Raw Journey: Part 3

My reflections on raw dairy.

After a year of experimenting with varying amounts and types of raw dairy—including goat, sheep, cow, and buffalo—I finally accepted the fact that it was doing me more harm than good. I did feel physically stronger and my hair stopped shedding, but my face looked like an oil slick, I was breaking out nonstop, my digestion was crummy, I felt constantly bloated, and the congestion—oh, the congestion. I had to tote around wads of kleenex wherever I went.

I trimmed dairy out of my diet again; my complexion improved within days and any sign of congestion disappeared. Out of curiosity, I tested dairy one more time a few months later—a small amount of raw cheddar shredded on a salad—and wham, the congestion was back. I no longer buy any milk products, raw or otherwise.

I’ve spoken to a growing number of former raw vegans who now supplement their diets with dairy. And recently, it seems a few leaders in the raw community are doing the same—emerging from the woodwork amid the the boos and hisses of the crowd, asserting that raw dairy has bolstered their health.

Even though my experience wasn’t positive, I can understand why some people initially benefit from this food—especially when coming from a raw diet that’s consistently low on calories. Dairy is designed to nourish. It’s a concentrated energy source. It provides the building blocks for physical development, strength, and growth. And raw foodists who chronically undereat are going to be low on protein (more on this touchy subject later), making dairy particularly satisfying on a physiological level.

However, I also feel the benefits of raw dairy are overhyped. It’s not a miracle food, and not everyone will respond well to it. Like its pasteurized counterpart, raw milk contains opioid peptides—chemicals that bind to opioid receptors in your body, creating feelings of euphoria, helping you relax, and ultimately inducing a mild addiction. It’s the same stuff found in morphine. This addictive quality is great for young animals, since it ensures they’ll want to nurse frequently and thus receive plenty of nutrition. But dairy’s opioids can easily tamper with natural hunger signals in adults, making it woefully easy to overeat. Ever try to stop at just one nibble of cheese?

In the raw food community, we’re just starting to see raw dairy shed its “taboo” status and gain some publicized acceptance—at least among those who aren’t vegan for ethical reasons. After seeing some raw folks rave about dairy after consuming it for a period of weeks or months, I’m curious to see what happens in the long run—years down the road, when the potential problems of dairy have time to manifest. Maybe some people will continue thriving on it. Maybe others will experience mucus-related problems like sinus trouble, congestion, and respiratory issues. Maybe others yet will become bona fide cheese-a-holics like I was. Only time will tell.

Regardless, I encourage others to experiment for themselves before blindly trusting the experiences of anyone else. If you have a raw dairy experience to share, please leave a comment below or e-mail me; I’m very interested in hearing more “case studies” on this subject.

Gravitating away from high fat.

Even with dairy out of the equation, eating a raw fat-packed diet—full of flaxseed crackers, coconut meat and oil, avocados, almond butter, hempseed products, and salads dowsed in oil—wasn’t bringing the vibrancy and energy I’d experienced when I first went raw. The only time I felt like exercising was first thing in the morning before I ate, because as soon as I’d put food in my mouth, lethargy and fatigue would take reign.

At the time, I’d been influenced by several fruit-limiting raw authors, including Gabriel Cousens and Brian Clement. On message boards, other raw foodists were embracing low-sugar diets and warning about how fruit had made them too skinny, caused dental problems, fed their candida, and contributed to a laundry list of other health crises. Out of fear, my fruit consumption was limited to berries and an occasional green apple picked from my neighbor’s tree (usually without his permission—shhh). Nothing “high glycemic,” so to speak. I clung to the belief that sugar is sugar is sugar.

Somewhere near the end of 2004, I started feeling disillusioned with raw food and my ceaseless lack of energy. My mini-library of raw books was more disappointing than helpful; everything I read seemed contradictory, unscientific, speculative, dogmatic, or just plain illogical. Online wasn’t much better: I was witnessing people getting banned en masse from raw food forums for questioning the diet or talking about animal products; censorship was rife; folks who were struggling often had their posts deleted instead of receiving honest answers.

It was then that I realized a scary reality. I was responsible for my own health. No one else knew my body. No one else had the answers. No one else had the “truth.”

