Exploring the Health Benefits of Raw Goat’s Milk at Country Winds Farm

By Shannon Keirnan, Contributing Foodie Bitch

Goat’s milk, which has been enjoyed for thousands of years, and is still a staple in many parts of the world, somehow only accounts for 2% of the milk consumption in the United States. This, despite Journal of American Medicine stating, “Goat’s milk is the most complete food known.”

Raw goat’s milk is especially nourishing, and, better yet, contains a host of healthful benefits you may never expect.

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Beyond the fact that it is higher in vitamins, minerals, trace elements, electrolytes, enzymes, proteins, and fatty acids that are more easily and quickly absorbed into the body than cow’s milk, goat’s milk lacks allergens like lactose that its counterpart is known for (and I have personally developed a sensitivity to over the years).

It is also an anti-inflammatory and acid buffer, which soothes the digestive tract, and has been used to treat stomach ulcers.

It alkalizes the digestive system, increases the ph level in the blood stream. Some claim it acts as an overall boost to the immune system, helping to cure auto-immune issues, respiratory problems, allergies, and skin conditions like eczema, especially in children.

Raising goats for milk is also more environmentally friendly and efficient (3 goats can occupy the space every cow would utilize, and make more effective use of the land), so the real question is, why aren’t we drinking more goat milk and less cow milk?

Possibly the answer is availability. Goat’s milk can be found in supermarkets (if you look!) and health food stores… but in Michigan, where I’m located, it’s illegal to sell the more healthful raw milk… only milk that has been pasteurized and robbed of many of its essential benefits can be retailed.

One way to get around this law is to own your goat… or, for those of you not able to conveniently keep a goat on your property, to purchase a share and pay for “boarding.”

After reading into all the benefits of goat’s milk, especially raw, I wanted to learn more about my options for raw goat’s milk. 

In West Michigan, one great choice is Country Wind Farms, located in Zeeland. I’ve known about Country Winds for a while now. They sell their rich chevre—a key component in Lindsey’s avocado spread, which I love—at the Holland Farmer’s Market and local health food stores. Along with Evergreen Lane Farm & Creamery, they’re my go-to when I want delicious, smooth goat cheese from a source I trust.

I scheduled a tour with Country Winds Farms, and brought my family along for the experience.

Mary Windemuller, who owns the farm with husband John, is more than happy to tell you more about the perks of raw goat’s milk as she shows you around the farm. Dogs and baby goats alike (the stoic Boxer named Bridget and the wobbly but adorable Oscar) greet you as you take the tour.

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Goats graze in the fields despite the threat of a storm

Raw feta

John explains the process of separating whey from fresh cheese curds

Plan on making time to pet all the super friendly goats as Mary shows you around the fields where the animals roam free and graze organic alfalfa, the nursery, the barn, and the creamery where John is separating whey from curds of what will become fresh feta cheese.

Country Winds Farms, of course, offers raw milk to its clients, who pay a one-time purchase fee of $50 for their share, and monthly payments dependent on how much milk they need (a half or whole gallon, or more, per week). The system is self-serve and easy, and the heavy gallon jars of milk lining the refrigerator awaiting pick-up look creamy and delicious!

Country Winds also sells varieties of cheese like sun dried tomato and pumpkin cinnamon, raw, organic honey (though free-range bees, Mary reminds, may pick up pollen from non-organic fields), beef when available, seasonal garden vegetables,, chicken and eggs from a free-range “chicken tractor,” and luxurious soaps made with organic ingredients, goat’s milk, and essential oils.

I bought a small bar of the lavender and oatmeal, and have been using it on my extremely sensitive skin to great results and no irritation!

Mary is happy to answer any questions you may have while touring the farm and sampling the milk, and can refer to any of her goats by name. The care and love she and her husband pour into their farm is evident, and reflects in a great product sadly overlooked by many who prefer the simplicity of the supermarket.

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Mary explains how fresh milk is rapidly chilled in the dairy

So how does the milk taste? If you’ve ever had goat cheese, it won’t come as a surprise that the milk retains that vaguely grassy, tangy aftertaste, but is otherwise very similar (albeit thinner as it has less fat content) than cow’s milk.

“Do it!” urged a client as she dropped by to pick up her weekly gallon. Mary informed us that her young son, who had many health issues like respiratory problems including asthma, and an auto-immune disorder, was responding positively to the goat’s milk where medication had made no impact.

My visit was a good reminder that eating well may not be as difficult as we think, if we just put in a little time and effort. The farm was a mere 15 minutes from my home, yet, before I looked into it, I had no idea it was so close, convenient, and affordable.

