Raw Milk, Pasteurized Milk, and Food Sensitivities

cat and milk

In my local Weston Price group, there’s come up the question of whether one can go back to eating grains after a significant period of not eating them, and I wrote a post in an attempt to address this question. Meanwhile, in the comment thread to that post, someone asked about milk, and whether there was a difference between raw milk and pasteurized milk in terms of the kind of food sensitivities and autoimmune reactivities one finds with gluten sensitivity. I thought that was such an important question that I wanted to try to address it here, in its own post. So here goes.

Ack. The straight-up answer is that, strictly in terms of immunological reactivity, no, there’s no difference, unfortunately. It’s too bad, because it’d be nice to just drink some fresh raw milk and have that make all the difference. But, alas, casein is casein, milk butyrophylin is milk butyrophylin, and so on. All milk components are potentially cross-reactive with gluten, which is to say the body can respond to them as though to gluten. (Milk butyrophilin, by the way, is the protein associated with milk fat.) Indeed, the scenario is very much the same as when one is sensitive to gluten. One will make antibodies against gluten and react adversely to eating it whether the gluten has come from Wonder bread or properly prepared einkorn wheat. And some 40 percent of people who are sensitive to gluten are also sensitive to casein and other dairy proteins, just to mention it.

Now, having said this, there’s another aspect to things. Namely, there are many people who become quite sick when they drink pasteurized milk from factory-farmed cows who feel just fine once they switch to A2 raw milk (milk from cows with A1 genetics, which digests into an opiate when it leaves the stomach, can still be problematic even when raw. You can read more about the A1/A2 issue, if you like, in my post here. But this is a horse of another color, not an autoimmune reactivity.

What I’ve just described is a reaction to the various lousy things in pasteurized industrial-scale CAFO “milk” (the quotes because it’s hardly real milk anymore) that gives so many people so much trouble–and that drinking real milk, raw milk fresh from pasture-raised A2 cows, gets round. Because it is certainly true that there are many significant differences between 1) raw dairy from pasture-raised, grass-fed cows with A2 genetics and 2) the pasteurized homogenized products of poor factory-farmed cows (which should never be consumed raw!–even with a 10-foot Oreo!, as Liz Wolfe has observed), and, if one does consume dairy, in my opinion the former is absolutely the way to go. But this is ONLY if one is not immunologically sensitive to dairy.

When we’re in the realm of food sensitivities and autoimmune reactivities, we’re talking about something else entirely. Immunological sensitivities to any of the components of milk can’t be made to go away by switching to raw dairy. And in milk there are a number of possible culprits. Cyrex tests for cow’s milk itself, the milk proteins alpha-casein and beta-casein, casomorphin/prodonorphin (the opiates into which milk can digest). whey (another milk protein), and milk butyrophilin (again, the protein associated with milk fat).

Although these kinds of reactivities are extremely common (as is autoimmunity in general), they can be difficult to disambiguate by simple self-observation, and most people have no idea these sorts of mechanisms are at the root of possibly persistent health problems–of possibly any variety. Because I treat this very kind of thing, I see this time and again. The great utility of Cyrex testing (you can see the tests here) is that it will give you this information in a heartbeat.

This knowledge is something that can be especially useful if one has embarked on, for example, the GAPS nutritional protocol, a Weston Price-type traditional foods diet, or a paleo/primal diet in an effort to resolve some health problems or just simply to be healthy. Sometimes all this goes smoothly, but sometimes one can find oneself in the inexplicable situation of still not feeling well despite the fact that one is eating all manner of “healthy” foods. Pasture-raised eggs, raw milk, yogurt, and kefir, “properly prepared” sourdough bread from an heirloom grain are indeed all healthy foods–unless they make one sick. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen in my practice with “incurable” migraines, or Lyme disease, or thyroid or digestive problems, or joint pain, or any of a hundred so-called recalcitrant ills who’ve gotten completely well once the real trouble was pinpointed and they had a chance for the first time to pull the nail out of their foot.

But people usually have no idea that this is the kind of thing that’s going on, no idea at all. Instead, with all good intentions–and with remarkable dedication–will undertake, say, the GAPS protocol and adhere to it religiously for a long period. They may feel somewhat better than they did when they started, but often enough, in spite of every effort, in the end, they’re still not completely well. And, what do you know, one Cyrex test later and it’ll emerge that they’re through-the-roof reactive to the egg in the GAPS pancakes they’ve been making for breakfast every morning–or whatever. So, in sum, this is the kind of unrecognized impediment that one needs to be savvy about and identify, because it can make all the difference in the world when it comes to experiencing good health.

So, yes, that’s my two cents! :o)

(Photo credit: Photographer unknown)

About Chris Decker, ND

Dr. Chris Decker is a licensed naturopathic physician, homeopath, and certified GAPS practitioner with offices in Vermont and Massachusetts, where she maintains a full-service practice that includes clinical nutrition, homeopathy, and, in Vermont, laboratory diagnostics.

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Disclaimer

This article is for informational purposes only, and is educational in nature. Statements made here have not been evaluated by the FDA. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please discuss with your own, qualified health care provider before adding in supplements or making any changes in your diet.

  • Amber

    How does one go about finding someone that can order the Cyrex test kits? My husband suffers from Lyme. We would love to find out if there are any specific food sensitivities.