Current Progressive Dairy digital edition
Advertisement

8 ways milk supports a healthy immune system

Stephen Weststeyn for Progressive Dairy Published on 29 July 2020

Milk is a treasure trove of bioactive compounds that can positively affect your health.

Food is important. Beyond fueling our bodies, it also influences the way we think, feel and hold our bodies. The single greatest thing we can do for our health is to control the inputs that go into our body.

advertisement

advertisement

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ―Hippocrates

While everyone is sidetracked debating the novelty of wearing a mask, they should be rethinking how they can keep their immune systems healthy in the first place. The most impactful thing you can do for your health is to do the things that foster good health – like eating a healthy diet. 

Interestingly, the secret to defeating that beast plaguing our society could be there hiding in plain sight in our fridge. Milk has many key nutrients your immune system needs for good function. Milk has many bioactive ingredients that support a healthy immune system. 

And before you think it, vegetables are not the answer. Researchers are discovering that while vegetables do provide important nutrients, they also have many anti-nutrients that prevent your body from absorbing the nutrition plants provide. Their defense mechanisms prevent the absorption of key nutrients. Nutritional deficiencies plague people on vegan diets. 

It’s not enough for our foods to have nutrients; those nutrients and compounds also must be bioavailable for our bodies. Milk has key mechanisms that enhance its nutrient bioavailability and transferability. Milk is designed by nature to be an effective nutrient transfer medium. Many of these compounds are immune-boosting and anti-viral and can help fight coronaviruses, including COVID-19.

advertisement

Here are eight bioactive compounds in milk that help your immune system and help fight viruses:

1. Lactoferrin

Lactoferrin is a milk protein that has anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. It has been well researched and proven effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. 

2. Saturated fatty acids

There are over 400 different fatty acids in milk. This diversity plays a strong role with different functions and purposes. The different fats in milk help the immune system and have been shown to be anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and even have anti-cancer properties.

3. Milk fat globule membrane (MFGM)

The milk fat globule membrane (MFGM) is a complex structure that encases the milkfat and is home to many beneficial bioactive compounds. The MFGM has been shown to have functionally important bioactivities, including being immune-stimulating and having anti-viral, anti-microbial and anti-carcinogenic properties. Researchers are still studying the vast array of compounds in this structure that not only support a healthy immune system but also help develop a healthy microbiome and brain. 

4. Milk oligosaccharides 

Besides lactose, milk has other sugars called oligosaccharides. Milk oligosaccharides are vital to the development of your microbiome and gut health, which in turn positively affect the strength and development of proper immune function. These sugars act as a prebiotic, feeding the beneficial bacteria in your gut. A healthy gut and microbiome is important and necessary for good health.

5. Vitamin D

Interestingly, very few foods supply vitamin D, yet it is necessary for proper cell growth, nerve and muscle function, and a healthy immune system. Many people in the U.S. are deficient in vitamin D and have inadequate levels of this vitamin.

advertisement

“Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of respiratory infection, regulates cytokine production and can limit the risk of other viruses such as influenza,” Tom Frieden, former CDC director. 

6. Vitamin K2

Vitamin K2 is only found in animal-sourced foods like meat and dairy. Cheese in particular is a dense form of vitamin K2. Many people today are deficient in vitamin K2.

In one study, Dutch researchers found that many of the people dying of COVID-19 were deficient in vitamin K2. They also pointed to the fact that in Japan where many people were eating a lot of vitamin K2, there were fewer cases of COVID-19.

7. Lysozyme 

Lysozyme is an enzyme in milk that has immune-enhancing properties. It hydrolyzes carbohydrates found in the capsules certain bacteria secrete around themselves, causing lysis (disintegration) of the bacteria. Lysozymes have anti-bacterial properties and are naturally found in saliva and tears as part of the innate immune system. Lysozymes are considered especially advantageous in supporting a healthy respiratory tract.

8. Immunoglobulins (IgG)

Milk is a great source of immunoglobulins (IgG), which are antibodies that help fight against viruses and bacterial infections. IgG can provide added immune support in people with gastrointestinal and upper respiratory tract infections. Immunoglobulins in milk have been shown to bind to and neutralize RSV, a common childhood respiratory tract infection, as well as the influenza virus.

Milk is biologically designed to be a nutrient transfer device to give the recipient good nutrition and the building blocks that will help them thrive. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that milk has a number of components that can boost a person’s immune system. There are many more than the ones listed, but they all work symbiotically to strengthen your body’s immune system. 

When you drill down into the molecular level, milk is unique in that all these bioactive compounds can positively affect the health and well-being of your body. You can’t control the bacteria, viruses and pathogens your body comes into contact with, but you can control what foods you eat. Choose the foods that help your body.  end mark

Stephen Weststeyn is a California dairy farmer. Check out his blog, Dairy Moos.

LATEST BLOG

LATEST NEWS