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.