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Camel Milk and Autism: Connecting the Genetic Dots

After reading Christina Adams’s new book Camel Crazy: A Quest for Miracles in the Mysterious World of Camels (New World Library), I may have a new favorite animal (sorry, cats and hippos).

Most of us know camels as curiosities at zoos. As beasts of burden highly adapted to hot and dry climates, they’ve served the trade routes that helped build civilizations, and may indeed flourish in our increasingly hot and dry world. We value their hide, meat, and especially their milk.

Camels are unusual, biologically speaking. And that may be why their milk can alleviate some aspects of autism.

Christina and a friend

“Camel milk sounds weird to American ears, but camels are a domestic fact of life elsewhere. Although the US classifies them as ‘exotic” animals, they actually have early origins here; fossils have been found in Los Angeles. But the true reservoir of knowledge on camels is found in rural cultures and universities in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa,” Christina told me.

Got Camel Milk?

In 2005, Christina met a camel at a children’s book fair in Orange County CA. Rather than hauling kids around, the animal was standing near a display of lotions and soaps made with camel milk. When the owner started to tell Christina how the milk is hypoallergenic and helps premature babies in the Middle East, she glanced over at 7-year-old Jonah. He’d already had four years of costly treatments for autism.

“Might it help ‘reboot’ my son’s immune system and help his autism symptoms?” she recalls thinking, aware of a link to immune dysfunction. “Cow milk and cheese made him hand-flap and walk in circles, which he described as feeling like ‘having dirt in my brain.’ Vegan substitutes like rice, nut, or soy increased his allergic response.”

Camel Crazy details Christina’s two-year journey to find the milk. Once she started giving it to Jonah, four ounces at a time, mixed in with food like cereal, his behavior changed quickly.

He became calm. Inquisitive. Caring. His language became more emotional and focused. He held his head straight instead of rolling it. Eating became neat, not a mess fest. He dressed himself and began making eye contact. He even got his shoes and backpack on and was calmer in the car going to school.

By the third dose, Jonah was sleeping through the night. “He became more fluid, social, and attuned. Within days he could cross the street without me holding on to him. Within weeks his skin grew smoother. The milk also reversed his skin irritation, agitation, mental distraction, hyperactivity, and stomach pain,” Christina recalled.

So she did research and spread the word, first in an article – “Got Camel Milk?” – that went viral, then in a peer-reviewed case report, “Autism Spectrum Disorder Treated With Camel Milk,” published in Global Advances in Health and Medicine. After describing Jonah’s early difficulties, she wrote “on October 10, 2007, two weeks before my son’s tenth birthday, he drank his first half cup (4 oz) of thawed raw unheated camel milk.” The case report documents Jonah’s “sustained symptom improvements” associated with drinking half a cup a day from 2007 to 2013.

Christina then began traveling the world, giving presentations on camel milk and autism, and consulting with scientists and vets. Camel Crazy details her immersion into the world of camels and ‘cameleers’, from Tuareg, Amish and Somali people in America to herders in India, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. She serves on the editorial board of the new International Journal of Camel Science.

I was a beta reader for Camel Crazy and loved it. Being a nerd I searched for the science, and wasn’t disappointed. The milk indeed has some startling differences from other milks, yet tastes, Christina says, like cow’s milk.

Camels drink a lot, pee a little, exhale minimal vapor, have insulating coats, and their red blood cells balloon and shrink as the water content in the bloodstream shifts. Natural selection has favored persistence of these traits that provide adaptation to heat, aridity, and exposure to intense ultraviolet radiation and choking dust. Body temperature ranges from 93.2-104°F (34–40°C).

Being specifically a genetics nerd, I delved deeper into the DNA that encodes the unusual versions of proteins that might explain the magic of camel milk, as well as other details of the physiology. Much of the info below comes from the article Desert to Medicine: A Review of Camel Genomics and Therapeutic Products, from three researchers at United Arab Emirates University.

Fighting an Opioid Released from Casein Breakdown

The first technical paper Christina found was “The etiology of autism and camel milk as therapy,” from Ben Gurion University researchers Reuven Yagil and Yosef Shabo. Parent reports inspired their work.

