In 2012, just after Thanksgiving, I went out on a limb.
I had recently come off a six-week course of heavy-duty antibiotics that were supposed to help my Lyme but failed, giving me only side effects and bringing my already-weak digestion to a screeching halt. In addition to all of the familiar old symptoms, any food at all—even cooked vegetables, which had been a reliable standby—would sit in my upper stomach for hours like a five-pound brick. I was becoming emaciated and increasingly desperate, and decided to try something I had been reading about: the milk diet.
The milk diet comes from the book Milk Diet as a Remedy for Chronic Disease, written by Dr. Charles Porter, an MD who claims to have cured thousands of chronically-ill patients by putting them on an exclusive diet of raw cow’s milk in conjunction with a program of strict bed rest. This book is very old—it was published in 1905—and the author claimed this diet cured many different kinds of chronic illness, from high blood pressure to tuberculosis.
I was skeptical. Medicine has come a long way since 1905 and even the advanced modern version appears to be unable to help me. If this milk diet was as helpful as the author claims in treating chronic illnesses, why didn’t it become standard treatment?
But nothing else was working, and after reading some positive reviews of the book and method and then the book itself, I decided to try it. Thank God I did!
Lyme disease causes many secondary infections and health problems, affecting—in advanced stages—every major system of the body. To date, the milk diet is the single most helpful treatment I have tried. It ameliorated—either totally or in part—every symptom I was experiencing, and there were many. Chronically low blood pressure (95 over 65)…gone. Heart palpitations and atrial fibrillation…gone. Chronic cystitis…gone. Eczema and facial swelling…gone. Thyroid dysfunction…gone. My digestion returned nearly to full strength—I could eat anything! And color returned to my long-palid face (see pics, above right—no makeup!).
Milk Diet Basics
So what is the milk diet? Well, I wouldn’t attempt doing it without reading the book, but the key features are:
- Drink 6 ounces of raw, warmed cow’s milk every 30 minutes from 6:30 in the morning to 9 at night.
- Consume nothing else, with the exception of a small amount of fruit (e.g., one prune) if desired.
- Strict bed rest for three of the four weeks you’re on the diet.
- Your room must be ventilated with fresh outdoor air.
- Warm bath daily.
These are the key features, but as I said, I would read at least the instructions chapter of the book because there are some details that I’ve not mentioned that may be essential to the results. For example, Dr. Porter states that it’s important to remove emotional stressors during the diet, as stressful thoughts and situations cause the body to expend its supply of cortisol and trigger chemical processes that interfere with healing. So no working or arguing, even lying down.
Taking three weeks away from one’s responsibilities is a big investment, so I followed the instructions closely so as to avoid doing it all for nothing. It’s crucial that the milk be raw, because pasteurization destroys the probiotic bacteria and enzymes that are largely responsible for the healing effect, according to Dr. Porter. Many people also cannot digest milk without these.
It’s also important that the milk is fresh and coming from a farmer that handles it properly, keeping it clean and cold from milking to delivery.
Finally, it’s best—if not essential—that the cows providing the milk are fed on grass and not grain.
This all amounts to a very tall order. It’s not easy to take three weeks off of work and domestic duties, and it’s not easy to obtain fresh raw milk nowadays. But when you’re as desperate as I was to feel better, you find a way!
My Milk-Diet Results
My doctor OK-ed me to try the milk diet and scheduled bloodwork to be done immediately afterward to compare with my pre-milk-diet bloodwork. The results were astounding. Nearly every baseline abnormality we had been tracking came up normal. A key liver enzyme that was always rock-bottom low for me was now in the normal range. My body was suddenly brimming with healthy red blood cells. And, perhaps most remarkably, my underfunctioning thyroid gland had returned to its formerly healthy state! I had been taking thyroid medication for that and she took me off of it immediately.
My doctor was so impressed with the results of the milk diet, she recommended we make it the cornerstone of my treatment plan! I’ve done it three times since December of 2012. Some problems that got fixed the first time—like the low blood pressure—have stayed fixed. Others—like poor digestion and atrial fibrillation—have tended to gradually return beginning six to eight weeks after going off the diet. NOTHING is as bad as it was a year and a half ago. I am much, much healthier and functioning better than I have in years.
One symptom that has persisted throughout milk dieting is, unfortunately, the one that has the biggest impact on my quality of life—chronic fatigue. By nature I am an active, ambitious person with many interests and pursuits. But if I do too much in one day, I will pay for it the next with intense soreness all over my body and a feeling of wiped-out, can’t-get-out-of-bed-ness that mimics a severe case of flu. Immediately after the second milk diet, my guy and I took an ocean vacation. To my delight, I found that playing in the ocean—an amount of exercise that I would normally pay for in spades—brought on the soreness but NOT the exhaustion that for years had always accompanied it! I still haven’t shaken the general fatigue that has characterized my illness, but for the first time in a long time, I have hope that I’ll one day be free of it!
People considering the milk diet have lots of questions. I will answer some here, and if you have another, please ask it in the comments. I can’t promise anything, but if I have the energy and time, I’ll answer it!
