Every day ‘news’ stories appear in the papers or on television about how this or that latest discovery shows that a product that is a popular food or beverage choice is either miraculously good for us or bad for us. News indeed. Not news to anyone who has been studying the latest scientific research in the field of nutrition or integrative medicine, studies that are NOT sponsored by a food or beverage manufacturer.

There are several common food items that are not good for humans at any age. One of these is cow’s milk. Like processed oils, margarine, and ‘enriched’ floured grains that are used for bread, milk has been marketed to North Americans since the mid-twentieth century as a wholesome product. It is not. Milk is a processed food, devoid of vital energy, homogenized and pasteurized until it has become a filler and carrier of added harmful substances. Yoiks! Even to me, that sounds a little harsh, but it is the truth.

Somehow this message is difficult to get across to the average person. As a well-educated acquaintance said to me a few weeks ago, “Show me the scientific proof and I’ll take a look at it”, meaning that the word of a trained nutritional expert is bunkum in the face of the mass marketing (and packaging literature) that says otherwise.

Designed for Ferraris, not Mack Trucks

A few facts about milk: mammals produce milk that is species-specific. Very high fat content is essential for the development of the mammalian brain. Humans require a specific ratio of essential fatty acids for proper development of its advanced neurological systems. As we learned in nutrition class: take a look at a calf; take a look at a human baby. End of story. Milk for calves, with four times the amount of casein than human milk, produces massive skeletal growth. Milk for humans, with eight times the essential fatty acid content than cow’s milk, produces intelligence.

Digesting cow’s milk is no picnic

Here are the facts: processed cow’s milk (the only kind legally available in North America) is closer to a toxic chemical soup than a healthy product for human consumption. It has been linked to many diseases, including immune function disorder, coronary disease, digestive system discomfort and some cancers. Milk creates an acidic environment in the body that supports the disease process. The size of the molecules of cow’s milk are not a match for the digestive system of humans. They damage the lining of the digestive tract, leading to chronic immune system disorders.

The toxicity of cow’s milk is no longer in question: since mammals excrete toxins through their milk, the concentrations of toxins is very high. Now, think of the commercial cow environment (or perhaps you would rather not). Commercial North American milk producers are trained in efficiency and federal health regulations, meaning that the cows are most often kept in barns, in close proximity, fed commercial feed and low doses of antibiotics. The feed contains chemicals and residual pesticides. All excreted into the milk. The medical profession knows all too well the effects of low level antibiotics in the production of antibiotic-resistant strains of ‘super-bugs’. No need to wonder why.

Okay, okay, but I need strong bones

Even natural health practitioners head to the established medical community for check-ups. In my case, it reassures the family… And so I was faced with the usual questions from my doctor, given my age and potential risk of osteopenia. What am I doing? Am I drinking enough milk, eating enough milk products for the necessary calcium? If you knew me, you would know that I am totally at ease with answering that my bones are just fine, I was sure, since I stopped milk products except for a little yogurt or cheese. He didn’t seem reassured at all…

So what does diminished milk consumption have to do with bone health? The track record of strong bones and teeth is among the peoples of the world who do not drink cow’s milk. We (the whole foods nutritional community) have known that for over thirty years. The highest incidence of osteoporosis is in North America, where we are fed the litany of more milk is good for you. No, it isn’t. Strong bone (that is, flexible, health bone) is more a function of the magnesium and mineral nutrient intake than calcium. Here is an indisputable but surprising fact for most of us, including me, when I learned it: milk promotes bone calcium loss.

How can this be? How does milk consumption promote unhealthy bones? The excessive protein levels in cow’s milk create an abnormally acidic environment that the body counters with an outpouring of minerals to maintain the pH balance, and so the calcium in the bones is leached out into the tissues. The more animal protein (i.e. the more high-casein cow’s milk) we ingest, the more calcium is leached out.

So milk should at least help me stay young?

Hardly. Cells thrive in a slightly alkaline environment. The acidic environment created by an over-abundance of animal protein promotes the aging process, a slow ‘cooking’ of the body’s tissues over time. So drinking milk makes you a lot of undesirable things…

What is interesting is that green leafy vegetables in theory provide as much calcium as is needed by human bodies. The calcium in the leafy greens is also balanced by magnesium in the correct ratio of 1:2.

Go find a natural, whole supplement

I suggest heading for the health food store and to get help in choosing any number of natural, whole food supplements. You need those ancient herbs for this one. Unfortunately, today, not only has the mineral content of our food been greatly diminished over time as our soils become depleted with excessive cultivation as never before, but the commercial supplement business provides us with poor alternatives! So you do need to take some sort of natural supplement. Not commercial vitamins, though, please, but a balanced supplement with natural proportions of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Natural supplements from plant sources are the best protection of health, youth, and vitality. Your local health store will help with the choices for you. A final word: choose a whole food supplement, that is a herbal extract, not a little compacted pill. Your impaired digestive system is unable to extract any goodness from those little tablets. Sad news. You absorb only about 4% of the vitamins or minerals in a typical commercial vitamin such as Centrum. As I said, go for the whole food supplements. There are lots of alternative choices to the hard indigestible pills.