This past summer I had the honor of giving a presentation at the very first functional medicine conference in Poland, my birth country! The only problem? I haven’t given a presentation in Poland since the second grade, so as you can imagine, my language skills were a little rusty! I practiced my presentation for a few days to be sure I had the technical lingo down that doesn’t lend itself to my usual conversations in Polish, but a couple of opportunities to ad-lib presented themselves.
One of them was a reaction to a question about how to lose weight when someone is not eating much. I wanted to explain that women with Hashimoto’s often have problems with losing weight and battling excess weight even when their calorie intake is super low due to the metabolic implications of the condition. Hypothyroidism lowers our basal metabolic rate and thus our caloric requirement, meaning we could be eating and exercising just as much as our genetically identical twin without hypothyroidism but still be gaining weight!
I also wanted to share the devastating implications that women feel due to their impaired metabolism, so I decided to use a clever play on words and meant to say, “Women with Hashimoto’s may tell their doctors that they eat like birds but feel like whales!”
But instead, I said, “Women will say that they eat like birds and feel like camels!”
The conference attendees, (who were so gracious), at first looked at me confused, then started laughing hysterically.
Why were camels on my mind? One reason is because the words “whale” and camel” are similar in Polish “wieloryb” vs. “wielbłąd,” but the other reason is because later in the presentation, I shared the benefits of camel milk for people with thyroid and autoimmune disease.
The Dairy Connection…
If you’ve been following my work, you’ll know I’m a big proponent of removing dairy from the diet as you begin your healing journey. Dairy was a huge trigger for me and after removing dairy, my acid reflux, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, and carpal tunnel disappeared, and I felt like a new person!
In fact, 80% of my clients and readers with Hashimoto’s feel better after removing dairy.
Removing dairy can eliminate problems you thought were “illnesses,” including chronic stomach aches, allergies, asthma, acne, irritable bowel syndrome, and even many autoimmune diseases. Going dairy free can single-handedly reverse Hashimoto’s, (though more commonly, a gluten free diet is required too).
If you’re shocked by this information, you’re not alone. Many of us have been deceived into believing that cow’s milk is a health food, courtesy of our television sets and the marketing dollars of “Big Dairy.”
Hashimoto’s has truly been a part of my awakening to the world around me that has profited from my insecurities, much to my detriment.
I was never drawn to dairy as a child, but was compelled to start drinking it when I watched the deceitful “Milk Does a Body Good” commercials of skinny girls and boys that were “invisible” to the opposite sex. I was destroying my health because dairy marketers used a fear-based tactic to get me to buy their product. “Drink milk or you’ll be ugly and no one will love you.” How disgusting, right?
This is a part of the reason why I no longer watch television (five years and counting)—the bombardment we get from commercials suppresses our own intuition. The intuition that tells you that a food is not serving you. The intuition that tells you that you are being manipulated. The intuition that tells you that you need to live your truth.
If dairy simply didn’t deliver on the promises of making me beautiful, I wouldn’t be as upset, but the fact is, dairy prevented me from living to my fullest on most days. The constant stomach aches made me shy away from physical activity, took my focus away from more important things, and made me disconnect with my body. I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal to have stomach aches every single day until I went dairy free. Worst of all, dairy made me doubt my own power and intuition. After all, what did a little girl with a stomach ache know when the whole world said that dairy was healthy?
I am still on a continuing journey to recover my intuition and to understand the messages from my body. Healing is never a destination, rather an awakening of how we, as humans, respond to our environment. So even if you’ve hit a setback on your journey, keep moving and listening to what your body is trying to communicate to you in the moment. It could be sending you a message about food, a person, or an activity that is not agreeing with you. You just need to listen.
I’m so grateful for the internet and independent information getting out into the world. You see, no one sponsors or censors my writing. I have no ads on my website, and I am not indebted to any organization. I speak my truth so that you too can awaken your inner healer and get into a conversation with your body.
A part of the awakening can come from the food you choose to eat (or not to eat).
I can’t tell you what exactly is not working for you as an individual, but I hope I can guide you to make informed choices on what is likely to work in a person with Hashimoto’s based on my research, my experience, the experiences of my clients and colleagues, and the collective experience of the Hashimoto’s and autoimmune communities.
