Solving my Milk Sensitivity
Discovering milk again after years of dairy-free living.
I was devastated when I was told at the age of 20 that I was allergic to milk. It was 2012 — before almond and coconut milk alternatives were being offered by Starbucks and gluten free cupcakes with dairy free frosting were easy to find. In addition to the depravation-induced frustration that set in when I had to change my diet, I also experienced fits of jealousy whenever a friend indulged in ice cream and I had to choose sorbet or a dining companion ordered dessert and no dairy free options existed. Occasionally I was driven to internally scream in indignation when people would find out about my allergy and say “thank goodness I don’t have that.”
But what nagged at me most of all was the scientific reasoning medical practitioners and alternative health bloggers offered. It didn’t make sense to me why I would suddenly be allergic to this completely natural food that humans have consumed for centuries. As someone who believes in an intelligent creator it seemed to me like milk was a divinely orchestrated provision. So why were doctors telling me that it was an inflammatory food and that it wasn’t actually a natural food for human nutrition.
Consumed with skepticism of the reasoning I’d been given, I began to dig for information. The answers I found have brought me to a point in my health and nutrition journey where I now easily consume a gallon of fresh, whole milk delivered to me by a local farmer each week — and I am healthier now than I have been since my childhood.
I have discovered that I can drink milk perfectly fine in its “raw” state. Raw milk is simply milk that is in the exact same form when I drink it as it is when it comes out of the cow’s udder. No homogenization, no pasteurization, no fat removal, and no added fortifications.
If I try to consume foods laden with any form of “regular,” pasteurized dairy, I almost immediately get a pressure headache running along my eyebrows causing the sensation that a weight is pressing down on my eyes inside my head. This usually fads after about an hour or two and is usually accompanied by some secondary side-effects over the next few days like pimples on my back or inside my nose (ouch!) and increased congestion in my sinuses.
Since beginning to regularly drink raw milk, I have noticed that I have less congestion than was usual for me, less sugar and chocolate food cravings (even during the week leading up to my period), and best of all the cramps I experience during my period have significantly lessened so that they do not wipe me out in agonizing pain! I also suspect improved digestive functioning, a reduction in my interstitial cystitis symptoms, and an increase in my energy levels. Because I’ve noticed it making me feel so good, let alone it tasting great, I am regularly replacing portions of meals and fulfilling the desire to snack with a glass of raw milk!
So what is different about store-bought, pasteurized milk? Sadly, it is a highly altered and processed form of milk because of how the cows are raised and how the milk is pasteurized after harvesting.
The average American dairy cow spends most of its life in a confined, man-made structure feeding on pesticide-laden corn and soy products, while being regularly dosed with antibiotics and steroids.
The pasteurization process — the heating of the milk to kill any pathogenic bacteria before selling it — damages valuable enzymes, microbes, and minerals that naturally aid the process of digesting the milk and offer a host of other health benefits including supporting the immune system and hormone balance. In its natural form, raw milk is a complete food, meaning it has all of the proteins we need to function. In fact, you could live off of it exclusively and not be nutrient deficient.
One commonly referenced fact is that 70–80% of people do not naturally produce the enzyme lactase, which would therefore make them unable to digest the lactose sugar in milk leading to all kinds of digestive discomfort when lactose is consumed. Indeed, most people who remove dairy from their diets on a cleanse like Whole30 and then realize they feel better are not actually allergic to milk, but are experiencing a milk sensitivity such as lactose-intolerance. Lactose-free dairy products are actually made by adding the lactase enzyme so that the lactose sugar is broken down into glucose and galactose, which the body is then able to digest more easily. Raw milk naturally provides you with the lactase you need to comfortably and healthfully digest milk.
In my situation, I do not know exactly what causes my sensitivity to pasteurized dairy. Lactose-free products do not resolve my issues with milk. Based on the health and nutrition research I have done, my sensitivity is likely a combination of interrelated factors involving the health of my digestive system, my genetic and microbial inheritance, and the compromised composition of the milk itself. There are so many factors and fields of research that are beyond the scope of this article. But what I do know is that milk in its raw form is accepted, no it is loved, by my body!
Health struggles of all kinds are increasingly leading people to discover food sensitivities and causing them to make dramatic dietary changes. People are fleeing from many traditional dietary staples of human history. Milk does not need to be one of those foods that we outright reject in order to live a “cleaner,” healthier lifestyle. Milk has been a part of the human diet for centuries and should continue to be in its natural, raw form harvested from healthy, grass-fed cows.
If you are interested in learning more about raw milk and where to find it, check out the Weston A. Price Foundation’s Campaign for Real Milk!