Part of the secret to avoiding many diseases lies in the maintenance of our healthy gut bacteria. Some 2,500 years ago Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, taught, ‘All diseases begin in the gut’. Okay, so that part of the secret is already in the public domain, but here is the bit – my hypothesis – to health, happiness and longevity that I believe governments know, but are keeping a lid on. Yes, all three – health, happiness and longevity – can be unlocked by understanding one secret!

I believe Hippocrates was in fact way ahead of his time, and that many diseases
really do begin in the gut. There is something in our modern society that is causing mass murder of certain bacteria in our stomach. As you will discover later, our gut is one huge ecosystem. Our bodies contain more than 10,000 different species of microorganisms and together they and us exist in harmony. The fact is that we need them more than they need us. For every one human cell, there are nine non-human creatures living on or in our body! We are therefore only 10% human, as already noted! This isn’t a new phenomenon; it has been that way ever since we descended from apes. More accurately, the harmony and balance has been mutually beneficial for more than 2.5 million years, but over the past 50 I believe it has started to fall apart. Just like the destruction of a glorious rainforest can happen when just one or two species become extinct, or a coral reef can become completely barren after a short period when sea temperatures rise too quickly, something is destroying the microbiomes of those of us living in Great Britain.

Whether it is diet, pollution, pesticides, starch, microwaves, fast food, fizzy drinks, ready meals, overly prescribed medicines, hydrogenated oils, continuous snacking, sugar or any one of the multitudes of modern world problems, something is upsetting the balance of our ecosystem at an alarming rate.

It might just be that nearly every disease and disorder we face in modern civilisation can be tracked back to the reduction or total elimination of just one or two varieties of necessary bacteria in our guts. Remember back in science lessons at school where we learnt Newton’s third law (for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction)? I believe that while the action might be too many CARBS, or toxins entering our body from a plastic water bottle, it is actually the gut’s reaction to these events that is causing us harm. While to live healthily and happily the key lies in preventing the negative actions in the first place, meaning that purely focusing on the gut is not necessary, the issue lies in the fact that we probably have already accidentally wiped out some species in our ecosystem.

This is where dairy enters the scene and where Health Results takes a divergence from those following a strict Paleo diet. In order to defend and indeed rebuild the body’s ecosystem – the microbiome – it’s beneficial to eat a diet rich in fibre and fermented foods. While primal fibre is taken care of with choices such as nuts, seeds and lots of leafy greens, in the modern diet fermented foods are generally absent without leave! Later we will detail which fermented foods will help rebuild our gut’s microbiome, but let’s briefly just mention that three of the top five are derived from dairy – probiotic live yoghurts, fermented milk known as kefir and certain cheeses.

While yoghurts and cheeses start out as milk, milk itself is not necessarily as healthy as we were brought up to believe. The sugar it contains is known as lactose and it is estimated that, once we pass infancy, more than two-thirds of the world’s population become lactose intolerant. What does this mean? It means that for two out of every three people it is not beneficial to drink milk. When we think about it logically, nature designed milk to help newborns grow rapidly. Whether it be human, cow, goat or dog, nature didn’t intend us to rely on milk as we matured.

children yoghurt

According to the US National Library of Medicine, “Lactose intolerance in adulthood is most prevalent in people of East Asian descent, affecting more than 90 percent of adults in some of these communities. The prevalence of lactose intolerance is lowest in populations with a long history of dependence on unfermented milk products as an important food source. For example, only about 5 percent of people of European descent are lactose intolerant”. Lactose (a sugar) is normally broken down by cells found in the lining of the small intestine with the assistance of an enzyme called lactase. However, once past infancy there is normally a reduction of lactase in the gut and if the reduction is severe, the result is that we become lactose intolerant. If shortly after drinking milk you experience abdominal pain, flatulence, bloating, nausea or diarrhoea, then you are likely to be lactose intolerant.

Is drinking milk primal? Not really. Research suggests that civilisations only started drinking animal milk around 8000 BC. For the following millennia, consumption appears to have been sporadic and non-commercial. Then in the 1800s the calcium and phosphorus in milk became heavily promoted as good for our bones. As a result, a whole industry emerged and as demand grew, cattle started to get shoehorned into smaller and smaller milking sheds.

