We have been conditioned to be suspicious and fearful of consuming raw milk products preferring our milk to be pasteurized and homogenized. The thought of using raw milk as medicine to help heal our animal companions is beyond the scope of what many of us would ever consider. Pasteurization was not implemented until well after the start of the industrial revolution. Prior to this time everyone enjoyed the health benefits of raw milk and raw milk products. With the migration of the population from the country to cities the first confinement dairies were formed. Unlike the small farmers who cared about the health and wellbeing of their cows, the people running these new dairies were more interested in making money and producing large quantities of milk.
Moving cows from the country and housing them in cities changed their life for the worse. They no longer had access to fresh grass, water and sunshine. They were confined to crowded, reeking, manure filled pens and suffered from diseases and debilitating injuries. They were fed large amounts of spent grain, known as swill. Swill is the waste from alcohol production. To avoid the cost of disposal, this waste was fed to the cows housed in nearby dairies. The resulting milk was lacking in self protecting enzymes and nutrient deficient. Many deaths, primarily babies and children, resulted when this product was consumed. Unfortunately, the connection between the health of the cow and the quality of the milk was not considered. Pasteurization practices were ultimately implemented to fix the problem.
One can see as well as smell modern dairy facilities and notice that not much has changed since the 1850's in the life of a dairy cow. The feeding of distillery grains continues today as well as things like gummy bears, pixy sticks and formaldehyde laden products. The modern dairy farmer has, however, learned to limit the amount of the waste products they feed to their animals. In modern confinement dairies cows live in stalls and are fed diets designed to maximize milk production at the expense of their health. Milk produced using these methods is a nutritionally void product.
In addition to pasteurization, homogenization was introduced to solve the issue of cream separation. Milk is forced through small holes in a valve under high pressure, creating a smaller, damaged fat particle. The native membrane of the fat particle is lost during this process. This native membrane helps suppress pathogenic organisms and protects the body from MS, Alzheimer's, and depression.
When sourced from healthy animals, raw milk is one of the few substance that is considered a complete food. It contains lactoperioxidase, an enzyme that seeks out and destroys harmful bacteria. Goat milk contains ten times more lactoperioxidase than human milk. Lactoferrin, another enzyme found in raw milk, removes iron from pathogens in the milk. Without this iron the pathogens die. The iron then becomes available to the animal consuming the milk and is carried through the gut wall into the blood stream. In 2004 the FDA approved the use of lactoferrin as a spray in the meat industry to combat E. coli. Raw milk also contains white blood cells, immunoglobulins, and medium chain fatty acids which aid immune system support.
Prior to refrigeration milk was consumed as a fermented product in the form of kefir and yogurt. Fermentation takes all the good things in raw milk and amplifies them. Protection from pathogenic bacteria is increased, organic acids, B-vitamins, and enzymes are concentrated which increases bioavailability of these products. To maintain gut homeostasis we need about 15% of bad bacteria to 85% of good bacteria.
In California we are fortunate to have raw milk options available. There are currently three certified raw dairies as well as the option to buy into a herd share. I chose to become part of a herd share and have been getting my raw milk from Bannister Oak Farms in Lincoln, California for the last year. At Meg's Meats we also have access to raw goat's milk. Goat's milk is easier for dogs and cats to digest than cow's milk. When exploring options for sourcing raw milk make a site visit to see that the animals have access to outdoor pasture, comfortable non-confined shelters and fresh bedding. It is important that they spend limited time on concrete floors and that milking time is relaxed minimizing stress on the animal. Listen to how the herd owner talks about his or her animals. If the animals are highly valued and respected by the herd owner there is a greater probability they will be well cared for. The health of the animal directly affects the nutrient density, quality, and functional properties of the milk produced.
The Raw Milk Diet
Last spring my sister Kathy's miniature schnauzer, Poco, became quite ill. Poco was rescued from a puppy mill 9 years ago and we are estimating her age to be about 14. She has been on a fresh food diet since she was rescued. She is hypothyroid and in addition to being started on thyroid replacement had 13 teeth pulled last December. Poco was feeling good, eating well, the spring was back in her step. We were surprised when suddenly Poco could not keep any food down. She would vomit immediately after eating and had generalized pain. We ruled out a surgical issue. While her labs did not reflect a pancreatitis, we treated her as if she had pancreatitis and did what we could to support her through this crisis. The one thing she could keep down during this time was raw goat milk. For the next 4 weeks Poco got as much raw goat milk as she wanted. Other foods were gradually reintroduced and today Poco is back to her feisty terrier self. Kathy and I both feel that the raw goat milk was the key to Poco's recovery.
I have seen case studies in which changing to a raw milk diet for 3-4 weeks has helped chronic skin conditions, allergies, irritable bowel. I would not limit consideration of a raw milk diet to these conditions and would encourage anyone considering a raw milk diet for their animal discuss the pros and cons with their veterinarian. The diet consists of:
Feed raw and or fermented milk and water.
Discontinue supplements as they can interfere with the healing process.
Feed in multiple small feeding throughout the day. 4-8 meals per day if possible.
Limit activity during the diet, healing requires energy, rest is essential.
Maintain the diet for 4 - 6 weeks. Continue until all symptoms disappear or have been significantly reduced.
There will be increased urinary frequency, stools can have a yellow pudding consistency, stomach noises and rumbling with gas is common. If the animal acts hungry or is constipated increase the amount of milk. If your animal burps or regurgitates and has diarrhea decrease the amount of milk you are feeding. As we provide the nutrients to heal the gut we heal the patient. Reinoculating the gut with beneficial bacteria repairs leaky gut. There may be a relationship between raw milk consumption and stem cell growth, however this is an area for further research.
Understanding the history of the dairy industry helps us to understand why pasteurization was implemented and why milk from large scale modern confinement dairies is not safe to consume as a raw product. Understanding the health benefits of well sourced raw milk, we are better able to make an informed decision when purchasing raw milk from small independent dairies where the animals are healthy and the milk they produce is a complete and healing food.
For more information check out:
Milk Diet as a Remedy for Chronic Disease, by Charles Sanford Porter