So Back to Camels – Why Have Animal Dairy at All?
Dairy free proponents will often say, “Milk is an excellent food for baby cows, but not for humans”. Using this same logic, you may be surprised that I would recommend another animal’s milk at all, especially when tasty options like almond milk or coconut milk are available.
If you’ve been following my work, you will know by now that Hashimoto’s is a combination of nutrient depletions, food sensitivities, chronic infections, intestinal permeability, impaired ability to handle toxins, and often an impaired stress response. People with Hashimoto’s usually have thyroid hormone imbalance, blood sugar imbalance, and an immune system imbalance as well!
I have found that camel milk does have some interesting healing properties that may be of use in helping to heal Hashimoto’s. In fact, the World Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences published a review article of all of the medicinal properties of camel milk:
- Helps in reducing nutrient deficiencies. Camel milk is nutrient dense, containing higher amounts of potassium, iron, and vitamin C compared to cow’s milk. Iron is a very common depletion in Hashimoto’s.
- Shows promise in resolving food sensitivities. Yosef Shabo, an Israeli doctor, reported a study of 8 children with various levels of food reactions (allergies and sensitivities) to cow’s milk dairy.1 Camel milk was well tolerated by the children AND reduced/eliminated their food sensitivities. In some cases, even to cow’s milk! The effects in some of the children were permanent when the camel milk was discontinued; in others, the reactions returned after stopping camel milk.
- Aids in resolving infections. We know that infections, especially gut infections, have been linked to Hashimoto’s. Camel milk has antimicrobial and antiviral activity, and has been reportedly effective against dysbiotic bacteria like E. coli, Helicobacter pylori, and even Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP), a difficult to diagnose and difficult to treat infection. All of the above have been linked to Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune conditions.
- Promotes blood sugar balance. Camel milk contains encapsulated insulin nanoparticles that can pass through our stomach and get into our circulation! These molecules can lower blood sugar. Human milk and cow’s milk also have insulin; cow’s milk insulin is not absorbed by humans, but human milk insulin does get absorbed (at least by babies per the research). Orally administered insulin from human milk has been shown to promote gut maturation and to reduce intestinal permeability to macromolecules in infants, lowering their likelihood of Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition.2 Without further research available, I am assuming this is due to a phenomenon known as oral tolerance—when a small amount of a substance is introduced into the body via the mouth and the immune system (in the presence of an adequate gut barrier) accepts the substance. I was surprised to learn how useful camel’s milk is for people with Type 1 diabetes! One study of 24 people with Type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent autoimmune diabetes) found that camel milk was a safe and effective adjunct therapy to insulin in type 1 diabetes, helping people have better blood sugar control and reducing their requirements for insulin (about 50%) when used over the course of 2 years. Three of the 12 people studied were able to completely wean off insulin after a year or so. The researchers think that was partially due to the camel milk’s immune modulating properties. I have not heard of many other interventions that have helped people with Type 1 diabetes wean off insulin.3
- Contributes to thyroid hormone balance. Camel milk contains T4 and T3 hormones and may support thyroid hormone levels. While human milk also contains T3 and T4, researchers have stated that it is not relevant to human infants and that formula fed babies will suffer no ill effects by receiving formula devoid of thyroid hormone. (Author’s note: The sponsor of this study was not disclosed and studies show breastfed babies have better health outcomes).4 In contrast, thyroid hormones in camel milk are reportedly relevant to baby camels, helping them with the maturation of their small intestine.5 While ample research has shown that insulin from camel milk is absorbed by humans, I have not found research suggesting that camel milk thyroid hormones are absorbed by humans. However, based on some of the positive results I have seen with thyroid patients, I suspect that the thyroid hormones in camel milk may be of some benefit. (Please note: The levels of thyroid hormones in camel milk are highest within 30 days of giving birth. On average, camels lactate for 9 months to one year.)
