Monthly Archives: May 2014

Got Pus? Milk Does!

Milk it does a body good:

Let’s get things rolling with a reality check about the source of dairy in the U.S. – spoiler alert: It’s not typically from a farm with a red barn where the cow is milked by hand by a bonneted lass.

I have three main concerns about commercially farmed cow’s milk. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Cow’s milk is meant for a calf in the weaning period. When the calf is grown it has the common sense to stop drinking cow’s milk. The ratio of calcium to magnesium to phosphorous is not suited for human health and can lead to calcium leaching from the bones to combat the imbalance (osteoporosis). No other mammal in the animal kingdom drinks another mammals milk for leisurely pleasure…and certainly not after the weaning period. So if you’re a full grown adult drinking the milk of a cow…expect other mammals to look at you askew.

Here’s an interesting quote from the PETA website:

“Besides humans (and companion animals who are fed by humans), no species drinks milk beyond infancy or drinks the milk of another species. Cow’s milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who have four stomachs and gain hundreds of pounds in a matter of months, sometimes weighing more than 1,000 pounds before they are 2 years old.(28)”

Also…

“Cow’s milk is the number one cause of food allergies among infants and children, according to the American Gastroenterological Association.(29) Most people begin to produce less lactase, the enzyme that helps with the digestion of milk, when they are as young as 2 years old.” 

 

2. Inhumanity. If you’re not aware of what happens on a commercial dairy farm to produce that gallon of skim milk on your table, you should be. According to published data by the USDA, U.S. cows are now producing nearly twice as much milk as they did in the 1970’s. You might wonder how? Bovine growth hormone? Cruel over-milking procedures? Then again, maybe you might prefer not knowing…more velvetta on your mac- and- cheese?

The stress on these lactating mothers to produce ever greater amounts of milk is considerable. Their babies are removed from them at preciously young ages and the mothers are confined in tight, filthy spaces for hours on end as they are hooked up to machines for milking and injected with growth hormone to stimulate flow and antibiotics to fight the resulting udder infections.

What of the energetic health effect of consuming the product of a suffering animal (this assumes that you can imagine that the lactating cow is suffering. Any mom’s who’ve breastfed can fill in the gap here for the novice about the joys of lactating.). Have you ever watched an animal suffer or die? If you have, was your first thought, mmmmmm….can’t wait to eat the meat or drink it’s milk? Unlikely. It’s naturally repulsive. And for a reason. Do you need to see a double-blind, placebo controlled study to know that the end product of a suffering mammal has negative health consequences for the consumer?

 

Here’s some great data about the dairy process from PETA.org:

“After their calves are taken from them, mother cows are hooked up, several times a day, to milking machines. Using genetic manipulation, powerful hormones, and intensive milking, factory farmers force cows to produce about 10 times as much milk as they would naturally. Animals are often dosed with bovine growth hormone (BGH), which contributes to a painful inflammation of the udder known as “mastitis.”

 

” An industry study reports that by the time they are killed, nearly 40 percent of dairy cows are lame because of the intensive confinement, the filth, and the strain of being almost constantly pregnant and giving milk. Dairy cows’ bodies are turned into soup, companion animal food, or low-grade hamburger meat because their bodies are too “spent” to be used for anything else.” 

 

 

 

 

3. Commercial cow’s milk is pasteurized and homogenized. At first blush this sounds good. pasteurization as a process has probably saved untold amounts of lives from filthy and contaminated processes, but at what cost? And have we outgrown that need? Consider the following from RealMilk.com: 

 

Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Calves fed pasteurized milk do poorly and many die before maturity. Raw milk sours naturally but pasteurized milk turns putrid; processors must remove slime and pus from pasteurized milk by a process of centrifugal clarification. Inspection of dairy herds for disease is not required for pasteurized milk. Pasteurization was instituted in the 1920s to combat TB, infant diarrhea, undulant fever and other diseases caused by poor animal nutrition and dirty production methods. But times have changed and modern stainless steel tanks, milking machines, refrigerated trucks and inspection methods make pasteurization absolutely unnecessary for public protection. And pasteurization does not always kill the bacteria for Johne’s disease suspected of causing Crohn’s disease in humans with which most confinement cows are infected. Much commercial milk is now ultra-pasteurized to get rid of heat-resistant bacteria and give it a longer shelf life. Ultra-pasteurization is a violent process that takes milk from a chilled temperature to above the boiling point in less than two seconds. 

 

 

 

 There’s a wealth of data to suggest that commercial cow’s milk does not, in fact, support good bone health. It may do just the opposite. So how is it that we came to believe that cow’s milk is a miracle food? It has everything to do with the government subsidizing dairy farmers and needing to park the abundant, cheap, cow’s milk. Their solution? The public school lunch program. Long a dumping ground for poor quality meats and other subsidized commodities, the government has been using the federally funded school lunch program to solve their problems. Since most rational people would assume that anything we offer to kids in the school must be inherently good for them, consumers made the leap that cheap cow’s milk (not to mentioned flavoured and sugared cow’s milk), must be good for everyone. Not so. 

