The Dairy-Acne Link

The Dairy-Acne Link

For many, acne can (or was) a challenge during teen years. Obviously the worst time to have anything visually challenging that could fuel ridicule at such a vulnerable time. Eventually, most grow out of it, yet some are left with scars heavy outbreaks may have caused and there are still a few that struggle with adult acne.

If you are a teen trying everything you can to stop your face (and sometimes back) from exploding with nasty pustules or an adult attempting to ward off this annoying skin challenge, there may be a dairy-acne link you may not be aware of.

It’s Just Hormones

Yes, this may be true. You could be experiencing acne due to hormones throwing your system into a complete whirlwind. Things like excessive sebum production, hair canal blockages, excessive skin cell growth (also known as hyper-keratinization), and inflammation due to the immune system attacking bacteria in blocked pores.

Add in many other natural, hormonal occurrences especially during puberty such as insulin production, excessive androgens, increased testosterone and estrogen release. These all can be factors as to why acne occurs. However, sometimes these hormones are exacerbated by diet, particularly dairy which carries a barrage of its own hormones derived from its host, the gentle cow.

According to Acne Einstein, science based natural acne treatment,

“Eating sugar and refined carbohydrates causes the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin and IGF-1. Over time this type of diet leads to insulin resistance and chronically high levels of these acne-causing hormones…So it’s not a surprise milk has plenty of IGF-1 and other growth hormones. These hormones make their way into your blood and eventually to your skin where they stimulate sebum production and skin cell growth.”

Long Term Research

A combination of 50 years of clinical studies have been compiled in research results to finally determine that, “…eating foods with a high glycemic index (GI) and drinking milk not only aggravated acne, but in some cases triggered it, too.” (Skin Inc.)

These findings refute the long believed disassociation of diet’s effects on acne through studies carried out in the 1960’s. Many dermatologists have cited these studies and continued the prescription of synthetic medicines to attempt to combat acne production regardless of side effects and an overall ‘Band-aid’ response.

Now, as evidence continues to surface regarding the diet, particularly dairy-acne, link dermatologists are changing their tune.

One 2007 study by Harvard School of Public Health concluded that,

“We found a positive association with acne for intake of total milk and skim milk. We hypothesize that the association with milk may be because of the presence of hormones and bioactive molecules in milk.”

Jennifer Burris, researcher and doctoral candidate within New York University’s Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health comments,

“More recently, dermatologists and registered dietitians have revisited the diet-acne relationship and become increasingly interested in the role of medical nutritional therapy in acne treatment.”

Skip the GI

If you suffer from acne talk to your doctor about avoiding foods that are high on the glycemic index (GI) such as those that are highly processed, especially dairy.

Beth Shapouri, a writer for Glamour magazine did just that as research for her article,

‘The Great Dairy Experiment: Can Giving Up Cow’s Milk Help Your Acne? I Tested it Out’ (10/8/14)

It didn’t happen overnight but after sticking to her diet, Shapouri commented,

“Now after five months of no dairy, my skin isn’t prefect but it’s improved so much that my mom—the woman who has seen my skin go through every phase of my life—commented this weekend that my skin looks 1,000 times better. And so I officially join the ranks of the dairy-free.”

Avoiding dairy and other foods may be a good start for healing your skin. Ask your doctor or dermatologist if giving up dairy may be a good idea. Given the evidence, it could be worth a try.



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