They zeroed in on an opiate-like effect. Casein, the most abundant milk protein, breaks down into peptide pieces. And one of them, beta-casomorphin-7, is an opioid. It can slip through the “leaky gut” of a person with autism and enter the brain. Could an opiate bathing the brain affect social interactions and lack of interest in surroundings?

Other breakdown peptides of casein (β-casein and no β-lactoglobulin), which are more abundant in cow’s milk, may spike milk allergies.


Upping Anti-Oxidants

Camel milk delivers potent anti-oxidants that might temper autism symptoms, wrote King Saud University researchers Laila Al-Ayadhi and Nadra Elyass Elamin in a 2013 report. People with autism are more sensitive to oxidative stress, which is damage from unstable forms of oxygen called oxygen free radicals.

The researchers measured levels of three anti-oxidants in the blood of 60 kids with autism: superoxide dismutase, myeloperoxidase, and an enzyme needed to make glutathione. Over a two-week period, 24 children drank raw camel milk, 25 drank boiled camel milk, and 11 drank cow’s milk. The trial was double-blinded and randomized, but it wasn’t a crossover, in which each child would have had all three milk experiences. Nevertheless, raw camel milk was superior in anti-oxidant levels and a behavioral rating scale.

Special Tiny Antibodies

Camels share with only their camelid brethren (llamas, alpacas, vicunas, and guanacos) tiny antibodies in milk, called nanobodies. Most antibodies have one or more Y-shaped subunits; a nanobody is one arm of one Y, the variable region that distinguishes species. A student discovered camel nanobodies in a lab course at the University of Brussels in 1993, analyzing a dromedary’s blood serum. Camels make large antibodies too.

Nanobodies can squeeze into places more bulbous antibodies cannot, vanquishing a wider swath of viruses and bacteria. They look strikingly like monoclonal antibodies, and so have become darlings of pharma, particularly in cancer drug discovery.

A camel’s nanobodies consist of only variable regions of single Y-shaped immunoglobulin subunits.

A camel’s streamlined nanobodies arose from a mutation that removed the hinges that connect the Y-shaped arms of more conventional antibodies. Sometimes a mutation is a good thing!

Further infection protection comes from the milk protein lactoferrin, which fights hepatitis C.

Tolerating High Blood Sugar

A camel-herding people in India, the Raika, drink camel milk and don’t get diabetes. That’s because camels tolerate high blood glucose levels, and some of that ability seeps into their milk.

P. Agrawal, at the SP Medical College, Bikaner, India and colleagues have conducted clinical trials that show that camel milk decreases blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c (a three-month-measure of blood glucose), and, in people with type 1 diabetes, reduces the insulin requirement by up to 30 percent .

How can camels have high blood sugar yet low HbA1C? In most animals, the beta chains of hemoglobin bind glucose at several points, upping HbA1C. This doesn’t happen in camels. If glucose binding to hemoglobin in us is like Velcro, then in camels, it’s like contact between a boot and slippery ice.

Conserving Water

Milk requires water, and camels are masters at conserving it. A “self-contained cooling system,” as Christina describes it, cycles body water from a camel’s nostrils to its mouth. The multi-layered eyelids and double row of eyelashes keep out blowing sand. “Their unique oval blood cells compress as camels safely dehydrate, then swell up again as they refill with water, keeping their blood flowing in extreme conditions.”

Camel milking in Niger

Camels don’t dry out in the desert, as we would, thanks to variants of the genes that encode the cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes. They enable camels to resorb lots of water while tolerating high salt conditions, without their blood pressure spiking. Their kidneys are keenly attuned to taking back water.

Camel milk is also high in the calming neurotransmitter GABA, low in lactose, and has more vitamin C than cow’s milk.

Beyond Milk

The astonishing adaptations of the camel aren’t restricted to its milk. Here are a few more that have their roots in the animal’s genes.

  • The urea cycle conserves nitrogen, used to make protein in the face of limited food.
  • The heart makes a lot of the protein α-actinin, enabling it to beat steadily through fluctuating drought and wetness.
  • Hiked enzyme levels in the brain and liver keep up energy supplies.
  • Vimentin protein in cells in the hump mobilizes fat, releasing energy.

