Dear Mark: Drinking Breast Milk and Supplemental Foods For Dogs

Dog and BowlFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering two questions. First, what’s the deal with adult humans drinking human breast milk? It appears to be a bit of a “movement,” but does it make nutritional sense? Does breast milk offer any unique benefits to grown humans? Then, I answer a reader question about giving coconut oil to dogs and followup with a wider discussion of potentially beneficial supplemental foods for our furry best friends.

Let’s go:

Dear Mark,

After discovering paleo/primal about 4 yrs ago, and going through two rounds of Whole30, I’ve managed to get myself from a place of constant, excruciating discomfort, to a place of intermittent mild-to-medium discomfort digestively. I have gluten/dairy/corn/grain intolerances, and seem to have recently developed a problem with seed oils on the rare occasion that I do eat them. I’m strictly gluten free, but I do end up eating dairy occasionally, and grains like rice maybe 2x/month.

I’ve heard that some people in the paleo/primal community drink breast milk for athletic performance. I have no interest in that, but I was wondering if there is any research that suggests that all the probiotics, enzymes, and other good stuff in breast milk might help heal a leaky gut. If so, what would be the minimum amount a 150lb adult would have to drink for it to be effective?

I’m currently nursing my 7-month-old, so I have easy access to free milk, but I’m more interested in saving it for him if it won’t do me any good.



Some people seem to dig it.

Legend has it that George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and famous vegetarian who almost made it to a hundred, drank breast milk every day.

Some wealthy Chinese apparently pay upwards of $4000 a month for exclusive access to a wet nurse.

A London ice creamery makes ice cream out of human breast milk.

CrossFitters have been known to get down on their lactating wives’ excess milk, or pay top dollar for someone else’s.

There’s no research into the effects of breast milk on adults. Kids who are breastfed do have healthier guts and better immune systems than kids who weren’t, but those results won’t necessarily apply to adults who quaff the stuff well after their guts have matured. Indeed, part of the reason why breast milk is so effective at establishing immunity in infants is the porosity of the infant gut. By design, babies are born with leaky guts to maximize nutrient absorption and enable their immune systems to be exposed in a controlled manner to various compounds. Breast milk—and the rich colostrum that mothers produce in the first few days postpartum—represents a blast of nutrients for an infant just getting started in life. It’s all they can handle. It’s exactly what they need. And it helps them develop a healthy gut lining teeming with beneficial microbes.

You? It can’t hurt. I see no conceivable reason (disease-free) breast milk will harm an adult. And perhaps given the admittedly suboptimal state of your gut, you can benefit from the bioavailable nutrients, many of which are absent in most adult diets and unique to breast milk. I will say that drinking your own milk just seems redundant.

Something to look into is bovine colostrum. Colostrum is the rich, nutrient-dense, calorie-rich “first milk” mammal moms make for their babies, and for adult humans is better studied than human milk.

I’d say that’s worth a shot. Save the milk (get a good freezer) and try the colostrum.

What’s your input on coconut oil as a nutritional ingredient to add in a dog’s raw diet?



It’s good. There’s a fair bit of research on coconut oil in dogs, believe it or not.

In August of 2015, researchers found that dog food with a coconut oil supplement (plus certain nutrients like carnitine, lipoic acid, lysine, leucine, and fiber) reduced body weight, body fat, and increased lean mass when compared to an isocaloric regular dog food. Same thing happened in cats, for what it’s worth.

Giving a coconut oil-based supplement to healthy beagles countered the normal age-related changes to their serum fatty acids.

While we’re on the subject of dog supplementation, what else is worth considering?

Fish oil or fatty fish: Fish oil increases adiponectin in dogs, may allow dogs with arthritis to reduce their NSAID use,  However, given that some adverse effects have been noted, perhaps due to poor quality fish oils, the safest and likely most beneficial way to incorporate fish oil is through the feeding of actual fish. Whole, raw frozen sardines make for great snacks. During salmon season, buy wild salmon heads but be sure to follow the protocol for killing any parasites which pose danger to dogs.

  • Freeze and store at -4 °F (-20 °C) or below for 7 days (total time); or
  • Freeze at -31 °F (-35 °C) or below until solid and store at -31 °F (-35 °C) or below for 15 hours; or
  • Freeze at -31 °F (-35 °C) or below until solid and store at -4 °F (-20 °C) or below for 24 hours.

Red palm oil: Dogs need vitamin E, and supplemental vitamin E can be very therapeutic for them. Wild animal flesh and fat is rich in vitamin E, thanks to all the nutrient-dense vegetation they feed on, but neither dog nor human eat wild game much anymore. The very best source of vitamin E available to man or beast is red palm oil. Head on down to the local West African market and buy the reddest (ethically produced) palm oil you can find.