- Supports immune system balance. IVIG (intravenous immunoglobulin) therapy is a medically prescribed therapy that can suppress thyroid antibodies by using immune cells isolated from blood donation.6 However, due to its cost (in 2006, a 4-course therapy cost around $25,000)7, side effects (common: flu-like symptoms; rare: infection, skin peeling, fluid overload, kidney damage, liver damage, and meningitis), and difficult route of administration (through a slow intravenous infusion that has to be given every 3-4 weeks), the therapy is usually reserved for Hashimoto’s Encephalopathy, an acute, life-threatening condition where thyroid antibodies attack the brain. Camel milk has been called the “poor man’s IVIG,” because it contains immunoglobulins that can modulate the immune system. Camel immunoglobulins pass from the camel milk into our bloodstream and have shown potential in modulating the immune system. They are also less likely to cause side effects and are so much more convenient to intake (not to mention a lot cheaper!!).
- Reduces thyroid peroxidase antibodies. Lactoferrin in camel milk is reportedly 71% similar in relation to human thyroid peroxidase, which may help our bodies to regain acceptance of our own thyroid peroxidase enzymes, potentially reducing thyroid antibodies via the oral tolerance mechanism. Oral tolerance is an immune modulating intervention that introduces tiny amounts of the reactive substance in an easily digestible and absorbable way to teach the body that the substance is safe (similar to how allergy shots work). This method has been utilized in thyroid disease using thyroid peroxidase and thyroglobulin from human thyroid glands.8 More research is needed in this area but I think this sounds promising as an adjunct to other lifestyle changes. I’m guessing that if you are not interested in taking extracts from human thyroid glands, camel milk is a more viable option!
**Please note: The camel milk has to be raw and it can’t be boiled in order for it to retain many of these properties. Freezing and pasteurizing does seem to retain all of the benefits.9
Furthermore, the allergy and sensitivity concerns that are seen with cow’s milk 10 are often absent in camel milk consumption. A study revealed people with cow milk sensitivity only showed an 18% cross-reaction to camel milk.11 Thus, at least 80% of those with cow’s dairy sensitivity will be able to tolerate camel milk.
- Researchers found that the casein protein found in camel milk is similar to the casein found in human milk. Therefore, humans are less likely to react to it compared to the casein found in cow’s milk, which is significantly different in structure.
- Camel milk has slightly less lactose than cow’s dairy and, reportedly, people with lactose intolerance tolerate camel milk better. (However, for those with severe lactose intolerance, using a digestive enzyme like lactase may help.)
Potential Concerns with Camel Milk
- There is a chance (around 18%) that people who are casein sensitive will also be sensitive to camel casein.
- Camel milk contains more whey protein than cow’s milk which is of benefit because they can help with producing glutathione—an antioxidant often deficient in Hashimoto’s. However, camel whey may be reactive for some with Hashimoto’s. While studies have found that camel casein is different AND not likely to cross-react with cow casein, research has shown that the whey composition is different 12 from cow whey; one protein in whey, alpha albumin, can cross-react (there was no cross-reactivity between camel whey beta-albumin). A person may be sensitive to just one component of whey or both of them.13
- The insulin in camel’s milk can potentially exacerbate hypoglycemia.
- It’s expensive and hard to get (but much safer, cheaper, and easier than IVIG!)
I first learned about the use of camel milk from hearing about its benefits in the autism community in 2012. One mom of a child with autism wrote an entire case study of using camel milk to address her son’s autism symptoms.14
I used camel milk myself for a few weeks (it tastes like 2% skim milk). I do believe that camel milk helped me to lower the severity of my reaction to cow’s dairy.
Additionally, I also worked on cleaning out my gut and took systemic enzymes. I stopped drinking it because it became too difficult to source—until now!
I’ve also recommended it to many of my personal clients who have seen benefits in improved gut health, better energy, and reduced thyroid antibodies.
Here are some additional benefits reported by people who have used camel milk themselves or with loved ones in the autism and general autoimmune communities:
- My daughter had formed stools for the first time pretty much ever! Improved gut health is our biggest gain.
- I was able to clear my eczema after 2-3 weeks of using ¼ cup daily.
- My son has been drinking camel milk for the past 3 yrs and his gut dysbiosis is gone, he’s skating and cycling without supporters, happy boy, eczema gone, no rashes, sleeping well, overall a lot of improvement in health.