As overcrowding escalated these sheds became dirty and before long milk production became very unhygienic. In an attempt to make milk safer, dairy farmers responded by sterilising bottles and having doctors test cattle for disease. This did little to solve the problem and eventually lead to the heating of milk to 62°F (145°F) for around half an hour, killing off any viruses and bacteria in a process that became known as the pasteurisation of milk.


Understanding The Milk Label

  • HTST – Created in the 1930s, High Temperature Short Time (HTST) pasteurisation is where milk is heated to 71°C (161°F) for 15 seconds, which provides a shelf life of several weeks. The process is often marketed as pasteurised.
  • UHT – First used in the 1970s, Ultra High Temperature (UHT) pasteurisation
    is where milk is heated to 138°C (280°F) for just two seconds. This provides an extended shelf life of approximately nine months, and is often marketed as ultra- pasteurised.
  • Homogenisation – After pasteurisation, some milk goes through a separate process called homogenisation. This process breaks the molecules down into tiny pieces and prevents a layer of cream from forming on the top of the milk.
  • Semi-skimmed and skimmed milk – When milk is skimmed it means that the level of fat has been reduced through filtering. In the UK skimmed milk has around just 0.1% fat and semi-skimmed milk is typically around 2.5%.

When you consider whole milk is around just 4% fat and especially when we start to understand that natural fat has never been the real enemy, why would anybody use skimmed milk? Plus, when we remove the fat, we dramatically reduce the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. This has a double negative effect, because one of the health benefits of milk is its concentration of calcium, yet to truly absorb calcium you need vitamin D. In other words, if we skim the fat off milk, we remove most of the health benefits of drinking it in the first place.

As we can get all the beneficial vitamins and minerals that milk possesses through other means that are more in line with what we are designed to eat and drink, I personally avoid the white stuff. However, if you enjoy the odd glass of milk (and assuming you aren’t lactose intolerant), let me offer a little advice. As with all meats and dairy product, going organic is crucial. Think about this for a moment – in America the number of dairy cows halved between 1960 and 2005, yet the total output grew by nearly 50%. How did they achieve this? Mainly via injecting cows with antibiotics, force feeding them grains and several other unnatural additives, all of which makes the end product very cheap to create yet unhealthy for human consumption. The safest milk to drink is whole organic pasteurised milk. There is an argument that suggests raw milk is more beneficial than pasteurised, but of course being raw it carries a slightly higher risk of carrying infection.

While I am not a big fan of milk, I feel there are huge advantages in consuming yogurt and certain cheeses. While they both originate from dairy, these two products are super healthy. Yogurt achieves its creamy thickness as bacteria convert the lactose (sugar) to lactic acid. Cheese making follows a similar process, where the end result can be a product with various varieties of bacteria that are wildly beneficial for our guts. So much so, that by consuming just a small portion on a regular basis we might assemble a little army of helpful bacteria that help us lose weight! 

Author Patrick Holford

Authour Patrick Holford

We do know that milk causes cancer cells to grow, obviously not a problem for the very young as they are meant to drink milk. What concerns me, and the logic is very strong, but the hard evidence is not quite there yet, but what milk does is it promotes a hormone called IGF-1, insulin-like growth factor. And if you look at that across the ages, it absolutely peaks in the mid-teenage years, when the breasts are fully formed and when the prostate is fully formed. The logic suggests that it is quite likely that overconsumption of dairy products in teenage years may produce a sort of over-growth of breast cells and prostate cells, that could set a background for a greater risk in later life.


But of course, everyone says what about the calcium? Milk has calcium, and bones have calcium, we have to have milk for bones. But it is very clear, in fact two of the top professors in America in the field of nutrition, professors Ludwig and Jenkins, both say this, there is absolutely no link at all between children’s bone mass density and milk consumption. And no link for post-menopausal women’s risk of osteoporosis and dairy consumption. No link at all. Absolutely none. It’s a myth. Yes, we need calcium. If you are eating beans, nuts, veg and fish, you are going to get calcium. It’s not a lack of calcium that is driving osteoporosis in later life. It’s mainly a lack of vitamin D. If you go to the equator where there is a lot of sun, there is no osteoporosis. The further you go away from the equator, the greater the risk.