Egg yolks: In an old study (PDF), raw egg yolks and egg yolk protein produced the most growth per gram of protein in young pups, beating out casein, gluten, beef muscle, and egg white. If you really love your dogs, you’ll give them each a yolk a day. What I like to do with my dogs is remove the white and toss the whole yolk to them like you would a dry treat. It’s by far their favorite snack.

Liver: Can’t go wrong with nature’s multivitamin.

Heck, colostrum might be worth trying in dogs, too. It improves their immune response and results in a richer gut biome.

That’s it for today, everyone. Thanks for reading and be sure to chime in down below. Dog owners, breast milk fans: I want to hear from you!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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44 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Drinking Breast Milk and Supplemental Foods For Dogs”

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  1. Interesting. I didn’t know there was available research on coconut oil in dogs. The more you know! Hahaha. But I’ll recommend it to my pooch possessing friends.

  2. If a dog is eating a raw diet, they should already be getting liver on a regular basis as part of the mix. But another good supplemental bit of offal is raw green tripe. It smells terrible and will make you want to wash your hands 5 times to get the stink off, but the dogs love it and it’s very good for them. Tripe is the stomach lining of a ruminant (cow usually,) and as long as it is in the “green” state and not scalded and bleached like what you get in the grocery store, it is chock full of healthy gut bacteria and supposedly has an ideal ratio of Omega 3’s and 6’s and a 1:1 ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus, which is very helpful for owners of older, picky, or “dentally challenged” pets who don’t like to chew bones to get their calcium. Crushed eggshells are another good supplement for those in need of extra calcium.

  3. You did mention disease-free breast milk. I’d be very skeptical of any milk that was from a ‘conventional’ mom. Give me a grass fed mom or give me death!

  4. My cat LOOOVES coconut oil (and almond butter). And sardines, but that’s not really a surprise. Healthy at 18 years and counting.

    1. My cat loves coconut oil too. However, I like the idea of sardines. She is pretty old for a cat and has trouble with her kidneys so I try to figure out ways to keep her hydrated and fed. She doesn’t like “wet” cat food so I try to feed her moist food whenever possible and she seems interested in it.

  5. Dogs love raw eggs, raw liver, raw hamburger, raw chicken (bone and all) and the bones from bone broth. They love it all.

    1. Word of advice -avoid cooked bones for dogs!!They can splinter and cause a LOT of harm. I volunteered for years at animal rescues. Google and see the research for yourself. Raw bones only! Bone broth bones would be boiled…

      Little dogs could conceivably get away with not shattering cooked bones, but it isn’t worth the risk.

      1. Bone broth bones end up soft and crumbly, nothing to worry about.

  6. This post is so appropriately timed. I’ve been nursing my first child for almost four months now and just tasted a little bit of it yesterday.

  7. I’ve used coconut oil for my three dogs. I started giving them 1 tblsp each day, mostly because all of them had digestive issues, especially our female. I’m feeding a raw diet. They loved their spoonful and would line up for it each morning.
    Then we went for the yearly checkup and all of them were really overweight, plus after almost a year of their daily spoonful, they turned their heads when offered.
    So I stopped giving it to them.
    Now they only get a bit here and there, and they like it again. But I’m sure it helped with their digestive issues, because the female stopped having multiple diarrhea every day, which might also have been the result of the raw diet, or both. In any case, I still think it’s good for them.

    1. If your dog has diarrhea you’re not feeding a balanced raw diet. Probably too much organ and/or not enough bone. Do you feed 80/10/10? Also, if your dogs are overweight it is not because of a tbsp of coconut oil, it’s because of overfeeding and/or feeding foods they shouldn’t be eating (high carbohydrate treats, too much food at meal time, etc.). Also, it’s easier to nip overfeeding in the bud when you see that they are starting to gain weight, rather than waiting until they’re “really overweight”. Raw is absolutely the way to go with carnivorous pets, but please, please do your homework on how to do it properly. Not because its hard or complicated, but because it’s still more effort than scooping out some kind of manufactured crap kibble.

  8. re: the breast milk questioner: ” (I) seem to have recently developed a problem with seed oils on the rare occasion that I do eat them.”

    I can second that. My digestive track has been quite robust since going Primal 5 years ago. But I’ve discovered through observation over that time that I seem hypersensitive to seed oils. If I ingest much at all, the resulting symptoms are very much IBS-like, though they only last for a few hours (thankfully).

