The Milk Diet

The Milk Diet: How to Use the Milk Diet Scientifically at Home by Bernarr Macfadden, 1923.

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The function of food is to nourish. Food is any substance which, when taken into the body, will supply nourishment to the tissue, repair damaged tissue, and supply heat and energy, without producing any deleterious effects. Any substance which fails in any one or more of these specifications, is not a food and should not enter the body. That food is best that provides the maximum amount of nourishment with the least expenditure of digestive energy, and that creates the smallest amount of organic debris, and of the least harmful nature to be eliminated.

This must not be taken as an endorsement of the so-called “concentrated diet” – the minimum requirements of our dietary put up in tablet or capsule form – as tried out by the German chemists some years ago.

For we know that a certain amount of “bulk” or “roughage” is indispensable. This gives the bowel muscles substance upon which they may act, and material with which the highly toxic broken-down cell tissue can combine, the more readily to be eliminated. However, a happy medium is to be found in the exclusive milk diet, or in a combination of milk with the pulp and juice of a few oranges (from one to three) per day.

Upon this diet one can live indefinitely, maintaining at the same time the very maximum in physical and mental efficiency. When the diet and the mode of living in other respects have been such as to produce disease, (unless a disease is acute and associated with fever, when fasting is the only proper dietetic measure to adopt) then the milk diet is, by far, the most satisfactory diet to restore health, in practically every instance.

The use of milk as a distinct curative agent dates from the very remotest period. Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, advised consumptives to drink freely of asses’ milk. Whey, the watery portion of sour milk, was recommended highly by the Arabian physicians, who were, by all odds, the most successful and the most scientific of all the medical practitioners of the Middle Ages.

The credit for popularizing the use of milk as medicine, however, must be largely ascribed to Russian and German physicians. Many German dieticians were enthusiastic advocates of the “milk cure.” One of the most famous of these, Prof. Bauer, says:

“It is an indisputable fact that in certain diseases a methodical use of milk gives results such as can be accomplished by no other form of treatment.”

Dr. Inozemtseff, as far back as 1857, published a work on “The Milk Cure” in which he detailed successful results on upward of a thousand cases.

Dr. Philip C. Karell, in August 1866, published reports showing the successful use of milk in hundreds of cases of dropsy, neuralgia, rheumatism, asthma, disorders of the liver, and many forms of mal-metabolism. He called attention to the fact that milk and chyle (the milky fluid found in the lacteal glands after the ingestion of food) had a great resemblance to one another.

Many American and English physicians have called attention to the almost specific value of milk in acute Bright’s disease. Dr. Johnson, a famous English physician, states that “in numerous cases of acute Bright’s disease, the speedy disappearance of the albuminuria under the influence of rest in bed, a few warm baths, and copious libations of milk was nothing short of marvelous.”

This same treatment was equally successful in several bad cases of inflamed bladder. Weir Mitchell, who was recognized as one of the staunchest believers in the milk cure in America, and who had an enormous experience in treating disease with rest and the milk diet, once said: “it is difficult to treat any of these cases without a resort at some time more or less to the use of milk.”

Dr. L. Duncan Bulkley, head of the New York Skin and Cancer Hospital, contends that milk can be absorbed from the lacteal glands directly into the blood.

It seems strange, in a way, that anything so simple and so lacking in mystery as milk should effect cures with such uniformity, and in grave disorders that have resisted the efforts of the most skillful medical men, armed with the most heterogeneous assortment of drugs and poisons, and that it should be prescribed or even appreciated by so few physicians as it is.

Yet, such is the case. By a means so simple that even a school boy could carry it out, thousands of people all over the country are now curing themselves of grave ailments—particularly of the chronic type – many of which have been pronounced incurable by eminent physicians.

The exclusive milk diet should not be prescribed, ordinarily, for one who is in good health. It is an upbuilding diet for those who have been suffering with disease and are struggling to get back to normal health as speedily and perfectly as possible.

In all cases of acute disease, especially where there is fever, the milk diet or any other diet should not be prescribed, except in some few instances where it is given in very small quantities to excite the digestive function of the stomach and intestines. Fasting, or near fasting, is the proper practice in such cases. This holds true even in tuberculosis, unless the victim is already greatly emaciated and exhausted.

The effects that are desired in treating fever can be far more readily and speedily obtained, without the slightest danger, by withholding all foods except water.