Variations on the Camel Theme

About 94% of the world’s 35 million camels are the domesticated, one-humped dromedaries (Camelus dromedaries) of northern and eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and southwest Asia. A feral branch lives in Australia. Wild dromedaries are extinct and are in a separate genus, Camelops hesternus. They dwelled in western North America.

Bactrian camels are massive, with two humps

About 2 million two-humped domesticated Bactrian (Camelus bactrianus) camels live on the steppes of central Asia, and each weighs about 1,000 pounds. Fewer than 100 wild Bactrian camels remain; they split from a shared ancestor about 700,000 years ago. Today they live in Mongolia and in northwest China’s Xinjiang Province, in an area that was a nuclear testing site for 45 years. In 2008 the wild Bactrians were designated a distinct species, Camelus ferus.

When bactrian and dromedary camels interbreed, most offspring have one hump, some with a dip in the middle.

Camel Genomics

Camel genomes are remarkably diverse with many mutations, perhaps because people haven’t controlled their breeding. Doing so is challenging.

The jelly-like consistency of camel semen complicates both freezing and using artificial insemination. Still, researchers from Oman and France recently published a report about possible genetic improvements: selecting for traits that ease of using milking machines, provide resistance to infections, improve racing ability, and enhance beauty. Camels are, after all, gorgeous creatures.

The first camel genome sequence, published in 2012, revealed 20,821 genes splayed out among 37 chromosome pairs. Some 2,730 genes have evolved faster in camels than in their cattle relatives, many involved in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Perhaps the unusual variants contribute to the camel’s ability to conserve water.

Researchers from Kuwait University report in PLOS One that they analyzed DNA from the blood, spit, and hair of nine camels, concluding that tail hair follicle DNA is the best tissue source to create a biobank. The International Camel Consortium for Genetic Improvement and Conservation promotes camel genetic conservation.

A camelcino

Bring on the Camel Fro-Yo!

The milk isn’t cheap. Camel Milk Coop lists $36.99 for a week’s supply. And as Christina’s book explains, there’s little to no incentive to conduct a clinical trial or to attempt to replicate nature’s magical mix of milk ingredients. Camel Crazy includes a user’s guide and directory of global sources.

The milk is available in liquid, frozen, and powdered form. Camel-milk-containing products include skin cream, cheeses, ice cream pops, chocolate milk, and a delectable-looking sweet called barfi, which means “snow” in Persian (not vomit).

When will camel milk come to Starbucks?





  1. I have a 43 year old autistic son. He sleeps poorly, has always had bowel problems, and has hehaviir issues. Has anyone tried this with someone his age?

  2. Hi Linda. People with your son’s profile often do very well on camel milk. Young autistic adults are telling me they are benefitting from it, and older adults with inflammatory conditions (as often found in autism) are doing much better, such as severe arthritis, bowel disorders, diabetes, etc. CAMEL CRAZY has a users’ guide in the back, with preparation tips, how it affects them and how to prepare the person for best results. I’d certainly suggest that he try it, along with removing other dairy prior to starting. He may like the smoothie recipe in the user’s guide.

  3. I believe powder is indeed available. Christina will chime in – she’s at a camel conference! I knew nothing about this until she emailed me after reading one of my posts here. I love learning from readers!

  4. Very exciting research and discoveries! Our family produces A2/A2 Organic Milk and am very aware of the beta-casomorphin-7 (BCM-7 = A1 Milk). We have had parents of autistic children make the same comments that are stated in this article about switching to our A2/A2 Organic Milk.

    I am hearing a lot of anecdotal information from our customers who can drink our A2 Organic milk, and not regular organic milk. A lot of studies had to do with funding from A2 Corporation, therefore many don’t take it seriously. When you understand that Camel milk or Aa/A2 Milk does not contain the BCM-7 it puts all the pieces together with regards to brain, gut, and auto-immune reaction to this mutated foreign protein that is not natural to our biome/bodies.

    @ Dr. Ricki, Any more research on that topic in your world?

  5. Hi Stephanie. I am entirely new to this research, I had no idea that casein could break down into peptides that could be harmful, although my vegan daughter has been telling me this for years. It makes sense that a mammal should drink it’s own species’ milk, or the closest thing to it, and not past early childhood. I’m not a nutritionist, though. I learned so much from talking to Christina.

