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Raw Milk – A Microbial Benefit Or Hindrance?

Raw milk, by definition, is milk from grass-fed cows that is both unpasteurized and un-homogenized (the pasteurization process is a high heat treatment that kills any bacteria and potential pathogens in the milk, while the homogenization process is a mechanical process that distributes the fat particles evenly throughout the milk so that it’s blended uniformly). And because it doesn’t go through these nutrient-degrading processes before human consumption, it’s marketed as containing all of the “healthy” stuff that are destroyed in conventional milks during the pasteurization and homogenization processes, such as natural enzymes, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and beneficial bacteria for the gut. Yet, a recent study found that raw milk might not be the super food some health circles believe it is.

The study, published this summer in Microbiome Journal, looked at 2,304 pasteurized and unpasteurized milk samples across 5 states. Results showed that raw milk contains little to no probiotic-like bacteria and possesses a distinct microbial footprint when compared to pasteurized milk – one rich in bacterial colonies, specifically aerobic bacteria, coliform and E. coli, a high prevalence of Pseudomonadaceae, and limited levels of lactic acid bacteria – a beneficial bacteria that was previously thought to be abundant in raw milk.

In fact, the study found that the raw milk samples tested contained “dramatically more” antimicrobial resistant genes (ARGs), especially when stored at room temperatures (the way raw milk is often consumed). Studies show that when consumed, ARGs have the ability to transfer pathogenic resistance capabilities to other bacteria in the body.

Takeaway: Raw milk is marketed as containing anti-allergen and probiotic properties, as well as being better tolerated by those who are lactose intolerant. Researchers who conducted the study believe that the risk of consuming raw milk –ARGs and foodborne illness – overwhelmingly outweigh the benefits, as there is no hard, scientific evidence supporting the hypothesis that consuming raw milk protects against allergies or acts as a meaningful source of probiotic bacteria.

At Gutbliss, because of the detrimental effects dairy can have on the gut, we do not support the consumption of raw or pasteurized animal milk. Instead, we recommend plant-based milks, such as oat, almond, and cashew milks. And better yet, homemade versions. Click here for our Do-It-Yourself Nut Milk recipe.

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