Diseases Cured by a Milk Diet


The milk diet is very broad in its application. There are few exceptions to its general helpfulness. These exceptions will be taken up later in this lesson.
There is a hardly a disease of metabolic origin—which includes every possible disorder of digestion, assimilation and elimination – which can not be materially helped and often completely cured by a properly taken “milk treatment.”

Also, many diseases supposed to be of germ origin, which can be self-limited through increasing the defensive powers of the body, are curable by this treatment. Among the many disorders successfully treated are nervous troubles of all sorts – including insomnia, neuralgia, neuritis, headache and migraine, nervous prostration and nerve irritability; also general debility, and stomach and intestinal indigestion, and their resulting auto-intoxification; ulcer of the stomach and intestines, acid stomach, and dilation of the stomach; prolapse of the stomach, intestines, kidneys, or uterus; pimples, boils, carbuncles, sallow, blotchy complexion, eczema, dandruff, anemia, biliousness, catarrh of the air passages or of the digestive tract, constipation, chronic diarrhea, and dysentery, asthma, hay fever, hardening of the arteries, piles, chronic appendicitis, rheumatism, arthritis and lumbago, hives, ovarian trouble and leucorrhea, impotence, liver trouble and gallstones, Bright’s disease and diabetes, tuberculosis in the early stages, and narcotic habits of all kinds. Also, in abnormal blood pressure conditions, whether too low or too high, the milk diet works almost miraculously.

By this it will be seen that the milk diet is usually successful in apparently very widely differing condition; but practically all disease is the result of a disturbed balance of the circulation, with congestion in some parts and anemia in others; or a deficiency of elimination with retention of waste materials in the body which produce disease in some organ by lowering its vitality, or which produce symptoms in some other part of the body as the system endeavors to eliminate them; or to exhaustion of certain organs and functions through over-stimulation and constant enervation as the result of endeavoring to keep the body purified and free from encumbrance.

Even the so-called contagious and infectious diseases would not be possible if one’s blood stream were absolutely free from excessive nourishment and toxins, and if it contained every health-maintaining element. But as few are in this condition, these diseases develop. And because of wrong – suppressive – treatment at the time, and also because of the marked reaction of the body tissues and chemicals to the disease and drugs, certain organs and fluids and body chemicals are thrown out of balance and remain so in many instances long after the “disease” itself has subsided.

All of these conditions lower the vitality and it is in such a physical condition that many symptoms and so-called “diseases” develop.

It should, therefore, be clear that a full, nourishing diet, that is easy of digestion and that contains no toxin-producing residue, is essential in the restoration of health. Such a diet is the milk diet herein considered.

Malnutrition may be the result of any one or more of several conditions – inherited weakness, vaccination, suppression of acute disease by drugs, or coddling in childhood, or a grossly wrong diet leading to constipation and disturbance of the vital forces of the body. Also to destructive habits which throw the chemical nature of the body out of normal equilibrium, or which directly injure nerves or tissues.

Since in all of these conditions it is essential to eliminate drug poisons and the body poisons they were given to suppress; and since it is necessary to equalize the circulation, to nourish the nerves and tissues and restore them to normal functioning ability, to rid the tissues and the blood of toxins and acids of a destructive nature, and to restore normal equilibrium in the chemistry of the body, it is absolutely necessary to supply a food which will accomplish this without, in any degree, tending to defeat it own purpose. Such a diet, without doubt, is the milk diet; and, except in few instances, there is no other diet that will approach it in effectiveness. These other instances are not in the field of dietetics, but in individual cases of disease.


Milk Diet in Abnormal Blood Pressure Conditions

Patients suffering from anemia, auto-intoxification, and many wasting disorders, who are almost invariably below normal in blood pressure, are benefited to an extraordinary degree.

And, as previously stated, if the blood pressure is abnormally high, or the heartbeat abnormally fast, the milk diet will lower the blood pressure and decrease the rapidity of the heart-beat.

Those who have arteriosclerosis, or hardened arteries, bronchitis, asthma, or kidney disease, are generally benefited by the exclusive milk diet, their blood pressure often being reduced ten to thirty degrees within a month – probably to the neighborhood of one hundred and thirty degrees, which is about normal for the average adult.

So, when the blood pressure is too high, or too low, the tendency is for it to come down or come up to normal, during or by the expiration of a course of the full milk diet adjusted in amount, method of taking, and time, to the individual case.