Q. Are you hungry on the milk diet?
A. No, it’s always been quite the opposite. The first two days on the diet my stomach felt so full I thought it would burst! It wasn’t unbearable, but it was definitely uncomfortable. The book warns of this, so I was prepared for it. After Day 3, the milk went down so easy, I wondered what all of the fuss was about.
Q. Do you crave regular foods while on the milk diet?
A. Not really. Maybe a little fruit, but he allows that.
Q. Do you lose weight from not eating while on the milk diet?
My back pre- milk diet
A. No—I always GAIN weight on the milk diet! About 10 pounds, in fact. In my case this is good news, as I was becoming emaciated from being unable to digest food. At right is a picture of my back pre-milk diet. The milk diet returned me to a healthy weight!
Dr. Porter talks about the weight gain in the book. He says a good amount of it is muscle, which is denser and heavier than both water and fat and is usually wasted to one or another degree in chronically ill people. Some of it is fat, which he says is easy to lose after the milk diet as you will feel healthy and the weight will come of with relatively little exercise.
Q. Why the bed rest?
A. Dr. Porter says that bed rest is an essential part of the cure. When you drink a gallon and a half of milk a day, your body is flooded with an abundance of nutrients. There is also a natural hormone in milk that stimulates growth. Your broken body is suddenly presented with the building blocks to renew and repair itself, but it needs energy to do this. A LOT of energy. Bed rest, according to Porter, allows your body to channel every scrap of energy into healing.
A science-minded person might wonder if it isn’t the bed rest alone that’s responsible for the healing. In my case, I don’t think it was as I have had a lot of bed rest since March of 2011 without anywhere near as much improvement.
Q. Did you ever cheat on the diet?
A. Doing a proper milk diet is a huge investment. It’s annoying to have to be warming milk all the time and to drink the prescribed amount like clockwork every thirty minutes for three-plus weeks. It’s also difficult to stop all work and housecleaning activities, and to ask one’s partner or someone else to pick up the milk once or twice a week and shoulder other burdens.
For these reasons, I was very careful the first two times to follow all of Dr. Porter’s instructions. If I did it halfway and it didn’t work, it would be a waste and I’d be wondering if that was why! The only thing I deviated on was not waking myself up in the middle of the night to warm milk and drink it. He recommends doing this once or twice in the night to get up to a full six quarts, but he allows women to take a little less so I took that as an out with no ill effect.
The third time I got cavalier and took serious liberties. I drank less milk, I drank it cold from the fridge, and I was up and about. I even ate raw cheese, reasoning that it was just concentrated milk. Bad idea! The diet wasn’t working and I ended up extending it another three weeks just to get the results I had previously gotten after three.
Q. Can you drink less milk if you’re not hungry?
A. No, not if you’re following the instructions. The amount of milk isn’t optional. In fact, if you have stomach issues, you’ll feel like you’re forcing the milk down at first. That’s mentioned in the book and it’s part of the cure somehow. Dr. Porter insists that the milk diet will not work if you drink less than 5 quarts a day, or less than 6 for men and bigger people.
Q. Did you develop any nutritional deficiencies from doing the milk diet?
A. My ferritin—a measure of stored iron in the body—was down slightly in my post-milk-diet bloodwork, although still in the normal range. My doctor said it is what she would expect since my red blood cell count was way up and milk isn’t rich in iron. Either fewer red blood cells were being lost to infection or more were being produced from stored iron. In either case, she said it was perfectly fine in the short term but that it was a reason she wouldn’t recommend consuming milk exclusively as an ongoing treatment with no break.
Vitamin D, which is usually too low for me, continued to be low but did not drop any lower.
A milk diet floods the body with many other vitamins and minerals, including all of the B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, and magnesium.
Q. Did you experience any side effects from doing the milk diet?
A. I experienced one—edema. Edema is water retention that causes swelling. In my case, it was in the legs. This happened in the last day or two of my third milk diet and, in fact, I aborted my most recent attempt at a milk diet 10 days in because of it.
The swelling was very uncomfortable. It went away a day or so after I stopped the milk diet and started walking around.
It’s unclear whether it was the milk itself or the bed rest that was causing the swelling. Bed rest is a common cause of leg edema. The last time I started the diet I had already been spending a lot of time in bed because of a bad Lyme flare. So I’ve decided to build up my circulation a little and will try again in another month or so!
Q. Can you even stand the sight of milk after having to drink so much of it?
A. You know, I thought I would despise milk after the first milk diet but it hasn’t been the case. In fact, I kind of miss it when I go off of it! That’s especially surprising to me because I haven’t been much of a milk drinker as an adult. But it tastes very sweet and creamy and good to me. The taste is like the pasteurized milk we’re used to, only maybe a little sweeter.
Actually that reminds me: not all milk tastes the same. It depends heavily on what breed of cows your farmer is raising. At first, I was buying raw milk at an Amish store here in Chicago. It had a gamey, animalic flavor I thought was just aweful! Later, I read online that jersey cows tend to produce the sweetest milk with the most pleasing flavor and I found my current source, a cooperative which is also Amish. So if you try this, don’t give up if the milk you find at first isn’t good.
If you have more questions or decide you want to do the milk diet yourself, I encourage you to get the book.
Have you cured your advanced Lyme or another chronic illness with the raw milk diet? Please share your story in a comment below!