Sunday, March 6, 2011

Raw Milk: A Remedy for Lactose Intolerance!

photo via ecoliblog
Lactose intolerance runs in my husband's family.  Like their father, my husband and his siblings all developed lactose intolerance during their teenage years and became unable to drink milk.  This means that their bodies stopped producing the lactase enzyme that is essential for proper digestion of lactose.  If they were willing to take some lactaid pills every time, they could still eat yogurt, cheese, and ice cream, but even then there was always the chance that they hadn't taken enough pills and would end up with digestive problems.

During the early years of our life and marriage together, my husband drank lactose-free milk (which is ultra-pasteurized) and we bought lots of lactaid pills.  In 2005, a co-worker of mine lent me the book The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid, and I was amazed at what I learned about raw milk and disgusted by what I learned about pasteurized milk.  Pasteurization of milk only came about because of bad sanitation combined with cows that were so unhealthy that they could pass on illness to people through the milk.  So long as the cows are healthy, there is no reason to pasteurize the milk, and in fact, pasteurization results in milk that is not very healthy for people to drink. According to the Campaign for Real Milk website,

"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."

So, what about lactose intolerance?  It turns out that raw milk is wonderful food that naturally comes with the lactase enzymes needed for digestion of lactose.  The act of pasteurizing milk kills the lactase enzymes.  That's right, problems digesting lactose occur when people are drinking pasteurized milk, not raw milk!

Since learning about raw milk, my husband and his family have been able to once again enjoy drinking milk.  His father had not been able to drink store-bought milk for over 30 years, but can drink raw milk with no problem. And, amazingly, it seems that consuming the lactase enzymes in raw milk helps re-populate the gut with lactase enzymes, because my husband and his father have both reported that they can now eat pasteurized cheese, yogurt, and even ice cream with no problems so long as they have some raw milk occasionally.  Of course, in our house we only drink raw or fermented milk, so my husband gets a daily dose of those lactase enzymes anyway.

If you want more info about raw milk, visit the Campaign for Real Milk or read the fascinating book The Untold Story of Milk by Ron Schmid.

This post is part of Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, and Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet!


  1. Lactose intolerance is really just pasteurization intolerance in most cases, isn't it? Thanks for sharing with all of us at Monday Mania, Sarah!

  2. Pasteurization intolerance! What a great way to think about it.

  3. Thankfully, we've had a source for raw milk for most of the past year and have seen incredible improvement in our youngest son's health. Not that he was lactose intolerant, but he certainly had gut issues that are being helped tremendously by that daily cup of sweet, creamy, unadulterated raw milk. Blessings, Lisa

  4. Hi - yes - lactose intolerance is hugely over-diagnosed (until recently) because of a very poor standard test that had been used - in fact most people are NOT lactose intolerant (who think they are) they are simply diminished in the AMOUNT of dairy they can process in one sitting- and, of course - raw dairy is even easier to tolerate and RAW GOAT DAIRY easier still. I have a 3 part-er going on why dairy is paleo (aimed at paleo diet advocates) but is an argument that we have very probably consumed goat (and maybe other) dairy for many tens of thousands of years back into our evolution making it a very good (and tolerated) foodstuff - you can check our my discussion here:

  5. Thanks for sharing the link, Ravi!

  6. Hi Kevin and Natali,
    Each state has there own laws regarding raw milk. Some states allow raw milk to be sold on the farm only, others allow it in stores. I get mine from a cow share (which basically works like this: you pay the farmer to buy into the herd, then pay a monthly fee for them to take care of your animals. Then you get milk from your own cows, so to speak.) To find out what is available in your area, go here and scroll down to select your state:

  7. Just an update Sarah. While the rest of the family could partake of milk using pills and now can partake since drinking the raw milk, Nathan could never, even after using pills and drinking raw milk to this day. Of all the family, his lactose intolerance is the worst. It is interesting that the boys developed it during their first year of college while the daughter not until her 20's. Their father developed his in his 40's. What is even more interesting, is that the daughter had hers for a year, did one of Suzanne Summers diets and has not had problems since. Not that I am recommending that diet but it seems it did help her.

  8. This is my testimony! I became "lactose intolerant" in my earling 20s and it progressively got worse as I got older. Now, anytime I accidently have something with any kind of milk products, including milk chocolate, I start cramping and bloating. I discovered raw milk was the trick. Now I raise goats and we have a Jersey girl to keep us healthy. I make my own soft cheeses, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, etc and can eat with no trouble.

  9. What a great read! I became "lactose intolerant" around my junior year in college. At that time it was so bad milk chocolate affected me and till this day I am still taking lactaid pills to help digest dairy. What is interesting is my Hubby read up on this and thought raw milk would help me. This post just confirmed what he believed. Now I'm going to have to get some raw milk!

    Thanks for this post!

  10. There may be lactase in raw milk, but it is probably not the lactase enzymes which are being replaced, but more likely lactose eating bacteria. Those bacteria eat the lactose and may produce lactase as well. Raw milk probably still includes the bacteria which eat lactose, so if you pasteurize it you kill those bacteria. You are then going to depend a lot more on your internal lactase and you aren't repopulating those bacteria in your gut which eat lactose, so that may cause lactose indigestion. This is my hypothesis. You can also try a probiotic perl like Shaklee brand which includes the bacteria bifidobacterium longum. Raw milk whether from humans or cows may contain that bacteria if I remember. That bacteria has been shown to prefer lactose first.

  11. I'm in eighth grade and I did an experiment on whether raw milk or pasteurized milk is easier to digest for people with lactose intolerance. However, after a series of experiments, I found that both kinds of milk had the same results! How is this possible?

  12. Wow this is great information! I had no idea. The males in my family (DH and DSs) are lactose intolerant so we buy lactose free dairy. Is raw milk better from cows or goats? How hard would it be to do yourself?

    1. Some people seem to have better success with goat's milk instead of cow's milk, because the protein molecules in goat milk are closer to the same size as those in human milk (I believe that is why, but can't remember for certain). In our family, we've drank exclusively cow milk.


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