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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Milk-Superfood or Hyper-Allergen?

From Adam Heifer

In my time as a health professional I don’t think there is any other food i've come across that has more controversy and conjures up such a polarity of opinions as Milk. Although an ongoing source of confusion for years, a client’s recent inquiry over milk gave me the impetus to write this article. I will state that my purpose is not to convince anyone to drink milk or not. This is intended to give a brief, but thorough understanding and accurate depiction as to why such polarities of opinions exist. Are both statements right? Well read on and find out…
Milk - super food or hyper allergen?
Milk - super food or hyper allergen?

Now milk goes way back as a Superfood- According to Ayurveda (the “science of life”- A 5000 year old healing system with roots in India) milk has special and unique nutrition unlike any other food- It is said to balance emotions and help balance all the “doshas." Acclaimed Indian Swami Srila Prabhupada stated that milk helps to form and maintain our “finer brain tissues,” which is a boon in the quest of self realization- Now that’s quite a statement if you ask me... On the other side of things, (occurring in the more recent years) milk has been branded a health risk- linked to cancer, diabetes, allergies, and digestibility issues.

The main issue to understand when deciphering information about dairy is that the negative statistics about milk are being compiled from a product that really isn’t milk in its true form. Pasteurized, homogenized corn, soy and/or grain fed milk is not really milk anymore. It falls into the category that Michael Pollan (Omnivores Dilemma) describes as “edible food like substances.” The entire structure of the product becomes changed and compromised- This leads to the digestibility issues and health concerns. The digestibility issue is usually blamed on the pasteurization (heating of the milk at high temperatures to potentially kill off any “pathogens”), thus destroying vital enzymes during the process that would allow proper assimilation of the milk. The greater issue is that during the heating/pasteurization process the fragile milk proteins are drastically changed, which leads to deeper digestibility issues. The “milk” becomes a foreign substance and our body mounts an immune response to it.

Homogenization breaks the fat molecules down to such a micro level that they can’t be properly assimilated by our body- It alters the enzymes and fats so that they enter the bloodstream and can “scar” the arteries, leading to cholesterol buildups. If that’s not enough, there is the antibiotics and growth hormone issue that also accompany conventional supermarket milk. Organic milk may be antibiotic and growth hormone free, but still runs into the same issues when it’s pasteurized and homogenized. Also, the nutritional and health value of the milk changes when the cows are grain, soy, and corn fed (which much of the organic milk is). This is not their natural diet and it shows up in the quality of the milk.

This is the crux of the issue in regard to conventional, pasteurized milk. Emphasis on the words conventional and pasteurized. Where the misinformation occurs with milk is when people start making blanket statements:  “Milk is linked to allergies, cancer, contains antibiotics etc..” This is true for conventional, pasteurized milk, but doesn’t have anything to do with real milk- I just want to make this distinction clear...

Now for the other side of things: pure, grass/pasture-fed cows milk is a whole other story- It is a raw, living, vital food. For as damning as conventional milk can be for our health, raw milk is equally as healthy. Many consider it the “wonder tonic” that the Ayurveda deems it, and the results are there to back it up. Raw milk has been known to reverse chronic disease and maladies from asthma and eczema to irritable bowel syndrome. Ingesting in its pure, natural state ensures that crucial enzymes and beneficial bacteria (such as lactobacillus) are intact which aids in proper digestion. In fact most people who have digestibility issues with conventional milk do just fine with grass-fed raw, real dairy. People all over the world have sworn by raw milk and dairy for helping them to regain their overall health and vitality back. Some indigenous people/cultures (who tend to be the healthiest people in the world) revere raw whole milk and dairy products as a “sacred food” as they know it to be a cornerstone to their robust mental and physical health, well being, and good fortune.

The formula for proper raw milk has to be that the cows are grass fed, and of course the farmers are conscientious and clean. Raw, grass-fed milk in its pure state has natural enzymes (its own “defense system”) to protect it from pathogens. There is no need to process it to protect us from any contaniments (Pasteurization also kills the pathogen fighting enzymes). Now there is a reason why other dairy products are pasteurized- Even organic, grain-fed milk could have contamination issues-It is processed for your protection.

Sale of raw dairy products are now illegal in most states (but interesting how you can buy Twinkies and an artificially sweetened mega energy drink). If you decide to try to go the raw route, there are buying clubs you could get involved with. Just look online, ask around, and do the research. There are also some grass-fed (but pasteurized) milk options at health food stores that some do fine with.

I personally avoided most dairy products for many years- Though the benefits of milk were tied into my Yoga culture/lineage and I heard from top health professionals about the deep health advantages of real dairy for quite some time. For these facts, when I finally had the ability to have access to them, I gave them a try.

In my training, I have noticed a distinct difference while starting on a raw heavy cream (a fairly recent addition). Raw cream is dense in fat soluble vitamins (which regulate hormones, metabolism, and assist in a healthy immune system), healthy fats for proper metabolism, Congelated Lineolic Acid/CLA and CoQ10. I treat it more like a “supplement” than a food (as consumption consists just of a couple spoonfuls a day), but it has made it into my routine and I feel great.

 *Bonus Section:
Again, this article isn’t written to dissuade you from, or sway you into consuming dairy products- We respect all stances, but it isn’t a forum to get into personal, ethical, or moral issues on dairy consumption. Its purpose is solely to distinguish the very distinct differences between conventional milk and raw real milk- We hope you understand the facts a little better now, and the choice is yours.
Now for those who choose not to drink milk, there is a whole “milk alternative” industry vying for your business for what you’re going to put on your cereal or in your coffee. Some products try to tout as a “healthy alternative” (from conventional), but realize that none of them have any real health value.

Once something is put in a carton or can and on a shelf, it’s been pasteurized and has had the “life” sucked out of it. I would advise to stay away from any soy alternatives for the myriad of issues associated with conventional soy in general. I am not crazy on the rice milks either (for the general “dead” reason) along with the sweeteners and oils they put in with them. If I had to choose any, I would say go with an unsweetened almond milk- Best choice yet, learn to make your own live, raw almond milk with soaked almonds. It takes a little time and energy, but a wonderful and delicious healthy choice.

Adam is a Reiki Master, certified Health and Lifestyle counselor, Licensed Massage Therapist, 20 year practicing bramana initiated Bhakti Yogi, Spiritual advisor, visionary, jock and veteran of the “hardcore punk scene” all rolled into one. Adam is the founder of Omkara World and produced the mind/body fitness DVD “Intelligent Fitness."
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