  6. I am from Mongolia and we have many types of dairy produce made of camel milk. Dried curd made of raw camel milk is rich and oily, fermented milk is similar to our fermented mare’s milk, it is sour so does not accommodate to everyone’s taste but I love gulping it down during the season. I haven’t seen any powder forms nor in tablets. It could be a great niche to start making them available if the science is right. Unfortunately no one is researching it to that extent. Come to Mongolia in Autumn and you can buy it from the supermarkets or go to countryside! It is a very interesting article, thank you for sharing.

  7. Please Google “A2 MIlk and Autism” or “A2 Milk and Seizures” and there are many other health maladies and auto immune diseases linked to the BCM7

    I just read an article about the link between SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and Infant Formula from cows milk that contains the BCM-7. The BCM7 crosses the permeable infant’s gut then the blood brain barrier. While sleeping this BCM-7, an opioid with a structure similar to that of morphine, cause a reaction in the infants brain that slows down the respiration rate so much that the baby stops breathing, hence an explainable death in an infant.

    Most of the milk from India (Bos Indicus) cattle are A2, and most of the Eureopean/American breeds (Bos Taurus) are A1.

    There is so much more to learn! Thank you for presenting your research.

  8. Thanks, it was fascinating to learn about it, and an eye-opener to see skepticism in comments on Facebook. I think some westerners just pooh-pooh research coming from certain other nations, when they have a long history of knowing much more than we do.

  9. Great article Ricki! Fantastic to see the health benefits of Camel Milk summarised so clearly. Freeze dried powder is actually available in Australia from Camel Milk Co Australia. The freeze drying process ensures that the nutrients in the milk are preserved.

  10. Dear Imar, While raw is the most beneficial form in general, a great many users see benefits from using pasteurized liquid and powered milk. Powder comes in spray dried and freeze-dried forms. The commercial impetus for powdered milk is moving toward freeze-drying, a process I describe in CAMEL CRAZY. The book contains a user’s guide in the back, so people know the benefits of each form of milk, ways to use it, serving amounts, how to prepare for it, side effects etc. Plus it contains a list of sellers in the US and globally. Thanks for asking!

    1. Christina, the milk is quite expensive
      Would the capsules be any good I want to try for my daughter who has a degenerative brain disorder genetic

  11. Camel milk also helps with autism spectrum disorder and brain conditions. A lot of parents have shared stories of their kids suffering from behavioral conditions. They claim that drinking camel milk has improved autism and other behavioral conditions in their kids. However, these anecdotes cannot serve the purpose of evidence.

    The effects of camel milk on behavioral conditions in children have been studied in several studies. However, the number of subjects has been small. Researchers divided subjects into three groups. Researchers have compared the results of giving cow milk, raw camel milk and boiled camel milk to children with autism. The group that was given camel milk showed significant improvement

    For more details and benefits please visit to

  12. A Cure for Autism Spectrum Disorders

    Camel milk also helps with autism spectrum disorder and brain conditions. A lot of parents have shared stories of their kids suffering from behavioral conditions. They claim that drinking camel milk has improved autism and other behavioral conditions in their kids. However, these anecdotes cannot serve the purpose of evidence.

    The effects of camel milk on behavioral conditions in children have been studied in several studies. However, the number of subjects has been small. Researchers divided subjects into three groups. Researchers have compared the results of giving cow milk, raw camel milk and boiled camel milk to children with autism. The group that was given camel milk showed significant improvement

    More details you can find on

  13. A lot of people Google “what is camel milk good for” or “what are the health benefits of drinking camel milk”, especially for kids suffering from autism. Camel milk helps in reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs due to an imbalance of antioxidants and radicals in the body. This imbalance can cause tissue and cell damage. Oxidative stress is a part of the aging process.

    There is no shortage of fresh camel milk in deserts. However, camel milk is available in all parts of the world. There are some camel farms in the United States as well. According to an estimate, there are roughly 3000 camels in the country. Most of the camels are in private hands. You can also get fresh camel milk if there is a camel farm in your neighborhood. However, websites like Desert Farms supply pasteurized camel milk in the United States. People are aware of the health benefits of raw camel milk. However, online camel milk sellers sell pasteurized milk. Some people may question pasteurized camel milk benefits.

