Milk has come under scrutiny for many reasons. Milk is known for its indigestibility and for causing inflammation. It is listed as a top 10 food allergen. It’s also the source of digestive stress, cramping, painful bloating, gas, and diarrhea for many worldwide. Here we discuss Ayurveda’s perspective on milk and how it's supposed to be consumed.
According to the US National Institutes of Health “approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy.”1
However, research suggests milk itself is not the root problem of these discomforts. Our handling and processing of the milk may be the real culprit.
Of special concern is homogenization which renders long-chain lipids in milk shorter. Smaller fat globules are more easily distributed throughout homogenized milk for texture uniformity, handling purposes, and to increase shelf life.
However, food scientists had not considered lipid structure as a component of what makes milk healthful or harmful. “Because food is not consumed as individual nutrients, the structure of food influences how nutrient components are digested and absorbed in particular in the temporal dimension,” explains researchers at the University of California, Davis.2
Scientists have long known that the overall structure of milk lipids is drastically changed by high-pressure homogenization. What they haven’t understood is the effect of fat structure on our ability to digest or use the beneficial components of the milk. Recent studies have shown that the total amount of fat extracted from milk samples decreased as the homogenization pressure increased.2 However, researchers also claim that there are “no significant differences found in the fatty acid composition” of homogenized v. non-homogenized milk samples.3
While the composition may be similar, the total quantity of fats is much higher in non-homogenized milk. As it turns out, conjugate fatty acids, specifically conjugated linoleic fatty acids or CLAs, have been found in concentrations nearly 5x higher in the milk of pasture-raised cows than in traditional feed-lot cattle fed a ratio of forage and grain.
CLAs have been shown to REDUCE body fat, increase lean muscle mass, benefit heart and brain health, improve the body's ability to scavenge free radicals, inhibit tumor growth, and prevent certain cancers. They were called in one recent study “the modern food chain’s weak link.”4
Here it goes without saying that the conditions “factory dairy” cows are forced to endure are deplorable at best. In an attempt to obtain a CLA profile comparable to grass-fed cattle, factory cows are fed a diet of corn, soy, and linseed oil in proportions unnatural to a free-range cow.4
Ayurveda considers the whole system and its balance or equilibrium. The treatment and care of the cow, along with the use of its milk and malas (wastes) have been described at length in the sacred Vedic texts and the medical texts of Ayurveda.5 Ayurvedic teachers have recommended the milk from the mother cow for very specific purposes:
Get your hands on fresh raw milk, direct from a mother cow, lovingly cared for, who willingly gives of her abundance. You will give your health a major boost with this.
Gopi Girls raw milk is some of the best in the world, available locally just north of Boulder, CO. The cows are given abundant room to roam and feed on the tall lush grasses which grow streamside. They are cared for and mothered as mothers and are lovingly chanted mantra as they are milked. They’re allowed to suckle their calves until naturally weaned, to bond and mature according to nature’s timing and not an arbitrary milking schedule.
Enjoy milk steamed or heated and well-spiced, as the medical texts of Ayurveda have advised for millennia. Steamed or heated and well-spiced milk will eliminate food-borne pathogens such as E. Coli and Salmonella.
With blessings and thanks I offer this information for the wellness of humanity, chanting:
Namo devyai Maha devyai
Surabyai cha namo nama
Gavam Bheeja swaroopaya
Namasthe Jagad Ambike
Salutations to the mother of the world,
Who lives as a seed in all cows,
Salutations to that goddess,
Who is a great goddess,
And who is the wish yielding cow.
Kalpa vruksha swaroopayai
Sarvesham sathatham pare
Ksheeradayai , dhanadayai,
Budhidayai namo nama.
Salutations to her who gives milk,
Riches and intelligence,
Who is the form of wish giving tree,
And Who is greater than everything.7
1 Lactose Intolerance. http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance. Published August 3, 2015. Reviewed May 2010. Accessed on August 3, 2015.
2 Argov N, Lemay D, German J. Milk Fat Globule structure & function; Nanosciece comes to milk production. Trends Food Sci Technol. 2008 Dec; 19(12). DOI 10.1016/j.tifs.2008.07.006. Full text is available online at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3868455/. Accessed on August 4, 2015.
3 Rodriguez-Alcala L, Harte F, Fontecha J. Fatty acid profile and CLA isomers content of cow, ewe, and goat milk processed by high-pressure homogenization. Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies. 2009 January; 10(1):32-36. DOI: 10.1016/j.ifset.2008.10.003. Full text is available online at Research Gate. Accessed on August 4, 2015.
4 CLA: The Modern Food Chain’s Weak Link. http://extension.usu.edu/dairy/files/uploads/htms/cla.htm. Accessed on August 1, 2015
5 The Srimad Bhagavad-Gita and the Sacredness of All Cows. http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/Articles/holy-cow.html. Accessed on August 4, 2015.
6 Dash, Vaidya Bhagwan. Materia Medica of Ayurveda Based on Madanapalas Nighantu. New Delhi, India. B. Jain Publishers Pvt Ltd. 2001.
7 Gomatha Sthuthi (Prayer to Mother Cow). Translated by P.R. Ramachander. Available online at http://stotraratna.sathyasaibababrotherhood.org/o12.htm. Accessed on August 1, 2015.
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