In desperation, I went into a self-inflicted Raw Food Hermit Phase. I took an extended hiatus—five years, it became—from raw communities, both online and in person, in order to focus on conducting my own research and realigning with my personal intuition. It was time to figure out my own path instead of letting myself become swayed by the beliefs of others.

Without fear-mongering voices influencing my diet, I quickly gravitated back to a cuisine high in fruit. I wanted nothing but simple or mono-style meals. I also started experimenting with non-dairy raw animal products, including egg yolks, fish, and—just once—raw beef. I found that egg yolks and fish digested beautifully for me and tasted good, although the beef did not. A few attempts at eating steamed vegetables resulted in nausea and hot flashes (I thought I was too young for that!). I cut out salt completely; food flavors emerged with greater depth and intensity as a result. I upped my greens intake. I spontaneously moved away from so many raw fats, finding that meals of fruit gave me more energy.

Pretty soon, I formed on personally-tailored diet that finally had me looking and feeling healthier and more energetic than ever before.


  1. I love your following statement……
    It was then that I realized a scary reality. I was responsible for my own health. No one else knew my body. No one else had the answers. No one else had the “truth.”

    This is what I’ve come to believe also. I found what works for me and gives
    me the health and energy I need.
    Thank you for a wonderful article.

  2. I used to have problems with dairy (except goat yogurt). I discovered an allergy elimination technique called NAET which has since allowed me to eat dairy.

  3. hey denise,

    first, i just want to say i think you’re brilliant. i’m slogging through your china study analysis and can’t believe you wrote it on a whim, as a fun/intellectual side project. you could expand it into a PhD dissertation, for real.

    i’m not raw but i am health conscious, healing from debilitating chronic illness and trying to find the diet that’s right for me amid the zillion conflicting potentially health-inducing possibilities (raw, mostly raw, ayurvedic, weston price, TCM, etc, etc). intuitively i feel like my bodily constitution would be permanently frozen and ungrounded on an entirely raw diet, which is where ayurveda makes some sense to me; but then i avoid soy and feel the need for more animal protein and fermented veggies which is where the WAPF comes in; & i love green smoothies, have one almost daily, so there’s that, too.

    anyway, my specific question is about your thoughts re: the diet espoused by the WAPF. i’d love to know what holes you’ve discovered in their arguments (too much fat? too much protein? or do optimal amounts of these vary for each person?), and what you still think holds merit.

    thanks so much, and again, i love your site! it’s the first raw site i’ve found that is inviting, inquisitive, and non-judgmental, so kudos to you for that.


  4. Hi Denise
    Love your blog and have been on a 100% raw for 6 months now mostly as an personal experiment to truly find optimal health. Also I am personal trainer and have pretty much tried all sorts of diets and am a true beleiver we are all unique and require different mix of fats, protein and CHO. However I was sitting down to night eating my amazing salad wondering what I would do continue on the raw food journey or add in some animal protein. I dont look vibrant like I first did when I started in August, enegry levels are still good but have just started to notice receeding gums which is my first red flag.
    So I am curious what fish you have introduce and are you not worried about parasites? I am sure I can add raw eggs into my cocount green smooth no problem.
    Also why have you not added cooked chicken into your diet??

  5. I Think you should pay attention to the nausea you get from eating the steamed vegatables. It’s sounds like your gall bladder has trouble releashing bile. A dietician says 14 grams of fat is enough to cause bile release in normal people. I assume the steamed vegetables were bitter or spicy.
    The liver deals with some toxins by putting the toxins in the bile. About half the bile goes directly to the digestive tract. The other half of the bile goes to the gall bladder to be released when a meal has substantial fat that needs to be made water soluable. If the gall bladder doesn’t release bile regularly toxins build up in the gall bladder and toxins might back up into the liver. The high toxin bile when released causes nausea.
    The macrobiotic people would suggest you eat 1/4th cup of radishes once a day, preferably with a meal rich in fat soluable nutrients. They would suggest you keep eating radishes until you don’t get nauseous.
    Tradional Low fat diets ussually have a means of causing bile release. On an empty stomach they would have bitter teas, bitter greens, non sweet alcoholic drinks or have spicy meals.
    The Weston Price Foundation has an article on the need for a good Copper to Zinc ratio. Most people don’t eat balanced amounts of Copper and zinc but most people excrete excess copper in the bile. The article was inspired by Ann Louise Gittlemen’s book Why Am I So Tired. Women are more susceptible to copper excess. Gittlemen believe hair analysis is the best way to detect copper excess. The symptoms are poor digestion of heavy food, chronic fatigue, hypoglycemia, anxiety, racing mind, panic attacks, skin problems and premenstrual syndrone.