Do the research—find things like raw goats milk near you, learn where your food comes from and how to acquire it, and how it benefits your body. Small things can make a difference in your health, so pay attention to your body, and do what it takes to ensure that it has all that it needs!

That’s the first step in becoming a Foodie Bitch!

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Energy-Boosting Smoothie on the Go

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By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

It was another one of those days when things just kind of popped into my schedule (or lack thereof!).  The farrier called as he was in the area and had some time to come over and trim the horses’ hooves.  I was thankful he was able to fit us in right when he got back from his trip to Lexington, as a couple of our horses’ hooves were starting to chip – their hooves grew quite a bit last month and the 5 weeks since the last trimming seemed to fly by.

I had also promised our youngest daughter that I would take her into town today so she could look at guitars.  So as soon as the farrier left, we left for the music store.

But first I needed a quick snack, so I pulled out the VitaMix, and threw some stuff together.

I recently bought a few products from Amazing Grass to throw into smoothies as a “booster,” and with all the running around I needed to do, this seemed a good time to grab some extra energy  before I got going on round 2.

Today I thought I would go with the Amazing Grass Green Superfood Energy Lemon Lime Drink Powder. It’s loaded with all kinds of good stuff, including a probiotic and enzyme blend, and a green food blend which includes organic wheat grass, organic barley grass, organic alfalfa, organic spirulina, organic spinach, organic chlorella and organic broccoli, superfoods like organic acai and maca root, and other great ingredients.

It’s flavor is a lemon-lime base, so I struggled for a minute to think what other superfoods I could add that would complement or enhance the flavor.  I went with dates to give it some sweetness – the bananas too.  I had been wanting to combine lemon and chocolate somehow so I went with the cacao nibs.  I wanted the hormone balancing benefit of maca powder, and a little tartness and the health benefits of dried goji berries, and then of course, the Amazing Grass mix.

Here’s what I decided to go with:

Ingredients

1 cup ice

6 pitted dates

1/2 frozen banana

2 Tbsp. cacao nibs

3 tsp. maca powder

1 1/2 cup almond milk

2 Tbsp. dried goji berries

1 scoop Amazing Grass Energy Lemon Lime Drink Powder!

I put all of them in the VitaMix and blended together.  It was surprisingly delicious!  It’s always so much fun to throw stuff together like this and have it work out so well.  You can start with this base and play around with it based on your tastes or totally change it up –  anyway you do it you’re body will appreciate the nutrients

The Gut as a Second Brain

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By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

What may be news to some has been common knowledge to others for quite some time – that the gut functions as a second “brain.” It is a relatively new area of research, and an exciting one, if you ask me (Personally, I believe there are actually three “brains,” when you include the heart!).

The enteric nervous system (ENS) is what is more commonly referred to as the gut’s brain. It lies in the tissue lining the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and colon, and contains over 100 million neurons – more than that of the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system.

One interesting finding in this area of study, known as neurogastroenterology, is that nearly every substance that controls the brain is also found in the gut -neurotransmitters such as seratonin, dopamine, glutamate, and norepinephrine, to name a few.

Another interesting discovery is the abundance in the gut of a family of psychoactive chemicals that are found in Valium and Xanax…Hmmm.

Also interesting is that much of the communication between the gut and the brain originates in the gut – which has huge implications for psychological issues.  Communication, of course, moves both ways – it goes from the brain to the gut as well, but the fact that the gut is having an effect on the activity of the brain provides hope for those effected by mental imbalances – heal the gut, and hopefully heal the mind.

What does this mean?

It means that the health of your gut is extremely important, and relevant to your overall health. This is both good news and bad news.

Why is it good news? Because it helps shed light on the possible connection between your intestinal health and a number of mental- and brain-related illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, autism, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, just for starters. Heal your gut and you have a much better chance of preventing or healing a number of other ailments!

Why is this bad news? Because our gastrointestinal (GI) system has, unfortunately, been the brunt of a number of assaults. Take, for example, the overuse of antibiotics in humans. This abuse has stripped the GI system of good bacteria.

Even in those who don’t take antibiotics find that antibiotics still make their way to the intestinal system by the food they eat—animals raised with antibiotics to counteract the unsanitary and unhealthy conditions in which they are raised.

You may recall an earlier post on glyphosate, the chemical routinely used in the pesticides. Glyphosate also attacks the good bacteria in the intestinal system. You can read that post about the dangers of glyphosate in Monsanto products here.

Make sure you take special care of your gut!

It’s fair to assume that your gut  is in need of healing, with so many foods and products on the market and on the earth that are attacking this system.

Chances are, if you are not experiencing any symptoms now, you can prevent a number of illness and conditions down the road by making sure your gut is in good health now.