  9. There are lots of benefits to feeding dogs fish heads! A large-med salmon head can be considered a meal for a med-large breed dog and after being frozen a nice cooling one in the summer for hot dogs. Also because they eat the whole thing the cartilage helps clean their teeth. I have seen 15 year old huskies with pearly white teeth from a summer of eating fish heads 🙂 I tend to save them for camping and hiking trips for our dogs, they can be a bit messy to eat, but most dogs will clean up every last scrap.

  10. Why would you take out the whites? I’ve been feeding my dog whole eggs, a couple a week, shell and all. Lots of raw dog food I’ve purchased over the years had ground eggshell in it, so I just started feeding my dog the whole egg, and she loves crunching the shells down.

    Is there any reason to avoid the white? I wouldn’t want to be doing her any harm.

    1. Whole eggs are perfectly fine to feed your dog. They are a complete and balanced food in and of themselves. I think the point is that the yolks are where all the real nutrition is, so it’s the best part to give them. I’m not an expert, but the only thing about whites I know of that can be bad is that they do have a protein that binds with biotin, so if you (or your dog) only eat egg whites, you can actually become biotin deficient, which is bad for skin and hair and so on. But yolks have tons of biotin, so if you feed the whole egg, it works out. If they need a biotin boost due to skin and coat problems, you’d want to remove the white so they get all the biotin the yolk has to offer.

  11. Why remove the egg white?

    I know it binds with biotin, but the yolk is supposed to have enough biotin to compensate, plus it’s only supposed to bind with biotin eaten at the same meal.

    My raw-fed dog gets the whole egg. Is that a mistake?

    1. I remove the egg white mainly because I treat the isolated yolks as treats to be thrown through the air to waiting dog maws. You can’t do that with a sloppy white flopping all over the place.

      1. Just one for a of possible future post Mark – I am always contemplating if I should be giving my dog the monthly heartworm tablet, in face of the scare mongering by the big pharma equivalent for pets, however if dogs do get infected with heartworm, it an extremely debilitating and horrible experience for the animal – from the research I’ve done, there seems to be no easy answer on this.

    2. If I give my dog a fried egg (when I’m having them), he’ll eat the yolk and leave the white. I put raw egg yolk in his raw food mix a couple times a week – he’s small and they are very rich. Fish heads, like salmon heads are too big for him. But at the Korean market I buy dried anchovies and keep them in the freezer for him. They are great little treats.

      1. When I’m making scrambled eggs for myself (3), I will make another set (3 eggs, but without the TB of milk) for my 3 dogs. They don’t get any cheese so it’s just egg.

        I used to feed them the raw ones, but only the 2 miniature pinschers like them raw. The toy rat terrier puts up her nose at raw eggs.

  12. interesting about supplementation of dogs diet. I’d add some opputunities for a small amount of vegetable material… mine take any eat plant material out of the garden. This will include fruit off the ground, low hanging berries as well as leafy material that takes their fancy (those I permit, anyway). Note that avocado including seeds, macadamia and grape are all toxic to dogs in small doses.

    With any supplements that you plan to feed dogs you will need to work out a dose. Note that dogs are smaller than humans (mostly). A dose for a dog will generally be 5-50 times smaller depending on the weight of the dog and although human and canine biochemistry is similar there are differences.. so, some thought needs to go into how much of any over the counter supplements should be given that will result in a beneficial effect rather than unintended consequences. Much easier to feed them the natural foods they would get in the wild like the liver and fish heads Mark mentioned. Having said that mine do get some fish oil as I cant always guarantee the omega composition of the meat they get

  13. Oh my… The first thing that came to mind when I saw the title: Drinking breast milk AND supplemental foods for dogs. Was really wondering who would let their dog drink their breast milk!
    But then again, who are we to judge as we do it to all kinds of livestock.

    1. That’s a real thing people do, it seems to have saved many a pet’s life as well when other remedies failed.

      We think we’re blitzed by Big Phrama, but pets get (often mandatory) yearly shots they just don’t need, on a lifelong basis, and in England vets love to throw a range of anti-biotics at any health problem, so our supposedly “natural” animal chums usually endure a blitz of medical treatments far in excess of our own.

  14. As a lactating mother, I can say I am SUPER creeped out about giving my body fluid to some dude to consume so he can deadlift a little more. Super, super creeped out.

    1. I hear ya. This fad reminds me of the placentaphagia thing from years ago. Gross.

      1. I agree. Funny that the half gallon glass jug in my fridge is breast milk (from a cow) and somehow that’s totally normal, but the thought of breast milk, from a human, makes me kinda queasy. Not sure why, it just does. On a side note, I recommended this site to a friend yesterday who is going primal for a month, to try it out. She’s, um, more conservative than I, is how I’ll state it, and I was disappointed that the lead story on her first day was a discussion of drinking human breast milk. Doubt she will become a MDA regular. Haha!!

