Vegan Health ArticlesParatuberculosis and Crohn's Disease: Got Milk? On a Personal Level
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From Michael Greger, MD
Updated January 2001

On a personal level, the Crohn's advocacy group Action Research recommends that people who want to reduce their risk of infection or reinfection -- especially those with Crohn's disease, or their close relatives (who might be genetically predisposed) -- should stop eating dairy products unless they are effectively boiled first.[38] PARA recommends that cheese should be heated to the temperature of boiling water, 100 C (212 F), to reduce the threat. Thus, grilling cheese under direct heat for a few minutes (so that it "bubbles"), or cooking it in oven-baked meals, such as oven-baked lasagna, should effectively sterilize the cheese. The same applies to other dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, or butter.[86]

The reason the industry doesn't pasteurize all milk at that temperature to be safe, is because it could affect the taste of the milk. As the FSAI put it, "there is an upper temperature beyond which unacceptable changes to the taste of milk start to occur."[31] Steve Merkel of PARA would have governments mandate raising the minimum pasteurization temperature to levels that ensured safety regardless, "even if it means that milk doesn't taste the same as it did. Human health must take precedence over taste."[80]

Stricter pasteurization may not be the answer, though. Although there is recent evidence that living MAP bacteria cause Crohn's,[83] even dead MAP may be able to trigger disease.[31] For example, one of the reasons that the vaccine for Johne's is so seldom used is because it is so dangerous to handle.[106] Even though the vaccine is made out of killed MAP bacteria, the human immune system can react so violently just to the presence of MAP proteins, that accidentally injected into humans (or purposefully into other primates), the MAP vaccine causes a chronic progressive inflammation which can last for years[128] or may even necessitate amputation of the injection site.22 Closely related bugs like leprosy can have similar effects.[115] So even if MAP is pasteurized to death, drinking the remnants of the bacteria may still cause a problem.

With this in mind, it may be more prudent to avoid dairy altogether. Although ingesting relatively few organisms may be able to cause infection, the human infective dose is not known.[186] It is also not known how heavily the milk supply is contaminated in this country. The most esteemed pediatrician of all time, Dr. Benjamin Spock, advised that children be raised vegan, with zero exposure to dairy products for a variety of reasons.[193] Especially considering the risk of paratuberculosis in milk, this would seem sensible advice, particularly for children and adolescents.[110] There is a wide variety of dairy product substitutes -- soy and rice milks, cheeses, ice creams, yogurts, etc. -- making animal-derived dairy products unnecessary.

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We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.