Does dairy cause acne?

Does dairy cause acne?

I love cheese.  And ice cream.  And cream in my tea and coffee.  Do you?

Most people have heard that they shouldn't eat dairy if they have acne.  I'm not a fan of big generalized pronouncements, nor eliminating entire food groups without a plan for replacing missing nutrients, but we do have to look at this issue and understand how it can affect you if you have acne.

This article will address common questions from my clients regarding dairy and acne.

What are considered dairy products? 

Dairy products are anything made from milk that comes from a mammal (cow, goat, sheep).  I'm clarifying this because there are plant milks (from beans and nuts) but that's another story.  Dairy includes milk, cream, half and half, butter and cheese (which contains milk solids) and items made of mammal milk like ice cream, yogurt, whipped cream.  Eggs are not a dairy item since they are not made from mammal milk.

Skin conditions related to dairy consumption typically show in certain areas of the face. 

Acne and Digestion of Dairy

Acne that shows up on your cheeks and forehead may be related to digestion.  Dairy naturally contains sugar and casein.  Casein is a large protein molecule which many people find difficult to break down and digest.  When its difficult to break down, you may experience symptoms such as bloating, gas, upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation.  These symptoms can be very obvious or so low level that you brush it off as no big deal.  However, your body is giving you clues. 

Hormonal Breakouts and Dairy

Breakouts on the chin and jawline are typically caused by hormonal imbalances.  What you eat can affect your hormones, and dairy is one item that can have a profound affect on your hormones.

One hormone, Dihydrot­estosterone (DHT), is converted from testosterone.  Sugar can upset blood sugar, causing an insulin spike.  This insulin spike has been shown in studies stimulate an enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT.  

When DHT is too high, it can cause excess sebum production and inflammation, which can block pores, decreasing oxygen to those skin cells in that area of blockage, and causing bacteria to flourish, making what you see as pimples.

Note: female readers might think they don't have testosterone in their bodies but they absolutely do.  Testosterone is part of your normal hormonal makeup and is needed for development of reproductive organs when young; influence sex drive, muscle development and bone health as you age.

So the bottom line is that dairy may be part of why you are having acne.  

Help!  I love dairy!

Some people have less issues around dairy because of the quantity or quality that they eat.  I've had clients who need to avoid all dairy, and others who do ok by avoiding cow dairy.  Instead they have had good results with sheep or goat milk products.  For some with digestive system related acne, a digestive enzyme capsule has been helpful.  Its best to have this reviewed by a food allergist or natural health practitioner like a naturopath.  They are able to run tests to more accurately conclude whether dairy is a problem for you.

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