurized, its minerals become ionized, changing their metabolic effects on the body from alkaline to acidic, while making them less accessible to the body.
In that manner, ingestion of cooked cow’s milk may promote soft tissue calcification, muscle weakness, GI tract inflammation, increased risk of fractures, and various other conditions.
The reality of this phenomenon can be witnessed in men and women who drink copious amounts of milk, but still end up getting osteoporosis .
The organs mainly responsible for the utilization of calcium are the thyroid and parathyroid gland, along with the fat-soluble vitamins D3 and K2.
When these glands are healthy and adequate intake of these vitamins is ensured, through sun exposure and the consumption of fermented foods, the body will utilize calcium properly, distributing in the right places and not on the arteries, kidneys, or prostate.
The need for cow’s milk as a necessary part of the human diet has no scientific rationale.
Cow milk-drinking recommendations by conventional or alternative healthcare practitioners indicate a basic lack of understanding as to how cow’s milk constituents affect the biochemistry of the human body.
There is no other animal in nature, except humans, that uses milk as food after it has been weaned.
Nature has probably laid the exact and ideal macro- and micronutrient ratio in the milk of each type of animal, that was best suited for the growth of its young.
Cow’s milk can be used as a food source and keep someone alive after maturation, but it won’t make that person to thrive.
Plant-based sources and especially dark leafy vegetables are superior in their bioavailability of calcium and other nutrients necessary for bone health (such as vitamin K), without the milk’s innate inflammatory properties.
If you are a milk lover and enjoy consuming milk in your everyday life, you are better off switching to other dairy options that can benefit your long-term health and longevity, such as raw cream and butter, yogurt and kefir from goat or sheep.
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About George Kelly
George Kelly M.Sc. is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist that specializes in chronic and autoimmune conditions. He is the CEO and lead author of Metabolic Body.
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Metabolic Body nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.