Is Milk for Everyone?
by Kurma Dasa
If milk is so beneficial, why is there so much controversy about
in the 1950s, international relief agencies started to give out
millions of tons of surplus milk around the world. They received
many complaints that people who drank the milk suffered cramps,
severe gas pains and diarrhea.
The contention came to a head in 1965 when a team of research
physicians from the Johns Hopkins Medical School discovered that
many people who suffered after drinking milk were unable to digest
lactose, a complex sugar found in milk.
Large, complex sugar molecules in milk can’t pass through
the wall of the small intestines until it is broken into simple
sugars. The enzyme lactase performs this transformation.
Lactase is generally found in all young mammals, but as mammals
get older, many lose the ability to produce lactase: they become
“ lactose intolerant”. From these conclusions came the
idea that milk was only meant for baby mammals, and not adults.
Researchers added weight to their arguments by pointing out that
many adult humans found it very difficult to digest a glass of cold
milk. They also noted that Northern Europeans were the least lactose
intolerant. Some anthropologists concluded from all this that light
skin and milk-drinking go together, and that it was unreasonable
to expect people from genetic backgrounds other than Northern European
to drink milk.
But how does this explain the fact that African Masai cow-herders
and the people of India have been drinking milk for millenia? Part
of the explanation lies in the way in which the milk is consumed.
The Masai drink their milk warm and fresh from the cow. India’s
esteemed traditional medical treatise Ayur Veda explains how warm
milk straight from the cow promotes strength and actually stimulates
the digestion, but that cold milk causes rheumatism and arthritis,
and (as detected by the researchers at Johns Hopkins), toxic gas.
It is interesting to note that lactose intolerance is practically
unheard of in India. It is most certainly due to the fact that in
India, milk is always boiled first, then consumed very hot, and
always sweetened with sugar. Boiling the milk breaks down the protein
so it is easier to digest. In the West, milk is pasteurized, but
not boiled. It’s also homogenized, and people drink it cold.
In India, saffron, cardamom, and other aromatic spices are usually
added to milk. As well as making it delicious, this naturally alleviate
any mucus-forming tendencies. Hot milk also calms the nerves. This
helps explain why hot milk is so widespread in many cultures as
a bed-time relaxer.
And also, according to the Ayur Veda, the thick skin of cream on
milk (I used to peel it off in disgust), promotes strength and virility
and alleviates bile and gas.
Finally, here’s a magnificently simple recipe for hot
saffron milk. Sweet dreams.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Yield: enough for 4 persons
pinch of saffron threads
pinch of ground cardamom seeds
1 litre milk
Sugar or honey to taste
Coarsely grind the saffron with the back of a spoon.
Place the milk over medium heat. Add the saffron and cardamom.
Stirring, bring the milk to a full boil, allowing it to
froth twice, then remove from the heat. Dissolve the sweetener in
the milk, and serve “sipping hot”.
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