Other than the few who are lactose intolerant, we pretty much all drink milk. For years and years, I drank only skim. Anything thicker just made me gag. Plus it’s what the doctors, and heads of all medical communities, recommend that everyone over the age of two drink. It’s been touted as a way to keep our weight down while still providing us the necessary nutrients, like calcium.
But is it having an effect on our fertility?
The problem is, it seems our bodies need fat in order to maintain our cellular structure. And removing the fat from milk has actually been shown to cause an imbalance of hormones throughout the body, causing a failure to ovulate or produce a healthy egg. In a recent study, scientists found that women who ate full fat dairy were found to have a 27% lower risk of infertility. Women who ate low fat milk products twice a day were found to be twice as likely to not ovulate. This study shows that eating healthy fats, as are in milk, is helpful in reproduction. And we’re not talking about going out and eating whatever we want, or stuffing ourselves with cake and cookies. We’re talking about supplying our body with healthy fats. Natural, God given fats, not the ones we humans make ourselves.
The problem with milk today
Cows now produce about 20 times more than what is needed to sustain a growing calf. Yet, this over abundance of milk contains only the same amount of vitamins and minerals, meaning our milk is diluted of nourishment. And I’ve also heard that up to 40% of our milk supply comes from cows that have infections in the udders, called mastitis, and this milk is used for the public. And to counteract the infection, they are routinely given antibiotics. These may antibiotics eventually make their way into the milk as well, though of course it’s only a small percentage of what the cow was given. To make matter worse, much of the milk in stores (and thankfully this is changing!) comes from cows that have been treated with a recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBST). This hormone seems to be linked to early puberty in girls as well as causing hormone imbalances in older women.
So what should we be drinking?
If you would have told me two years ago that I’d be buying only raw whole milk, I would have told you that you were off your rocker! But since my son had a horrible time with digesting pasteurized cows milk, I’ve changed my mind. Exactly two years ago I spent a lot of time researching raw milk as I was afraid of any germs and bacteria in it. I’ve come to the conclusion that not only is raw milk healthier for us, but it can effect our fertility.
The problem with pasteurized milk is that during the heating process, it loses much of it’s beneficial nutrients, nutrients that are already diluted. Most unfortunate for those suffering infertility is the loss of vitamin B in the milk.
A study done in 1934, published in the Journal of Dairy Science, (back when they were first fighting to keep raw milk) showed a loss of 38% of the B complex vitamins. Another study done as a masters thesis at the University of Georgia in 1979 showed a 34.4% loss of vitamin B6, a 33.8% loss of thiamin (B1), and a 24.1% loss of folic acid. These losses were due just to heating the milk.(source)
Another study was done (didn’t write the year-sorry!) on rats fed either raw or pasteurized milk. It was shown that the heated milk was not capable of supporting the reproductive systems in these animals. Two female rats were fed a diet of sterilized milk for approximately 8 months. During this time they were each mated 15 times to male rats that had either been fed a raw milk or sterilized milk diet. No pregnancies were shown on any of these 15 occasions. Once a female was switched to a raw milk diet for 11 weeks, she was able to get pregnant when mated with a male, also from the raw milk group. (source)
And finally, as a very unscientific study, the farmer I receive my raw milk from has many stories of her own. One being goat milk fed to orphaned puppies. A woman was buying raw milk from a different farmer to feed the pups and one by one they were slowly dying. She found my farmer and started buying milk from her, thinking that it was bad milk she was buying previously. Upon my farmer talking with the woman, it was found that she was heating the milk so it was warm when the pups were fed. This small thing proved to be fatal to the poor dogs and when she stopped heating the milk, the puppies started to thrive. My thinking is, if heated milk can’t sustain a puppy, why should we expect it to nourish our own bodies?
What’s a gal to do?
Personally, I won’t touch pasteurized milk anymore. I did take me quite awhile to get used to raw milk, and I have to admit, I still don’t pour myself a tall glass of it, but it’s all we buy. If you must buy pasteurized milk, at least buy full fat. Even better is to buy organic, in order to stay away from antibiotics and rBST. (Though make sure it’s not ultrapastuerized! That’s a whole other can of worms) And consider making yogurt or kefir out of it. This process at least returns some of the beneficial bacteria and nutrients back into the milk that have been lost due to heating. Also maybe consider consuming cheeses to meet your dietary needs. Many vegetables can also be used in place of milk for calcium consumption as well.
If you are finally ready to hop onto the raw milk train, check out Real Milk. This site not only has great information on why raw milk is healthier, but also a list of farms in your area where you may be able to buy raw milk. (it’s how I found my farm!) Personally I love the fact that I can see the animals out grazing on pasture when I stop by for my milk. I get to see the entire production, and I know exactly what the animals are being fed.
Things to look for in a farm
- Cleanliness. Make sure all aspects of the barn and grounds are clean.
- Room to roam. The milk has more nutrients in it if the animals are allowed to free roam and eat on pasture
- A farmer open to questions. You want to be able to ask how and when the animals are pastured, what they eat, if they are ever fed grain (as some do in the winter), and what happens if the animals get sick or contract mastitis.
- Referrals. Most raw milk farms have plenty of folks who are more than willing to give a great referral as well as a lecture on how awesome raw milk is. If you are still unsure, a referral can ease your mind.
While I try not be an extremist in any area of nutrition (because I know not everyone is ready and needs more time), I do recommend raw milk whole heartily! I hope this post gives you something to think about and even if you can’t stand the idea of raw milk, replacing skim with full fat milk is beneficial to your fertility and well being. Healthy fat is not your enemy!
*Along with milk, make sure you replace that sugar filled, low fat yogurt with a whole milk plain yogurt. Use honey to sweeten it and add in fresh fruit if you’d like. Much healthier than sugar!
Anyone else glad they made the switch to Raw? How did you finally come around to the idea?
What would you tell someone who is still “on the fence”?