Usually in the beginning of high blood pressure there is no organic change. Through over-activity of certain glands of the body during an attempt to combat excessive toxins, or from constipation, heavy diet of wrong foods and wrong combinations, and many other conditions that should be temporary if properly adjusted, the blood is sent through the blood vessels at greater force and at greater speed. This physiologically increases blood pressure, but such a blood pressure will vary, with success or defeat of the body in removing its toxins. But in the course of time if the causes are allowed to continue, Nature, ever on the lookout for self-preservation, produces a change that eventually defeats her aim. She causes a thickening of the walls of the blood vessels, possibly with deposits of earthy mineral elements, to combat the increased pressure. This produces such an organic change that the blood pressure is consequently more or less permanently high.

As the milk diet is free from an excess of mineral elements, and as it supplies a large amount of fluid which makes it necessary for the blood to absorb from tissues certain extraneous elements in order that it may maintain approximately its normal degree of saturation, this diet, when taken exclusively, has a marked tendency to reduce blood pressure even after an organic change of hardened arteries, or arteriosclerosis, has been established.

In a low blood pressure there is usually, as indicated above, anemia or wasting disorders. As the milk diet normalized the blood, thus making it possible to feed every tissue and structure of the body, including the blood vessels, and as it gives sufficient quantity of blood for the heat to pump through these blood vessels, the blood pressure is restored quite rapidly to normal, with a resulting improvement of the general condition.

With these cases rest in bed or at least much rest and relaxation during the treatment is important – in fact, really necessary.


How the Milk Treatment Affects Dropsy


People who suffer from dropsy need not hesitate for a moment in adopting the milk treatment. For, notwithstanding the apparent absurdity of adding three or four quarts of fluid to a system that seems to be already suffering from a superabundance of it, the dropsical condition quite uniformly yields.

The quantity of urine voided immensely exceeds the quantity of milk ingested, proving that the milk definitely excites a freer elimination from the kidneys as it does from the skin and bowels.

Dropsy is usually associated with heart or kidney disease, or local obstruction to the circulation. In a case of heart disease the milk aids in reducing the inflammation or abnormality of the heart itself, or at least it greatly reduces the toxic elements in the blood which aggravate the existing organic lesion. It also relaxes the capillaries of the skin, which not only reduces the work required by the heart in pumping the blood through these capillaries, but also increases skin elimination: this helps the excess of fluid to escape through the skin. Not only this, but the large amount of fluid of the milk which enters the blood reduces kidney congestion because of the diluted urine; and the large quantities of urine passed will contain much of the edematous fluid, as the diluted blood will take up some of this fluid, which is heavier than the blood of the milk diet patient, in order to maintain its normal degree of separation.

If the dropsy is due to kidney disease, the remaining active tissues of the kidneys are able to pass off larger quantities of fluid because they are handling a more diluted fluid. In addition, the circulation is greatly improved and this aids in carrying fluid to the kidneys, and the kidney inflammation is allowed to subside because of the bland fluid passing through the kidneys. In this case also the skin activity is increased and this eliminative organ carries off larger quantities of fluid.


How Milk Drinking Affects Weight


It has been observed that, practically without exception, a rapid increase in weight follows the taking of a full milk diet by those who are below their normal weight. This result is practically uniform. Thin, emaciated people frequently take on weight extremely rapidly; for their tissues are invariably undernourished, and respond rapidly to the nutrient effects of this most easily assimilated of all diets.

Those who are merely thin, and who are not the victims of some grave, wasting disease, may expect to gain anywhere from one to seven pounds a week. A gain of from one to three pounds a week may persist for several months – until they are once more up to their normal weight.

The gain from this milk treatment is good, healthy tissue – not soft, flabby fat, as so frequently follows the use of some of the so-called fattening foods, which are largely carbohydrate and do not contribute to actual nutrition, except by furnishing heat and energy to run the body machine.

Nor need fear be felt that any gain made on milk could have a harmful effect. For tissue built up out of milk can not form fat, to clog and hamper the vitally important work of the heart and internal organs.

The muscle cells themselves will actually increase in size under a milk diet, because they become filled with rich blood. Therefore, the cheeks plump out, the flaccid breasts become more firm and shapely, the limbs take on a more symmetrical appearance – the entire aspect changes for the better.

And when to this is added a buoyancy of spirits, a clearness of eye, an alertness and a vivid interest in the things that make life worth while, it can be understood that, from a standpoint of mere beauty and charm, the milk treatment is in a class by itself.