    More details you can find on

  14. Camel milk provides you with many nutrients your body needs for overall health. Camel milk’s nutritional value holds a lot of have a lot of health benefits. Protein, calorie and carb content present in the camel milk make the milk comparable to whole cow’s milk. However, the saturated fat content of camel milk is lower.

    It also provides you with health benefits of potassium, iron, calcium, B vitamins and vitamin C. Camel milk also provides unsaturated fatty acids, linoleic acid, long-chain fatty acids and other healthy fats. These are good for the health of your brain and heart.

    Half cup of camel milk provides you with 50 calories, 3 grams protein, 3 grams fat, 5 grams carbs, 29% of the daily value thiamine, 8% of the daily value riboflavin, 16% of the daily value calcium, 6% of the daily value of potassium, 6% of the daily value phosphorus and 5% of the daily value vitamin C

    More details you can find on

  15. I have diabetes I tried taking alot of bitters my glucose still high levels. I started researching on different animals with a list that was diabetes I decided to check a camel I found out that in the camel milk.

  16. Where can find this product ? I am very interested in it for my 24 year old grandson. He is on the Autisum spectrum. I live in San Antonio, TX.
    Thank you

    1. Also Camel Crazy contains a list of global suppliers, some of whom are Amish or Mennonite and will ship directly to you. They don’t market much, so my list is useful to find them. You can get an ebook online in most countries, plus print book in most too.

  17. Hi Christina, we live in Dubai. Only today psychologist assessing my daughter highlighted the red flags that she might be in ASD. While ADOS is yet to happen, we have started reading about ASD and found about Camel milk. Thanks to you for sharing the information. I wanted to ask whether homogenized milk available off the shelf would be as effective as raw milk straight from the camel? Please advise.

  18. How should we give Camel Milk to my 3 year old son..We got raw frozen one in Bangalore, India. We are just heating a bit and adding Sugar.He is able to drink 200 ml twice a day.

    Can we heat and add Sugar or any other best way to give him?

    Thanks for your help

  19. Ricki, I really enjoyed reading this in-depth article. I work for Camel Culture, so I read a lot of these types of articles. But this was a nice summary! Thanks for writing it.

    1. Ricki… The Camel Coop is no longer is business. I just work a blog on our website with Christina Adams linking to this article. Would you change the link in this article to So people have a place to buy camel milk!

  20. Camel Milk is still an unsupported practice for Autism. There really hasn’t been any evidence supported studies that have proven that it works. Parents should be wary.

  21. Camel milk also helps with autism spectrum disorder and brain conditions. A lot of parents have shared stories of their kids suffering from behavioral conditions. They claim that drinking camel milk has improved autism and other behavioral conditions in their kids. However, these anecdotes cannot serve the purpose of evidence.

    The effects of camel milk on behavioral conditions in children have been studied in several studies. However, the number of subjects has been small. Researchers divided subjects into three groups. Researchers have compared the results of giving cow milk, raw camel milk and boiled camel milk to children with autism. The group that was given camel milk showed significant improvement.

    For More details you can visit

  22. I’m writing a blog about the book Camel Crazy, and the connection between camel milk and autism.

    I’m linked to this blog as a reference…

    But in your blog, you suggest people buy camel milk from The Camel Milk Coop (… but that company went out of business!

    Camel Culture ( is the largest milk company in the USA. Feel free to update your link, and send people to them!

  23. Thanks Christina for share your valuable details on “Autism Spectrum Disorder Treated With Camel Milk,” .

    I did got to know about through webinar which was organized by my friend Hemsingh on international biodiversity day 2021.

    1. Thanks for attending my lecture, Ashish. I am sharing more information about the value of pastoralist culture to modern health and the world lately. Studies are showing that connection to nature and some traditional rural practices are useful for calming inflammation, etc.

  24. Yes camel milk help Raw camel milk .help my son with behavioral and sleeping and more .he will be 6 he drink for one year .he is still drinking i sea a progress ever single day .what I learn is you have to have patience it takes time .i recommended Raw fresh camel milk .

  25. “Camel milk is a natural treasure of the desert, offering sustenance and health benefits in every drop.”

    “The milk of the camel is like liquid gold, nourishing the body and fortifying the spirit.”

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