  6. The http address I gave is invalid. The article by Laurie Warner is on several websites.
    Try typing in the article title.

    Copper-Zinc Imbalance: Unrecognized Consequence of Plant-Based Diets and a Contributor to Chronic Fatigue

  7. Denise,
    Don’t know about you. I started taking raw milk (mostly A2 milk) this year, as well as raw cheese. Have been drinking on average 1 gallon and a half per week, for about five months now.

    Excellent results, is all I can say. Love the raw milk, particularly the A2. Love the raw cheese. Drinking tons of milk compared to historical levels.

    Too bad you cannot drink milk without having problems. But have had nothing but the best of experiences with the raw milk, raw cheese diet.

  8. I posted a comment on the previous page. But for others who are experimenting with raw dairy… I have tried cow, goat and sheep. Cheese or kefir I can’t stomach literally – alas heaving within 10 minutes and my lymph nodes in my neck swell up. I do better with goat or sheep yogurt, but 20% of the time this is rejected by my stomach. The other 80% seems to lead to bloating / stomach pain. I have been diagnosed with lactose intolerance, but fermenting longer (24hrs) did not help. I have concluded dairy is just not for me.

  9. Well yes, if you are using raw cheese as your only source of dairy, then yes your face will be quite oily. I’d suggest getting a raw milk dairy share and skimming off the cream.

    Skim raw milk in addition to a raw foods diet I believe would be very healthy. All that situated fat is no good for you.

    I’d suggest eating raw honey and raw milk in the same sitting because raw honey dries up mucus quite a bit.

  10. Girl u need to increase your water and salt intake. Do you wonder why we sweat out salt water? tears of salt water, Salt is the best histamine!!

  11. “It was then that I realized a scary reality. I was responsible for my own health. No one else knew my body. No one else had the answers.”

    This is just what I needed to hear. Thanks Denise.

    Wishing you well

    R x

  12. Ugh, dairy gives me heartburn and acne. /: Although a lot of things give me heartburn haha I’m still experimenting with what foods are “safe” for me. And I’ve been doing the same thing you did- distancing myself from the forums and what not and just figuring out what my body likes the best. Obviously I can’t tear myself away from your blog yet. (; I don’t intend to ever though haha. And I like to internet stalk Melissa Henig, Heather Mamatey, and Melissa McEwen as well.
    Anyway. I kind of lost the desire to eat dairy after I went vegan. I actually tried some raw cheese after I went back to animal products but I find it doesn’t make me feel too well. Terrible heartburn, 4 pimples, and you’re right- it’s SO hard to stop eating haha. I much prefer raw egg yolks and fish as well- they leave me so energized. Red meat is okay but it feels a bit heavier (I haven’t tried it raw though..). More than anything, I still crave hydrating foods. Which isn’t bad. I just attribute it to the raw veganism. Cooked foods and dairy just don’t satisfy the way that spinach and berries and mango and figs and those other yummy raw fruits and veg. I struggle being 100 percent raw these days, but I don’t stress trying to be 100 percent. It gives me more energy, but I love baked sweet potatoes and soups and butternut squash. ❤
    But you're definitely not the only one who doesn't do well with raw dairy! The egg yolks and fish are where it's at!

  13. I have just been on 3 months of raw milk and cheese. I had been through a year of stress, so I had lost some weight which I didn’t need to lose and felt somewhat depleted.

    Prior to the stress I ate oatmeal, organic chicken broth with broccoli, carrots and a few other veg, really not cooked, just thrown into the warm broth. I was dairy free, nut free, and had a bit of olive oil. I ate sardines a2-3 times a week. And drank electrolyte or mineral water in glass bottles. And green tea. Plus lots of berries, mangoes, papayas and grapes. I was very healthy, my thyroid hormones normalized (I no longer needed thyroid meds), my skin was glowing and I slept deeply and peacefully and had lots of energy. I did yoga, not a lot of cardio, some but nothing vigorous, and some Pilates type stuff. I felt great. I had no bloating.

