Raw Milk and Yoga

From a reader:

“Hi Doc. Even yogis as recently as the 1940’s have sung the praises of milk (and even doing milk only diets for some periods). But methinks that modern (pasteurized, homogenized, machine-raised) milk and dairy products are nasty stuff that any serious yoga practitioner should avoid. Your opinion?”

It’s true that the old yogic texts recommend that yoga practitioners drink milk. Mainstream medicine does, too. Thats in contrast to the recommendations of the modern yogis at the Yoga Institute in Bombay when I was there last year. They put it on their list of five white things to avoid.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1:62 (The most conducive foods for the yogi are) good grains, wheat, rice, barley, milk, ghee, brown sugar, sugar candy, honey, dry ginger, patola fruit (species of cucumber), five vegetables, mung and such pulses, and pure water.

For sure, modern milk isnt exactly the same as that of those old yogis. Hormones, antibiotics, and a switch from the cows natural primarily grass-based diet to one that is mostly grain has morphed what they knew as milk into what we can now buy in the supermarket.

Their milk wasn’t pasteurized either, and so you could say that raw milk was recommended. They didn’t have a choice, however. And, while I know its very fashionable right now to rip on pasteurization, I just cant get myself on board with that one.

I think its easy to forget since it was a generation or two ago what it was like before we understood how to limit the spread of bacteria in milk products.

My friend, a nurse, has had only one exposure to raw milk in her life. She ate ice cream made from raw milk when we were on vacation together by the sea. From that, she got a drug-resistant form of salmonella that was nasty. The milk wasnt pasteurized, homogenized, or produced by big business. It came from a little farmers free-range, grass-fed animal.

I just wrote to ask her about the details again and here is her reply:

“Yep, i got salmonella from eating ice cream (2 bites) made from unpasteurized goats milk. I knew when I took those 2 bites that something tasted different, and C. and I even commented about how it probably wasnt pasteurized and I better watch out. Low and behold, the next day, I started with abdominal pain. Then about 24 hrs after that, I began to have diarrhea. Belly pain and diarrhea continued for several weeks. At about 10 days, I spiked a temp of 103-104 and was taking off of work. I was off nearly 3 or 4 weeks. I was given antibiotics. They said I had to have 3 negative stool cultures to return to work in the hospital. Well I never did. After 3 months, they quit testing my stool and told me I must be one of the 5% who remains a carrier. Believe me, if I ever got it again, I would know! It was the worst abdominal pain I ever had. And not to be gross, the diarrhea had a distinct odor unlike when you have the flu! Would I eat ice cream made from unpasteurized milk again? NO WAY!!”

Here’s a responsible link to tragic stories of raw milk drinkers. Please, if you’re considering drinking raw milk, give this website a serious look – especially if you plan to give raw milk to your children. It can be fatal.

And heres a link to a power point presentation that reviews the reported (not all are reported!) illnesses from raw milk over the last several years. On the slides are also scientific references with actual data to support or refute their claims (not self-serving studies done by the very biased sellers of raw milk like some of those that are mentioned on their websites).

If you want to drink milk, I recommend pasteurized organic products from grass-fed, free range animals. As to whether or not we NEED to drink milk, well, that’s a topic for the next post….

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