Goat Milk for Grownups
In the previous issue, I was given the opportunity to share information about the advantages of using goat milk as an alternative to the standard cow/soy-based infant formulas. A significant portion of that article was dedicated to describing the primary drawbacks of feeding these two ingredients to our children.
For those who dismissed these arguments as a message valuable only to parents of small children, nothing could be further from the truth. Goat milk and goat-milk products play as large a role in my own heath and well being as they do for my four children.
Cow-milk allergy is the number one allergy in kids under three. Soy-milk allergy is also extremely common for kids and the “milk” derived from soy is teeming with estrogen-like substances that mimic human hormones. Tremendous controversy surrounds the potential risks involved with women consuming processed soy products—organic certification or not. However, the government-subsidized market for cow milk still dwarfs the sales of other alternatives in the US.
The cow dairy industry in the US is gigantic. In the first six months of 2012 alone, the US produced 168 billion pounds of milk from eight million cows. In terms of overall diet, Americans on average consume nearly 100 gallons annually (including products like cheese and yogurt). Not only does it play a huge role in our overall health (or lack thereof), it is a veritable cash cow (ahem) for companies nationwide.
It may sound odd to many readers, but goat milk really isn’t an “alternative” milk—nearly two-thirds of the world consume goat milk in dairy products and probably think the idea of drinking cow milk to be strange. Goat milk production in the US is, of course, merely a fraction of the volume produced by the cow milk industry, but the benefits of using goat milk for teens and adults are overwhelming and may be some of the most underappreciated benefits in the health-food world.
In his book Goat Milk Magic, Bernard Jensen, DC, ND, refers to it as “nature’s perfect food” and writes: “I know [goat milk] has kept me healthier and stronger ... I’ve seen it help bring thousands of men, women, and children back to good health.”
The Journal of American Medical Association reported, “The goat is the healthiest domestic animal known. Goat milk is superior in every respect to cow milk. Goat milk is the ideal food for babies (those recovering from illness) and especially those with weakened digestive powers. Goat milk is the purest, most healthful, and most complete food known.”
Goat milk is better suited for human consumption than cow milk for many reasons. The protein content is far easier to digest and absorb, as the molecules are roughly the same size as those of human milk. The mineral content is high in potassium, selenium, calcium, and magnesium. Goat milk colostrum, the first milk following birth, is rich in immunoglobulins, cytokines, lactoferrin, and many other immune-centered molecules. The cream of goat milk is rich in medium- and short-chain fatty acids crucial for brain development, mental alertness, energy, and immune function. Cream from grass-fed, free-range goats also has an abundance of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been used to treat cancer, obesity, cachexia, atherosclerosis, and swine flu, as well as to improve athletic performance.
One of the most convincing arguments for goat milk over cow milk is that goat dairies never rely on growth hormones to achieve top milk production. The milk from these production-enhanced cows has higher counts of white blood cells (from mastitis), and therefore becomes much more inflammatory to consume. True, in recent years there has been a big push for cow farms to stop using the rBST (recombinant bovine somatatropin) hormone to increase milk production. However, cows that are raised organically and do not receive growth hormones still produce naturally occurring growth hormones at rates that are unhealthy for human consumption.
Let me explain this concept further. The growth hormones in cow milk are designed to take a 100-pound calf and turn it into a 1,500-pound cow. The powerful hormonal signaling coming from the (naturally occurring) growth hormones in the cow milk are much different from that of goat milk. At birth, a baby goat (kid) is between five and nine pounds, (about the size of a human baby), and finishes growing between 150 to 250 pounds (about the size of a teen/adult).
It is well established that goat milk by itself is a wonderful whole food that offers many health benefits. However, the components of goat milk offer even more potent benefits, which we will now examine.
Goat milk protein
Goat milk protein is one of the greatest protein supplements on the market today. Our bodies were designed to digest and absorb certain proteins better than others. For example, shoe leather is nearly 100-percent protein but is such a poor quality protein (its bioavailability is almost zero) that our bodies will digest and absorb almost none of it.
Milk has two main proteins: casein and whey. (The casein in goat milk is completely different from the allergy-causing casein in cow milk.) Whey protein stimulates the body to initiate protein synthesis, while casein protein keeps the body from breaking down existing protein and muscle stores.
Goat milk protein, with its unique protein composition, is perfect for anyone looking to put on more muscle, get to or stay at a healthy weight, and even lose weight if combined with reduced caloric intake.
Goat milk minerals
The mineral content of goat milk is quite high in its native liquid form, but extraction can concentrate these nutrients. Two tablespoons of extracted goat milk minerals contains the mineral content of two quarts of goat milk—five bananas’ worth of potassium.
Similar to the protein example, some mineral forms are simply not digestible and even when taken in mass quantities offer little to no health benefits. Goat milk, on the other hand, is rich in food-based minerals and electrolytes that will be absorbed and utilized by the body.
The importance of food-based (bio-organic) minerals cannot be overstated. We were not created to eat dirt or rocks (or oyster shells for that matter). Plants, however, are quite good at utilizing minerals from dirt, and goats are quite good at utilizing minerals from plants. We are quite good at utilizing minerals from the goat milk—a pretty good system, all in all.
Goat milk colostrum
One of the most interesting substances that comes from goat milk is the highly seasonal colostrum. This is the first milk that follows the mother goat (doe) giving birth to her kid or kids. This first milk comes only once a year and is extremely high in naturally occurring immune boosters like immunoglobulins, cytokines, lactoferrin, and others.
These components have various biological roles. For example cytokines are part of our systemic immune system. These hormones keep communication between immune cells active. Without such communication, we would be defenseless against invaders from the outside.
Immunoglobulins (IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, IgM) are also known as antibodies. These small proteins are used by the immune system to seek out and destroy foreign antigens (invaders). Lactoferrin is also an important part of our immune system as it assists with iron absorption and has shown to be antimicrobial and antifungal. Growth factors (IGF-I, IGF-II, EGF), as the name implies, assist with maintenance and growth of certain body tissues. All of these immune boosters are found in colostrum, making it an effective supplement for long distance athletes and those working in or attending immune-compromised areas like hospitals, high schools, public service buildings, and so on.
While goat milk is certainly increasing in popularity due to its ability to deliver great non-allergenic nutrition to infants and very young children, it also offers a lot for everyone from the teenage years all the way into adulthood. We can use goat milk and related products to stay healthy in the midst of flu season, fight fat during the holidays, keep mineral and electrolyte levels in a healthy balance, and do it all without compromising our safety due to pesticides, herbicides, chemicals, growth hormones, or antibiotics.
Joe Stout, MS, has written for various magazines and is the editor of The High Road to Health newsletter. A nutrition teacher and speaker, he lives with his wife and four children in Washington State.