 

In short, I submit that the only acceptable form of animal milk (or milk products) is organic, raw milk from exclusively pasture-fed, (and therefore free-ranging) animals. In general, after considerable research and consideration I find that I cannot personally support the practice of commercial milk consumption. I encourage you to do your own research and establish your own opinion on the matter.

 

Off to my hazelnut milk smoothie! 

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Diet Fads Miss the Point

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A google search on the topic of diet will reveal a lengthy list of mostly fad diets: Cabbage soup diet anyone? Over the past ten years of practicing medicine as a PA I have reviewed quite an array of “healing” (as opposed to weight loss)  diets from blood type to vegan to mediterranean and on. What strikes me is the volume of permutations there are on the subject of eating. When did it all get so complex? Perhaps the more appropriate question is, why is it so complex?

For as long as there has been recorded history there has been debate about the optimal human diet. That’s really amazing when you consider the vast array of other important topics that don’t surface nearly as much. You don’t see a lot of dialogue about the preeminence of housing styles or optimal clothing, for example. No, there is clearly an historical obsession with how to feed a human.

I think there are two reasons for this. First, food can be hard to come by. Okay, maybe not for much of the fast food nation that is the US, but in general, and increasingly throughout the emerging markets world, food as a commodity, is scarce. Secondly, the link between food choice and health is well established despite the willful ignorance of western medicine to the contrary. You don’t need to be a scholar of physiology to come to the rapid conclusion that some edibles are better for your constitution than others. Think of the information dense experience of a lactose -intolerant person eating an ice cream sundae. Or the few unlucky times you’ve had the displeasure of consuming spoiled food. It’s quite obvious. Not all edibles are created equally when it comes to digestion, assimilation and utilization.

So if you have a choice of what to eat,  what substance will provide you with the most nutrient dense calories for the least amount of resources?

Assuming you have a competent digestive system, the answer is simple. Eat an abundance of organically-, or bio-dynamically-grown vegetables and fruits and, in comparatively smaller amounts, complex, un-processed grains, healthy oils and nuts/seeds (don’t want to invite those nasty free-radicals to supper!) and rare animal products if, and only if, you can answer “yes” to the following questions about their procurement:

1. Were these animals fed their optimal diet throughout their entire lifecycle? (grass and hay for cows, for example, and zero corn)

2. Were these animals treated with dignity their whole lives? Did they get to roam freely on open pasture, not slab or barn? Did they have sufficient space? Or were they crammed beak-to-tail in their own filth? Were they given free access to their breastfeeding mom through the weaning period?

3. Were they humanely slaughtered at the peak of their health? Or were they shipped to a facility hours away and aware of the horrific fate awaiting them? Were they killed immediately and accurately? Is there any possibility they were ill and on antibiotics in the preceding months before their slaughter?

If you can’t answer all of these questions with confidence about your animal products, then you are running a great risk in consuming them. To say nothing of the untold damage these nefarious practices do to the animals and our environment.

You’ll notice that there is no mention of added sugar, or breads in the optimal diet. There’s very little upside to the consumption of these food categories. If you must have them, combine them with another vice, like alcohol and get it over with by having a glass of bio-dynamic wine!

For my part, the ideal diet is a conscious diet. “Eating is a necessity, eating intelligently is an art” (Anonymous). There is a world of healing to be had in a carefully considered diet. Just being grateful for your food can have profound healing implications. So, the zen practices of contemplating the compatibility between your food and your physiology can be very life affirming in and of itself.

If you’re looking to set course for a path to healing through food (and I think you should!) then I would look at Dr.Hay’s diet of food combining as a lens to view a macrobiotic/ mediterranean diet (ok I made that diet up, but if you look at each of them and layer their elements in a Venn diagram you are left with a healing, happy diet).

Lastly, how do you know if you have a competent digestive system and, therefore, free reign with food choices and practices? Here’s a hint: It’s increasingly unlikely that you do. Digestion is adversely impacted by every modern day convenience you can think of from microwaves to pesticides, to cell phones to eating on the go…

Here’s a quick quiz. If you can say “that never applies to me” to the following statements you have a rock solid digestive capacity:

I get diarrhea sometimes (loose, poorly formed or soft stool)

I get constipated sometimes (a bowel movement less frequently than once per day or stool that is difficult to pass)

I experience bloating more than once a month

I belch after eating

I have smelly gas frequently

My breath is sour or foul

I get frequent colds or infections

 

If you find that you agree with more than one of those statements than perhaps it’s time we met in person and discussed a plan to improve your digestion through diet and toxin avoidance. Nothing could be more fundamental to our health than the foods we choose to eat given our digestive capacity.

Find out if you’re eating an optimal diet for you!