Q: Linda – Is organic raw milk allowed on a dairy free diet? I am going dairy free to try and eliminate joint, muscle and back pain.
A: Alisa – If you are trialing a true dairy-free diet, then no, organic raw milk would not be suitable. It is still a dairy product. But raw milk does deserve to be addressed, even by dairy-free consumers. I do discuss raw milk in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook, as well as addressing the various types of milk on the market (A2 milk, lactose-free milk, soymilk, goat milk, etc.) to help clarify what dairy really is and who the different milks (whether dairy or non-dairy based) may be suitable for. However, I will briefly elaborate on raw milk here.
Many raw milk enthusiasts feel that the real problem with milk is not the pure product itself, but the changes it undergoes in processing (pasteurization, ultra-pasteurization, and homogenization) and the poor and contaminated quality from improperly treated cows (grain-fed diet, antibiotics, hormones, etc.). They believe that raw organic milk (note that raw simply means unpasteurized, it may not actually be organic) has health benefits for disease prevention and things such as curing infections, and that some who are milk allergic and/or lactose intolerant can actually tolerate raw milk …
There are some published testimonials on the internet of raw milk success stories, but to the contrary I have received emails and comments from many individuals who did not achieve good results and symptom relief when trialing raw milk, but they did when completely dairy-free. Though it may work for some, it isn’t a solution for many who choose to avoid milk, and few studies exist to solidify the benefit of raw milk as of yet.
It is important to note that raw milk still contains the same chemical make-up as conventional milk (proteins like casein and whey, lactose, etc.), so in theory, there may not be any difference to how your body reacts to conventional milk vs raw milk. Also, a raw milk trial could be too risky for those with a severe milk allergy – always consult a physician.
Plus, there are two additional issues to address with raw milk; one is a plain and simple fact, while the other is a constant debate.
Fact: Raw milk is hard to find in the United States and Canada. It is legal in just 28 states, and each state has varying levels of restrictions. Most of these states still prohibit the sale of raw milk in retail stores. It usually has to be purchased from the farm directly. However, all 50 states and Canada permit the sale of raw milk cheeses that are aged for at least 60 days. Canada strictly prohibits the sale of raw milk directly to consumers.
Debate: Agencies such as the CDC, FDA, and other worldwide regulatory agencies say that “pathogens from raw milk make it unsafe to consume.” However, the largest pro raw milk group, the Weston A. Price Foundation, says that “raw milk has health benefits that are destroyed in the pasteurization process and that it can be produced hygienically.” You can read a bit more on this discussion at Wikipedia.
If you are trialing a dairy-free diet, it might be best to go strictly dairy-free to see how you feel and if your symptoms resolve. If you do see improvement and dairy is not a health danger to you (such as a life-threatening milk allergy), then you can always do a raw milk trial (if you can locate it) to see if your body reacts well.
Please note that raw milk is not suitable for vegans as it is still an animal product. Always consult a physician before undergoing any change in diet or before trialing a food challenge such as raw milk.
Photo credit: Healthline
Alisa Fleming is the founder of GoDairyFree.org and author of Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. In addition to her own dairy-free lifestyle, Alisa has experience in catering to the needs of various special diets, including gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, vegan, and multiple food allergies.