November 11, 2011

The Raw Milk Health Craze: Quality in Moderation.

Kate Leinweber, B.Sc RHN

Is there such a thing as the “Perfect Food?”

Raw milk has been a part of my diet for about three years. I hopped on the Raw Milk bandwagon when I was in my super strict stage as a Nutritionist. When everything I put into my body had to absolutely be of utmost quality. Living on the west coast, where health fad bandwagon jumping is so fun, I had a great ride! The farm out there provided raw milk yogurt, cheeses, and best of all butter (you know how much I love butter). Growing up I hated drinking milk (most likely because I was allergic to it), so I’ve never been a person to sit down to a glass of milk; unless cookies accompanied it of course!

As a Nutritionist Dairy was obviously bad with its processed nature, attempt at impersonating a whole food, congesting consequences, allergy inducing nature and synthetic vitamins. No way that was part of my diet. But then I learned about Raw milk. With its natural enzymes for digestion, intact healthy fats, proteins and the fat soluble vitamins: A, D, E and K.  Not to mention its natural souring over time that added a very much needed flavor to my gluten-free, sugar-free Superfood muffins! Oh, it was raw milk or NOTHING! (are you getting the extremism of this time of my life?)

Joining the elite group of raw milk consumers I became hooked and my dairy consumption went from non-existent to a daily event. The pendulum swung and I liked having one more part of my diet that I could control through seeking perfection.

A few years later, I moved across the country, went through the epic breakup of my life and I lost my raw milk connection. I was dealing with more change than I had bargained for. I didn’t really want to get out of bed in the morning let alone get to the health food store. I was not eating well because I didn’t have my perfect foods in the house, so I was not eating much at all.

It was my Medical Intuition teacher that said to me one day “There is deep deficiency here. Where are you getting your calcium?”

“Umm…,” I managed to squeak out. The nutritionist caught in a moment of not-knowing.

“What about milk? Cheese?” she asked.

“Well, I’m waiting for my source of raw milk to start servicing my area!” I said excitedly thinking she would commend me for waiting for the most superior source of milk.

“It is that restriction you are placing on your body that is creating this deficiency. Go now and buy a block of cheese. Sure go with organic, but not eat something because it isn’t the BEST is hurting your body more than eating something slightly less than perfect.”

I had never had it put to me that way. I thought that my search for the absolute best quality food to eat was how to create a healthy body. I prided myself on this obsession. Where I went wrong was by cutting out a food completely by seeking control and perfection.

Milk is not unhealthy. When it is processed A LOT, it can have negative effects.  When it is processed a little, there are nutrients in their our body can thrive on. When over consumed it is unhealthy. But that goes for all foods, even bananas.

I went to the grocery store and bought Organic Whole Milk and a box of cereal. After heartbreak stole my appetite it was this food from my childhood that gave me the strength to get back on my feet. It was a food that I judged as being wrong or bad that brought me back to a healthy balance.

It was neither balanced to drink raw milk daily, nor to restrict dairy completely because I could not access it in the raw form.  Here is an important concept that took me a long long time to understand: Quality in Moderation. Basically we can eat anything we want as long as we have quality in mind and exercise moderation. I love to live in extremes. But it does not serve my body, mind, or spirit. I now strive to live on a spectrum that is constantly shifting and changing to balance the interaction of my internal body with the external world. I strive for Homeostasis.

Is raw cows milk a healthy choice? Yes.

Is it the best choice? Not necessarily.

Is it a healing food for all people? No.

There are no two people alike. We all have different genetics, compositions, and life challenges. This will influence how any food affects us. And it is up to us to listen to our bodies and discover what is right for us as individuals.

I have some clients who are so sensitive that they cannot even handle cheese made from raw milk. I have other clients, including myself, where raw dairy products have been pivotal in our healing journeys.

It is the obsession with finding that ONE answer that can get in our way of balance.

The sale of raw milk is illegal in all of Canada and many parts of the US. Michael Schmidt is a famous Canadian dairy farmer who recently undertook a 37 day hunger strike to raise awareness around the restriction of raw milk in Canada.

My opinion is that we should all have the right to choose which type of milk we drink. If pasteurized milk gives you gas and discomfort, then you probably should not drink it.  If it doesn’t, then your body is probably capable of digesting it properly.

Here is some Education for your Dairy Choices:

Organic vs Non-Organic?

Pesticides build up in fatty tissues. Therefore dairy and meats should always be fed with feed that has not been treated with pesticides. Depending on where you live conventional dairies can also use hormones to boost production. In Canada the use of Bovine Growth Hormone is illegal, but it is widely used I the US. Hormones in food can interfere with our natural hormone levels.


Pasteurization is a heat-based process that intends to reduce the amount of viable microorganisms below that which can cause illness.  Not to completely sterilize a product, but just to reduce bacterial numbers to extend its shelf-life. Pasteurization is necessary for high scale milk producers. Where efficiency, speed, and quantity are valued; cleanliness comes secondary. Pasteurization covers up any illness, udder sores that may be oozing and the time where milk sits in large vats at uncontrolled temperatures while transported to processing factories. These are conditions supporting the growth of pathogenic bacteria that can make us ill.  It is important to know that the bacteria in this milk may be killed, but their byproducts and toxins are not.

How can Pasteurization be perceived as bad? The process reduces protein bioavailability, oxidizes fats, destroys many nutrients and perhaps most applicable to our society of lactose intolerance and casein sensitivity, destroys enzymes. Enzymes help our body digest large molecules. When our body cannot digest properly then sensitivities arise. Pasteurized milk is a processed food that has been altered to fit with the industrialization of our food systems.


Homogenization is a process that takes milk and puts it through a tiny sieve at super high temperature and pressure. This blasts all the molecules apart including the fat molecules so that the cream is dispersed throughout the milk and does not rise to the top.

This process is heavily damaging. Proteins are no longer recognized by the body and cannot be used. Fats are turned rancid and into free radicals. These can damage the digestive tract, arteries, and displaces healthy fats in the brain.

Homogenization allows for the production of skim milk and other fat contents of yogurts and cheeses. These have had a part of them removed and with it vitamins and minerals are depleted, digestion is challenged and health is compromised.

Luckily now many smaller scale local dairies provide non-homogenized whole milk, yogurt and cheese.

Goat vs Cow.

If we expand our lens and look at the rest of the world we find that over 440 million goats produce about 4.8million tons of milk. This milk is predominantly produced and consumed locally.

Nutritional differences include the size and amount of fats, proteins and vitamins. Fats in goat’s milk are about 10times smaller than those found in cow’s milk making them much easier to digest. Because the fast are smaller goat milk is naturally ”homogenized” and does not have a cream layer that rises to the top. Protein content is made up of much less casein (the most allergenic protein in cows milk). Goat milk is higher in vitamin A, riboflavin and niacin.

How much is too much?

Congestion? Mucus? Frequent colds? Digestive pain? Gas or Bloating? If these symptoms are present in your body then you could be consuming too much dairy. Cow’s dairy is in particular very dampening and can bring on these symptoms more so than goat’s dairy.

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