But not only is the milk diet effective in increasing weight. It has been used with success in cases of obesity, where it is desired to lose many pounds. In real obesity the fat is thin, flabby, and watery. The milk has the same effect here that it has in cases of edema. Besides, when on the proper milk diet there is a great reduction in the amount of fattening foods consumed, as fat people are almost universally heavy consumers of foods rich in fattening elements. Also, there is frequently a lack of chemical balance which is corrected by the milk diet. But ordinarily these cases cannot consume the large amount of milk taken by emaciated individuals, as their digestion and assimilation (particularly the latter) are extra good. It requires less food taken into the body to supply the same amount of nutriment – it requires less to maintain wear and tear.

No definite amount of milk can be stated here as that required to allow one to lose weight, but an excellent feature of the diet is that the quantity is so easily adjusted to the needs of the body that one can easily determine for himself the amount required to lose from one to three pounds a week. I might say the average amount would be from two and one-half to four quarts a day.


Diabetes and The Milk Diet


A Dr. Donkin first employed the milk diet treatment for diabetes, fifty-five years ago. These patients were given as much as fourteen pints of milk daily.
No diabetic should attempt the milk treatment until he has fasted a few days in order to make the system more sugar-free, and to give the assimilative organs a better chance to “take hold” of the milk.

Some diabetics have complained that the sugar output was increased on the milk diet, and that the acetone and diacetic acid was also increased in amount.

This is sometimes the case when whole sweet milk is used. For sweet milk contains five per cent of lactose, or milk sugar, and about four per cent of butter fat. This high sugar content would overload the system with an unoxidizable amount of sugar, and will sometimes greatly aggravate the general diabetic symptoms. The very heavy fat content would stimulate the production of acetone, and in some cases might possibly bring about the dreaded diabetic coma.

It is for these reasons that we usually give skimmed sweet milk in cases of diabetes. In some instances the milk need not be fully skimmed, but usually it is best to use milk without cream, at least for the first two weeks of the milk treatment. I also advocate the use of buttermilk, or a low-fat sumik (to be described in Chapter III) in these cases. For, in the process of developing the lactic acid of the buttermilk, and in the souring of milk for sumik, a large per cent of the sugar content of the sweet milk is transformed. Also with skim milk soured, or a low-fat sumik, only a minimum of fat is introduced into the system to prove a menace in the formation of acetone.


Diseases in which Milk is Contra-Indicated


There are but few diseases in which the use of milk would be absolutely contra-indicated. Chief among these are “contracted kidney,” where the most important eliminating organ is badly damaged by atrophy of its cells.

In case of rupture, as the milk diet has a tendency to enlarge the abdomen temporarily and to increase the intra-abdominal pressure, this diet is not of particular benefit; and if the rupture is of considerable size, the milk as a sole article of diet is contra-indicated.

However, I believe that if one wears a well fitting truss, takes the corrective exercises on an inclined table, uses the cold applications or cold sitz baths, possibly and for the most part takes the milk in bed, the milk diet, slightly limited in quantity, may be taken for some other condition where it is indicated without disturbing the rupture.

As epileptic attacks are frequently brought on by a full stomach, the milk diet is usually unsatisfactory in these cases. But even in this condition, where a fast has preceded the diet, and where a quantity of no more than three or four quarts of milk was taken daily, and where care was observed to keep the bowels free from accumulated debris, considerable benefit has been secured in many cases.

The milk diet has a tendency to fill and probably distend the bladder. In certain cases of prostatic enlargements a full bladder makes it impossible or very difficult to void the urine. In these cases the milk diet is not satisfactory unless taken in small quantities, as in epilepsy.

Some claim that in arterial degeneration, and where apoplexy is to be feared, also in aneurism, it would be well to avoid increased tension that may be brought about by milk. But my experience is that these cases require the beneficial effects of the milk diet, and that it can be safely given in a limited quantity after a necessary fast. These cases, however, must take the rest cure during the milk treatment, for safety and for best results.

For patients who have been recently operated upon, or who may also have a ruptured blood vessel, it is best also to prescribe a fruit fast and then the limited milk, taken while resting. For that matter, practically every case, regardless of the nature of the disorder, should begin treatment with a fast. The main difference in the above case is in the quantity of milk given and the necessary rest—in bed constantly except for the period of the bath.

In experience with thousands of cases I am convinced that the milk diet properly adjusted to the individual case is of tremendous value in practically any functional or organic disturbance that may affect the human body.

I agree with Dr. Richard Cabot who says: “Any one can take milk. If a person tells me, ‘I can not take milk,’ I always say, ‘you can, if you will take it a certain way’.” But the diet must be adjusted to suit the individual condition and requirements. When this is done, one may benefit by the marvelous effects of the milk diet.

Continue to Chapter III


IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. Consult with your physician before making any changes to your diet.