    After the stress, and the weight loss and skin looking pallid and dry, I got worried about everything and thought the raw dairy may be the answer, to nourishing my body and restoring health. The funny thing is the first week or two I felt like it was helping me, i was feeling kind of tingly like my body was waking up (though I was also starting Kampuchea tea) As you say I quickly became addicted, physically and mentally to the idea of it, as a wonder food to heal and save me. 🙂

    But then I noticed my skin started to look worse, more pale and pasty, and that my face was looking somewhat swollen, bloated. I also had little bumps come up on my face. And congestion. Last week i ran out f the milk and went about 5 days without it. After about 4 days I noticed my face looked slimmer,and brighter, rosier I think. I felt better. (I do struggle with mood problems due to life events from last year) I felt a lot less depressed and had more energy, including mental. I think I was less croaky.

    Well, I got the next supply of milk, have drank 1 1/2 gallons this last 7 days,and I feel lethargic, depressed, my skin looks sallow and my face looks bloated again. (Though I weigh 130 and am 5 foot 8″.) Its not weight gain, its water retention/ inflammation. So I am going to go dairy free from today, including the cheese and just go back to my original diet from before. And your article and your insights have been just what I needed to encourage me that I do know what works best for my body.

    I got carried away on the “Raw Milk” train, and I am absolutely not saying it may not be helpful or right for others, just that ultimately I don’t think I’m meant to be having dairy in my body. I don’t think its necessary. I am of Swedish descent and I just read that I think 80-90 % of Swedes in the past were lactose intolerant. (Not sure how they know that.) But it makes sense to me. A lot of the other foods they are sensitive to, guess what, so am I. ( I look Swedish, have white blonde hair, so I do think genetically I seem to have a link)

    Also I seem to need a lot of water(with minerals) and quite a lot of fruit (certain kinds) and green tea. Im not sure why, I don’t exercise a huge amount but I have a high metabolism and maybe I just need that amount of water and salts! Thanks. Sorry so horribly long!!

  14. Hi! It was cool to come across your blog. I am also a health nut living in Portland, and I eat about 80% raw when I’m being good 🙂 I am lactose-intolerant, so can’t handle more than a microscopic amount of cow’s milk dairy, and I feel better without it. I was happy to discover at New Season’s that they sell “cheese bites”, and some of those are sheep and goat milk cheeses. I seem to do best with sheep’s milk. Strangely enough, even though I have an addictive personality, I can make these last for a week, just taking tiny bites with spoonfuls of raw honey, usually just a 1 inch cube at a time. It’s really satisfying, but I am able to stop at just a little bit and then eat something else.

  15. Hi Denise.
    Writing from Brasil here. I discovered your site by an indication of Dr. José Carlos Souto urologist from my country. He’s a big admirer of you (as now I am).
    You said that you’ll like to hear about our diary experiences. I think is an familiar thing, we could eat anything in that field, with no reactions at all. When my children shows some kind of rare illnesses, especially with allergies, congestion, we drop the diaries just in the healing process. In a family of four, we eat something like a pound or two of mozzarella cheese a week, and a half pound of kind of cream cheese, and a very little of regular strawberry yogurt. We avoid, despite liking a lot, drinking pure milk with chocolate. When we do that (once a week, just for fun) we used to blend 100% cocoa powder with very little sugar. I was aware of peptide opioid of diaries, since I read about it in Way Genrriu’s (pseudonym) work. I suspected one year ago that my daughter (10 yo) was suffering from belly pains due to cheese consumption, but turned out that was in fact due to the wheat consumption. She also had constant headaches related to this sh*t.
    I’m in low carb high fat, some little raw diet right now (loosing 2 pounds a week, trying to loose 20).
    I’ll continue to read your site now, that I like a LOT. Thanks. Best regards, Cyro
    p.s. Sorry about the bad English.

  16. Sorry, me again, I think you could do more research about the salt. It isn’t bad for your health. The laboratory mice that became hypertensive due to sodium was forced to eat like a pound of salt for a human daily, or more than that, I can’t remember. Specially if a person go low carb (not your case I know) is very important eat enough amounts of salt.

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