        1. I think the visceral reaction against drinking human breastmilk is that, subconsciously at least, it seems like cannibalism.

        2. Good thing she wasn’t around for the post on fecal transplant.

      2. I wholeheartedly support any mama’s choice to eat her own placenta. I also consider myself to have a super low squeamish threshold, as I happily delve into any part of the animal to eat and can prep it all myself and all that…. HOWEVER. I totally agree about the placentaphagy thing. The first time I heard about it, I thought I was going to pass out. I’ve never been able to tolerate any story or allusion to cannibalism, so I assume this is all related.

  15. My Bichon loves coconut oil! When I am setting up the blender at night for my early morning coffee (blended with coconut oil, ghee, and collagen) he begs to lick the spoon with the coconut oil. It definitely helps with his itchy coat. And he is crazy for any kind of fish, especially salmon.

    1. How much of each do you put in your coffee? I use a tablespoon of butter, coconut oil and collagen. I drink two of them a day usually, hopefully it’s not too much for a 61 year old who tries to be active but is really busy all day.

  16. My favorie dog supplement is broth made from lamb bones. He go nuts when I pull it out of the fridge to add a few tbs to his kibble. He is Disappointed when I run out. I also noticed Costco has a grain free salmon and sweet potato kibble. It even has pre and probiotics so it seems way better than most human convenience foods. Anyone have experience with this?

    1. It is an inexpensive option for feeding your dog a decent dog food. It gets 3.5 stars on We’ve fed it to our two retired greyhounds & they do well on it. We also give them coconut oil and a fish oil pill (also from Costco) on a daily basis.

  17. We give our Bernese Mountain dog raw cow’s milk daily and she loves it. She lost her appetite recently when our other dog passed away but she never refused the raw milk. It also helped her fight Lyme. And it helped our other dog while he battled cancer – he got quite an energy lift after some raw milk. I am grateful I live in a state with easy access to raw milk. Of course now I am wondering if I should offer the dog some of my breastmilk…. 😉

  18. I feed my dog and one that I doggysit their all natural dog food soaked in bone broth….I catch the one I doggysit staring at me sometimes like he is in love with me…..even though I treat him awesome and take him for good runs, I am pretty sure it is “broth love”.

  19. When my sister’s dog was lactating and looking drawn I offered her egg shell which she gobbled up voraciously. I followed with some whole boiled eggs I had to hand (including shell), she couldn’t get enough!

    The other dogs in the house were not interested at all in the egg shells.

    1. Interesting! I am breastfeeding but cannot eat dairy because of my son’s allergies. I wonder if I boiled egg shells with my bone broth if it would add an extra calcium boost. I’ve tried eating the egg shell all ground up and could not get past the texture (kept thinking my teeth were crumbling).

      1. I’ve heard of people getting empty capsules and putting the egg in them to get them down but that seems like a lot of work and swallowing pills. But, might be an option?

  20. My female min pin has a variety of health issues- she must be part feline because she seems to have 9 lives. My vet is very forward thinking and keeps up on the research, so when the last issue came up, she recommended Nordic Naturals.

    Miss Penni Pincher’s illnesses include degenerative nerve disease, an acute attack of pancreatitis, and what may be bladder cancer. It’s not worth the torture of all the testing for a definite diagnosis because due to the location of the inflammation / unusual cells, there’s no cure. Same thing with the degenerative nerve disease – no cure.

    Her dose is 1/2 capsule (or less) a day. My male min pin, Thor, has started to get achy so the vet suggested giving him the other 1/2.

    I won’t say fish oil is a cure all, but I think that even healthy dogs benefit from some, just like us. I may try the sardines too.

  21. Mark, love the research you linked to.

    I agree that in most cases feeding whole, raw fish is the best way to go, as long as people adhere to strict food safety practices.

    For those of your readers who prefer to give supplements, I just wanted to add that there’s some studies showing that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can help dogs with neurologic development, skin and coat, joints, and heart health.

    I’ve aggregated a list of links to most of the available research on our site:

    An important point that most people don’t know is that when dogs are getting an increased amount of PUFA (polyunsatured fatty acids) in their diet, it’s a good idea to increase the amount of vitamin E to compensate for the lipid peroxidation that takes place in fish oils. Omega-3 fatty acids are very sensitive to oxygen.

    “These data suggest that although a ratio of dietary (n-6) to (n-3) fatty acids of 1.4:1 depresses the cell-mediated immune response and PGE2 production, it increases lipid peroxidation and lowers vitamin E concentration.”

    This is why Bonnie and Clyde Pet Goods has added a nutritionally significant amount of natural source vitamin E to our Wild Omega-3.


    Founder, Bonnie and Clyde Pet Goods