This Unusual Type Of Milk Could Help Heal Your Gut & Make Your Skin Glow
Many of my patients find cow's milk hard to digest due to lactose intolerance, which can lead to food sensitivities and general gut unhappiness. This is because they lack sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase to break down the predominant sugar in cow's milk—lactose. This milk intolerance leads to gas, bloating, and diarrhea as the bacteria in the human gut ferment the lactose sugar instead. While actual numbers can vary, the World Allergy Organization estimates almost 5 percent of people may suffer from cow's milk allergy, with children more likely to react than adults.
At the same time, many patients enjoy drinking milk, whether in smoothies, mixed in foods, or as a beverage. In the past, I've had trouble finding the perfect alternative for cow's milk. Unfortunately, people reactive to cow's milk could also have reactions to goat and sheep milks.
Even nut milk doesn't get a free pass. One recent study looked at how 500 people reacted to different types of milk, from mammalian to nondairy milk. Interestingly, some people even reacted to traditionally nonreactive milks including almond, soy, and coconut milk!
So, what is left, you ask? The answer may surprise you as much as it did me!
In the same study, researchers provided a perfect alternative: camel milk, which was the second least reactive milk in this study (right after human milk). What?!?
While it might sound like the next new trendy health beverage, camel milk is hardly new. For centuries, camel milk (and urine, but that's for another discussion) has been used in the Middle East, parts of Africa and Asia, and the former Soviet Union. Even though throughout history it lacked scientific validity, many swore by camel milk's therapeutic benefits.
Today, we have that scientific validation. An impressive number of studies substantiate what people intuitively knew centuries ago: Camel's milk provides an array of health benefits, including being a rich source of nutrients and antioxidants.
Camel milk is more nutritious than milk from cows, sheep, and other animals because it contains low amounts of the milk sugar lactose along with a superior fat content. It is also easier to digest because, unlike most conventional dairy, which contains the difficult-to-digest A1 casein protein, camel milk is composed of A2 casein, which your body can break down more easily.
Nutrient-wise, camel milk contains high concentrations of potassium, magnesium, copper, sodium, zinc, iron, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Altogether, the total protein content of camel milk is also superior to other sources.
Those nutrients help fight chronic inflammation and free-radical-induced oxidative stress. As you know by reading my other blogs on inflammation, both of these conditions play key roles in the majority of diseases, including digestive disorders.
Many of the benefits in camel milk come from protein components called immunoglobulins that (as their name implies) play a key role in immune health.
Because of their unique structure, most of the immunoglobulins from the lactating camel can pass within and remain available in camel milk. Researchers find these immunoglobulins are therapeutic for a number of illnesses including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease.
Camel milk contains other protective proteins including:
- Lysozymes: These support the immune system to fight invading pathogens.
- Lactoferrin: The main ingredient in camel milk, lactoferrin prevents microbial growth in the gut, lowers inflammation, supports immune health, and so much more.
- Peptidoglycan recognition protein (PGRP): Research shows that among their benefits, peptidoglycan recognition proteins (PGRPs) can support microbiome health and normalize inflammation.
- N-acetyl-§-glucosaminidase (NAGase): This enzyme provides many of the same benefits as mother's milk.
One review of 24 human and animal studies found that camel milk offered a clinical benefit for various diseases, including diabetes, cancer, various infections, heavy metal toxicity, colitis, and alcohol-induced toxicity.
These are just a few of the benefits of camel milk.
It's safe for anyone with cow’s milk allergies.
Camel milk lacks A1 β-casein and other major allergens found in cow milk. Researchers note drinking camel milk is less invasive and costly for children to consume than other interventions to improve general well-being, support the body's natural defenses, and provide optimal nutrients for specific conditions including dairy intolerances and food allergies.
It helps with type 2 diabetes and blood sugar control.
One systematic review of 22 studies found that camel milk can reduce blood sugar, decrease insulin resistance, and improve lipid profiles, making it an ideal staple for people with type 2 diabetes. And a clinical trial gave 20 patients with type 2 diabetes 500 mL (about 8 ounces) of either camel milk or cow milk daily for two months. Researchers have found camel milk could improve insulin levels and support blood sugar control. If you are type 1 diabetic, camel milk could reduce insulin demand by 30 to 35 percent.
It can help with autism.
Research shows camel milk could be a very promising therapeutic intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), partly due to its antioxidant benefits. In one case study, drinking half a cup of raw camel milk a day immediately improved the symptoms for a 9-year-old boy with autism, and the regular consumption of camel milk resulted in sustained improvement over a six-year period.
It's a proven cancer protectant.
Studies show that camel milk can improve oxidative stress and support apoptosis (or programmed cell death; this is a good thing!) for people with liver or breast cancer. Other research shows the lactoferrin in camel milk provides antioxidant protection against colorectal cancer.
It helps with gut health.
An animal study found camel milk could improve specific healthy gut bacteria, making this an ideal drink for people with dysbiosis and other gut conditions.
It can make your skin glow.
Camel milk provides an excellent source of α-hydroxy acids, often used in the cosmetic industry to reduce wrinkling, soften skin, and improve overall skin quality.
OK, but what does camel milk taste like?
So here's the kicker—you're thinking it's great camel milk offers all these benefits, but does it taste good? Besides being healthy, camel milk tastes delicious. At the same time, I'm careful about positioning one food or beverage as a "wonder food" to solve numerous conditions. Used as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, however, camel milk can provide therapeutic benefits for these and other conditions.
Camel milk is not cheap (a six-pack of 16-ounce bottles currently sells for $120 on Amazon), and quality does matter to get the most nutrient-rich milk from ethically raised camels.
What’s my favorite? I like Desert Farms camel milk, which is very gently pasteurized and nonhomogenized to destroy pathogens while keeping Immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, and other nutrients intact. The company's ethics are impeccable: The baby does not get separated from the mother during the milking process, and the camels are fed an optimal diet.
Their camel milk is a source of A2 casein milk protein, a special type of easier-to-digest casein protein I've written about before. Camel milk does not contain lactoglobulin, the major allergen in milk proteins.
As it becomes more mainstream, I hope camel milk will be more readily available and affordable. Even if you drink it only a few times every week, camel milk can become a staple milk, especially if you (or your child) have any of the conditions that could benefit from it or even if you just want to get all the many nutrients in this fabulous milk that's far superior to and less allergenic than cow's milk.
Vincent M. Pedre, M.D., medical director of Pedre Integrative Health and president of Dr. Pedre Wellness, is a board-certified internist in private practice in New York City since 2004. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Biology at Cornell University before attending the University of Miami School of Medicine and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He has appeared on the Martha Stewart Show and ABC and is the author of Happy Gut: The Cleansing Program to Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Eliminate Pain. Dr. Pedre is a clinical instructor in medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and is certified in yoga and medical acupuncture.