The great dairy controversy!
Some new research finding’s casting a shadow on the “Dairy is good for you” slogan are well worth looking into and placing within the context of a practitioner’s perspective.
Milk. A growing body of research is revealing how complex and extra-ordinary a substance it really is. And every mother’s milk is adapted, after millions of years of evolution, for babies of the same species. The properties of the milk even changes from moment to moment to suit the current conditions in hot weather the water content increases to keep the baby well hydrated. Ratios of fats, proteins, sugars, and the unique properties of each of these vary widely between cow, goat, and human milk. Above and beyond this milk contains a wealth of compounds with immunological properties, and specific microflora uniquely co-evolved and timed for the babies development and the transition from a liquid to solid diet. So is it really such a great idea to drink another species milk? The question remains unanswered but this study hints at one answer.
A limitation of the study is the lack of control for the type of milk. Not all milk is created, or processed, equally. Organic milk from grass-fed cows, with its high omega-3 content, will have different properties than milk from grain-fed cows who have not been raised in pastures and have been pumped with hormones and anti-biotics. And the properties of milk are dramatically changed by pasteurisation and homogenisation. Anyways who grew up on a farm recalls with nostalgia the taste of fresh-squeezed milk. I’m not sure of the research in this area but I’ve certainly met people who have no trouble consuming unpasteurized milk from grass fed cows who would suffer dramatically with abominable gas if they drank a little milk from the grocery store.
If there’s any sort of consensus amongst practitioners of natural medicine its that 1) many individuals are sensitive to dairy, and that 2) dairy doesn’t provide the nutritional benefits, such as calcium, to nearly the extent that dairy marketing suggests and that you are generally better off with green vegetables. As a herbalist my general trend is to avoid dairy unless its been fermented. Cheese in moderation as well as yogurt, kefir, and other fermented dairy products have some beneficial properties. Increasing the consumption of pro-biotic foods is generally a health-postive recommendation. And individuals sensitive to cow dairy are often able to eat goat or sheep products in moderation. So there are no conclusions, but I must say that as a Frenchman I would despair if I had to forever give up my cheeses, though my gustatory preference is now for the sheep and goat cheeses. I do, however, enjoy a good bit of English Stilton now and again.