Should We Still Drink Raw Milk – Measles Outbreaks
This week's edition of “What would Emily do” is dedicated to just two questions that I hear often:
1) Do I still give my family raw milk despite the accounts of a super strain of E. coli that lead to a 2 year old needing a kidney transplant?
2) What do I do to protect my kids from measles ‘epidemics' and other reported outbreaks of vaccinatable (my word) childhood illnesses?
Who am I to know the answers to your questions?
I’m a holistic-minded mom, a sometimes beach bum, a real food foodie, a curious health researcher, and I've been practicing holistic and Chinese medicine for over a decade. That said, the answers here are only my opinion, and shouldn’t be construed as medical advice.
If you read something here and have your own wisdom or opinion to add, by all means, please leave a comment so we can all benefit from your experiences and perspective.
Okey dokey! Let’s dive in…
Does my family drink raw milk despite its risks?
We've been drinking raw milk for a few years and the arguments for doing so make a lot of sense to me. BUT, we were sent this article by a concerned family member and I'm trying to weigh all the info in my overloaded brain!
Does your family still consume raw milk? And how do you weigh articles like this, considering specifically the e. coli strain that we have to deal with now that didn't exist 50 years ago, and the fact that there are always risks no matter how high the standards?
Hi Stephanie. I hear questions like this often, and I can certainly understand the questions and doubt that this story raises for parents and concerned family and friends.
First of all, what happened with Kylee Young was unfortunate and tragic. She contracted E. coli after drinking raw milk from a small farm in Oregon. Unlike most people who get sick from tainted food, Kylee did not recover well and developed complications from hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) that included a stroke and kidney failure that required a transplant.
Despite reading this story, my family and I do consume raw milk on a daily basis. Here's why:
The odds don't worry me.
The risk of developing a serious illness (requiring hospitalization) from drinking raw milk is a mere 1 in 6 million. (source) You are 100 times more likely to be attacked by a shark. To further put this in perspective, the likelihood of getting into a car accident in any given year is 1 in 64 – yet most of us hop in our vehicles each and every day. (source)
Furthermore, no one's talking about the absolute risk of chronic health problems from pasteurized milk including asthma, allergies, ear infections, and digestive problems. I see kids and adults in my practice all of the time, that suffer from chronic health problems that are due, in part to pasteurized milk.
I value the nutritional and health benefits of raw milk.
Before I understood the health benefits of raw milk, I believed we could get all the nutrition we need from other dietary sources. While this is not entirely wrong, raw milk is definitely a convenient superfood packed with healthy fats and cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins, probiotics, and enzymes. Pasteurization also destroys much of the antioxidant and probiotic benefits of milk.
Some days my kids can't get enough of the stuff, asking for glass after glass. Other times it seems like they'll go for a week or more without interest. I follow their lead and let them drink and eat raw yogurt to their fill.
I know my farmers and feel confident in their practices.
I've had many conversations with Mark McAfee, the founder of my dairy – Organic Pastures. I have learned all about their safety measures and receive invitations each year to ‘camp with the cows' to witness it all firsthand.
In the event of a recall, my producer has been fully transparent, and I've never felt the need to stop consuming the milk – in fact, we are more likely to stockpile in our freezer as to not run out.
It's my opinion that rather than shutting down raw milk, small dairies should be given support to make the production of clean, raw milk more reliable – but that's another story for another post.
Basically, I think that you need to decide what makes sense for yourself and your family. How does raw milk feel in your body? Does your family thrive on it or have reactions? Do the risks outweigh the benefits, or vice versa? Do you have a clean, reliable source of raw dairy?
While it may seem confusing, I believe that with most things if you do your research and really listen to your inner voice, you'll know whether raw milk (or anything else) is right for you.
What to do about recent measles epidemics?
I'd really appreciate your thoughts on the fact that the media is reporting measles outbreaks in Southern California – “the worst in decades.” What to do?
Thanks for your question, SK.
I've gotta give the media props for their headline writing. It sure does grab your attention to hear that there are outbreaks of a disease – “the worst in decades”. Follow that with a video of rashy, crying babies, and I'm almost ready to buy whatever they're selling.
BUT… In this case, they're reporting on 21 people over three months that have contracted measles, seven of which were hospitalized. Now, I just checked, and there are over three million people in Orange County, the area in question. At 0.0007%, I personally don't find those odds alarming.
Would I want to be one of the folks suffering – or worse, hospitalized – for measles? No ma'am.
But I also believe that a good foundation of a nutrient dense diet plus carefully chosen supplements can help to strengthen my immune system to ward off illness or lessen the intensity if I get sick.
I also feel confident that I have a good support team of smart, holistically-minded practitioners should I need further support for me, my family, or my patients.
I've written about a similar media scare in this post:
Was the Whooping Cough Epidemic Caused by Unvaccinated Kids?
Now, I will say that you may not have interest or commitment to eating real food, learning about how to use food and supplements as preventative medicine, or tuning into your own health. You may live out in Podunk, Nowhere and don't have access to alternative, holistic practitioners when you need extra support.
In these cases, vaccinating against formerly common childhood illnesses may be your best defense. But for me and my family, we'll be passing on the measles shot in light of the recent ‘outbreaks'.
Got questions about real food or holistic health and wondering W.W.E.D.?
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