- Both of daughters’ and my own histamine reactions have significantly improved. My 5-yr old was on daily antihistamines because she had stomach pain and itching after every meal. Two weeks drinking camel milk and I was able to take her off them.
- A reduction in inflammation!
I have been hesitant in recommending camel milk on my blog because of the sourcing issue, until recently when I learned about Desert Farms, which ships camel milk to most of the United States. (In Europe, you can order from Desert Farms’ UK site or camel milk can be sourced from a Dutch farm.)
Are you planning on trying camel’s milk? Let me know how it works for you!
- Shabo Y, Barzel R, Margoulis M, Yagil R. Camel Milk for Food Allergies in Children. 2005;7(12):796-798.
- Shehadeh N, Shamir R, Berant M, Etzioni A. Insulin in human milk and the prevention of type 1 diabetes. Pediatric Diabetes. 2001;2(4):175-177. doi:10.1034/j.1399-5448.2001.20406.x.
- Agrawal R, Jain S, Shah S, Chopra A, Agarwal V. Effect of camel milk on glycemic control and insulin requirement in patients with type 1 diabetes: 2-years randomized controlled trial. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011;65(9):1048-1052. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2011.98.
- van Wassenaer A, Stulp M, Valianpour F et al. The quantity of thyroid hormone in human milk is too low to influence plasma thyroid hormone levels in the very preterm infant. Clin Endocrinol. 2002;56(5):621-627. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2265.2002.01526.x.
- Kamal A, Salama O, El-Saied K. Changes in Amino Acids Profile of Camel Milk Protein During the Early Lactation. International Journal of Dairy Science. 2007;2(3):226-234. doi:10.3923/ijds.2007.226.234.
- Antonelli A, Alberti B, Melosi A. Changes in markers of autoimmunity in patients with Hashimoto thyroiditis treated with intravenous immunoglobulins. Preliminary results. Clinical Therapeutics. 1992;141(9 Pt 2):37-42.
- Jordan S, Vo A, Peng A, Toyoda M, Tyan D. Intravenous Gammaglobulin (IVIG): A Novel Approach to Improve Transplant Rates and Outcomes in Highly HLA-Sensitized Patients. American Journal of Transplantation. 2006;6(3):459-466. doi:10.1111/j.1600-6143.2005.01214.x.
- Lee S, Scherberg N, Degroot L. Induction of Oral Tolerance in Human Autoimmune Thyroid Disease. <Thyroid. 1998;8(3):229-234. doi:10.1089/thy.1998.8.229.
- Shehadeh N, Shamir R, Berant M, Etzioni A. Insulin in human milk and the prevention of type 1 diabetes. Pediatric Diabetes. 2001;2(4):175-177. doi:10.1034/j.1399-5448.2001.20406.x.
- Savilahti E, Kuitunen M. Allergenicity of cow milk proteins. The Journal of Pediatrics. 1992;121(5):S12-S20. doi:10.1016/s0022-3476(05)81401-5.
- Ehlayel M, Bener A, Abu Hazeima K, Al-Mesaifri F. Camel Milk Is a Safer Choice than Goat Milk for Feeding Children with Cow Milk Allergy. ISRN Allergy. 2011;2011:1-5. doi:10.5402/2011/391641.
- Yang Y, Bu D, Zhao X, Sun P, Wang J, Zhou L. Proteomic Analysis of Cow, Yak, Buffalo, Goat and Camel Milk Whey Proteins: Quantitative Differential Expression Patterns. Journal of Proteome Research. 2013;12(4):1660-1667. doi:10.1021/pr301001m.
- Youcef N, Saidi D, Mezemaze F et al. Cross Reactivity between Dromedary Whey Proteins and IgG Anti Bovine α-Lactalbumin and Anti Bovine β-Lactoglobulin. American Journal of Applied Sciences. 2009;6(8):1448-1452. doi:10.3844/ajassp.2009.1448.1452.
- Adams C. Patient Report: Autism Spectrum Disorder Treated With Camel Milk. Global Adv Health Med. 2013;2(6):78-80. doi:10.7453/gahmj.2013.094.