Study shows camel's milk helps children get over hump of food allergies

Even "without knowing how it works," it was common practice to give camel's milk to children to strengthen their immune system.

pretty camels 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
pretty camels 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Camel's milk cures severe food allergies and rehabilitates the immune system in children, according to the results of a small study in Beersheba. Since it involved only eight children - all of whom recovered from their serious allergies after a short course of drinking the milk - the researchers have applied for approval for a much larger study to Soroka-University Medical Center. Dr. Yosef Shabo, Dr. Reuben Barzel, Dr. Mark Margoulis and veterinarian Dr. Reuven Yagil of Maccabi Health Services and Soroka wrote in the just-published December issue of the Israel Medical Association Journal that it was common practice to give camel's milk to children to strengthen their immune system, "without knowing how it works." Unlike cows, sheep and goats, camels - whose meat and milk are not kosher - are not ruminants (they do not chew their cud). Thus, the authors noted, the composition of camel's milk was "vastly different" from that of ruminants. It contains little fat (2 percent), and consists of completely homogenized, polyunsaturated fatty acids, giving it a uniform, smooth white appearance. Lactose (milk sugar) is present in concentrations of 4.8%, but it is easily metabolized by people suffering from lactose intolerance. It was the proteins in camel's milk that were most significant in preventing and curing food allergies, the authors added, because it contained no beta-lactoglobulin and a different beta-casein - the two components in cow's milk that trigger allergies. Camel's milk is also rich in vitamin C, calcium and iron and has a number of immunoglobulins (antibodies) that are compatible with human ones, and very small molecules that can easily enter the bloodstream via the intestines. In mild cases, food allergies can cause skin reactions, but some are so severe that they can cause anaphylactic shock within minutes, or as delayed as two hours, that could be fatal. A minority of young children are subject to such severe food allergies, which develop when the immune system reacts to the protein in the milk and other foods as a "threat" to the body, activating the immune system to protect it as though from a pathogen. The parents of eight children ranging in age from four months to 10 years who suffered from severe food allergies and did not respond to conventional treatments came to the doctors for advice. The symptoms included skin rashes, lactase deficiency, chemical imbalance and asthma symptoms. The four-month-old was losing blood and liquid from constant diarrhea. A young girl brought specially from the US was extremely allergic to all but a few foods. The parents were given frozen camel's milk from a hygienic source and were told to defrost rather than heat it because heat would destroy the protective immunoglobulins and proteins. Within 24 hours of their first "dose," all the children showed reduced symptoms, and after four days all symptoms of food allergies had disappeared, the authors reported. Some of those participating in the survey continued drinking camel's milk for a month. Their recovery was "spectacular," the researchers marvelled. The authors noted that one problem preventing widespread use is that camel's milk cannot be pasteurized to kill pathogens, as heat destroys many of the beneficial components. If the Health Ministry allowed its sale for therapeutic use, it would have to change regulations regarding pasteurization. In addition, since it is not kosher, observant Jews could not give it to their children. If it can save lives and prevent disability, however, rabbis might consider it like medication and allow its consumption in specific cases.