I can speak from first-hand experience: when my intestinal tract isn’t working properly, my mind isn’t nearly as focused and clear. When I took gluten, which was creating inflammation in my intestines, out of my diet, I experienced greater clarity in my “regular brain.”

I’m not where I would like to be yet, in terms of my intestinal health. I think there is still some more healing that needs to take place, but with each step in this direction, I’m learning new fascinating things and putting more pieces of the puzzle together – and that’s fun for me!

My latest tool for this research is Dr. Michael Gershon’s book, The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine.

The light bulbs are starting to go off in the scientific community… and as more light is shed on this issue, I will be sharing it with all of you!

Using Food as Medicine

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By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

I saw my chiropractor/kinesiologist yesterday. I was feeling a little “off” (a lot “off”, if you ask my family).

I shouldn’t have waited so long to go see her! I am already feeling so much better. 

During my appointment, my chiropractor and I fell into the discussion of nutrition and medicine. I told her how I recently learned that most medical degrees don’t have any requirements regarding nutrition courses.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind? Isn’t nutrition an integral part of the human body and our overall health?

Think about all of the chemical and electrical processes that are constantly occurring in your body. They rely on a delicate balance of nutrients and chemical signals, both inside and outside of all of the cells.  What is a major source of these nutrients and signals?  Yes, food!

Shouldn’t nutrition be a required minor or, at least, shouldn’t medical students be required to take a series of nutrition courses?

But they are not. Thankfully chiropractors, I was told, are required to take nutrition classes. My chiropractor took 3 courses in her program, and there were numerous other nutrition courses or workshops available outside of her required credits.

The concept of food as medicine has been increasingly in the media the past few years, and the benefits of returning to a natural diet is no longer considered “hippie logic.” I certainly hope that this recognition will soon reflect in colleges and in course work… where future doctors, chiropractors, nutritionists, etc., study how the body works and what we need to keep us feeling our best.

Personally, I am of the thought that using food to keep in good health is just common sense. Nature packed just the right amount of each nutrient into the appropriate food, so that we would have all that we need.

Unfortunately we’ve gotten so far away from eating from nature that our diets are lacking in many valuable nutrients. Food was originally designed to have just the right amount and kinds of nutrients – nutrients that complement each other, and make each more easily absorbed into our systems.

GMO’s, processed, chemically or hormonally treated foods are altered to just grow faster and larger, to the detriment of their nutritional content – not to mention the depletion of nutrients in our soil due to pesticide use and lack of crop rotation and failing to put nutrients back into the soil.

We’ve had to adapt by taking supplements which, although often helpful, isn’t quite the same as getting the nutrients directly from the food.

I think too often humans try to be autonomous from the earth. We have pride in being reliant on ourselves. We do research and find, for example, that a particular food helps lower cholesterol… so we do more research, and isolate which particular element we think is actually doing the lowering. We separate it from the food as a whole, and instead we pop it as a pill.

But, what we don’t realize is that the food as a whole is working together as a unit. Everything in food is complementing the whole to work as “medicine.” In removing a portion, you more often than not destroy the entire system, and lose the benefits.

You can kind of liken it to a recipe… let’s say the delicious smoothie recipe I posted Monday!

The cinnamon in the recipe added a great flavor, but without all of the other ingredients, it wouldn’t quite taste the same, would it?

It’s not just the cinnamon, it’s all of the ingredients working together and playing off one another that gives it that awesome flavor. Maybe not the best example, but I’m sure you see my point!

If you take away one part of nutrition, the whole suffers.

I’m not recommending that you don’t see your physician and seek medical advice by suggesting you use food as medicine.

What I am suggesting is that you don’t ignore the foods that you are eating and how they make you feel. Do your research. Try to eat foods that aren’t processed, are organic, and a wide enough range of type that you get a variety of nutrients.

Notice how you feel whenever you make any dietary changes. Notice if you have more or less energy, if your stomach is irritated or not, if you’re bloated, if you sleep well, if your mood is better.

Food can affect all of these and more so tune in to your body and listen to what it is telling you!

I learned this first hand when my chiropractor found I was gluten sensitive.  I was feeling really tired all of the time, bloated, was having a hard time focusing, and hadn’t had my period in about 3 months.   I removed gluten from my  diet and within a couple of days I felt better.  My bloating went down, I could focus more easily, I didn’t feel like taking a nap every time I sat down, and I started my period!  I was amazed at how much of an effect gluten had on my system.  Then the process of healing my intestinal tract, which had basically become inflamed, began.

If you pay attention and give the body what it needs, you will also find that your system is working more effectively, comfortably, and happily… which more than likely will translate into less visits to the doctor, less medication, and a much higher quality of life.