The Dairy Acne Connection?
Submitted to the AllergyKids Foundation by Fiona Childs of Food Intolerance Info August 10, 2010
There is a difference between anecdotal and empirical evidence in science. Medical science relies on the empirical for developing treatment regimens, but in many cases it is the anecdotal that prompts the research to acquire the empirical evidence in the first place. This is what is going on with the dairy and acne connection. There is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence but not enough empirical evidence for the medical community to make a declarative statement that there is a connection between dairy consumption and acne. There are many doctors that have, however, and bottom line is that the theory makes sense and seems to be real.
It is proven that food sensitivities and allergies can cause skin eczema. Really now, how much of a stretch can it be that there may be a causative association between dairy sensitivity and acne? Our mainstream medical community says it is not good to rely on what is commonly referred to as “old wives tales” to establish a treatment regimen for any malady or disease. However, the preponderance of the anecdotal evidence is strong enough for the wise to take heed on this occasion with the dairy – acne connection. Take heed enough to at least investigate the claim and for some of us out there, enough to follow the claim and see results!
Maybe you are familiar with what Canadian dermatologist Dr. F.W. Danby began to discover when he investigated the possible association of hormones in milk products and acne. Most of us know about the added hormones that cows are supplemented with, but many of us have not taken a sec to stop and think that cow’s milk is from a lactating bovine that is hormonal to begin with because she is lactating! Though the word “cow” is used in general speech to define just about any bovine, it is a specific term. Milk comes from cows that are female bovines which are lactating due to the birth of a calf, and in many cases because they are given additional hormones to help them lactate more or longer. That is why they are lactating and what they lactate is what we call “milk” and is what we drink and make many other products from.
Some take anecdotal evidence and do something such as to completely stop ingesting cow’s milk in any form. Then empirical proof (at least for them) is discovered that the dairy was indeed the cause of the acne. Big medicine and all of the studies doesn’t matter them. (Good for them to take charge of their own health!) Unfortunately, the truth is that most medical doctors still do not receive adequate training in nutrition to even notice a causative factor of just how much diet influences health on a more immediate level. Sure, they know about how saturated fats consumed for years will most likely cause things like atherosclerosis, but other cause/effect relationships noticed by the public at large are generally ignored by big medicine. Food intolerance is something that is commonly overlooked by mainstream medical doctors.
It is not because big medicine doesn’t want to get people healthy, but for them, there needs to be proof. Even just for the sake of liability, there needs to be proof. Medicine also progresses because of income. Pharmaceutical companies that do the big research studies will not do a study without a valid financial reason. There needs to be a strong indication that a disease process is actually occurring, and the hope of developing a pharmaceutical to treat it. And, truth be told, there isn’t any money in just telling people who are sensitive to avoid the offending food.
If dairy products are proven to be a cause of acne for many who suffer from it, there is no profit for any company in big medicine to just tell people that there is a connection and to just avoid dairy. So if you have any thought whatsoever that dairy may be the cause of you or someone you know having to suffer acne, then follow your gut (pun intended) and cut out the dairy for awhile.
While there is not yet enough empirical evidence to support the fact that there is a connection between dairy intake and acne, there is some scientific evidence and enough, in my opinion, for those who suffer with acne, to at least try it out. Here are ten facts I found in researching the dairy – acne connection:
(1) Milk contains hormones. Specifically, milk contains androgen hormones. Testosterone is an androgen hormone and there are plenty of studies that show a correlation between testosterone levels and acne.
(2) Androgen hormones can cause increased production of “sebum.” Sebum is an oily substance that comes from the glands underneath the skin. Excess sebum is produced when testosterone is high, which can then cause, ugh…pimples.
(3) High Glycemic Index foods have been shown to increase insulin, which in turn, increases androgen hormones, specifically testosterone. Some dairy products are high in sugar and thus have a high glycemic index which increases insulin levels and could cause or worsen acne.
(4) Some argue that milk does not cause acne, but rather affects acne severity. Either way, if you are prone to acne, eliminating milk may help.
(5) Science relies on placebo to test whether findings are significant enough to show a correlation or causation. Studies on the dairy – acne connection are difficult to perform because there is nothing that can be used as a placebo for milk.
(6) Many dermatologists who have their acne patients cut out dairy from their diets, report a reduction in acne.
(7) There is also a correlation between iodine and acne. Some cow feed is fortified with iodine which comes through in the milk and may contribute to the dairy – acne connection. Further, medications given to some cows contain iodine which comes through to their milk. Also, equipment used to process the milk is often treated with iodine, contaminating the milk as well.
(8) All milk contains hormones. Hormone-Free milk does not exist.
(9) One study showed that people who drank 2-3 glasses of milk had a 44% higher chance of developing severe acne (NaturalNews).
(10) Some people are predisposed to react to milk because they are sensitive or allergic to it. It is believed that drinking milk causes inflammation in some people when the body sees milk as an “invader” and attacks it. They believe this reaction can result in acne.
If you believe you have acne caused in whole or in part by dairy consumption, the solution could be easy. Cut out the dairy and see what happens! This is by far the least expensive way to clear up acne if dairy is the cause. No money spent on infomercial products promising to clear up those blemishes. Not even any money spent on dairy products since they will be avoided.
If you decide to do this be sure to cut out all of the dairy in order to truly see if your acne clears. Look for words such as “whey,” “lactose,” “casein,” “caseinates,” “butter” and “cream” on the labels of the foods you eat. Sensitivities to dairy can be caused by any or all components of milk. And be sure to ask your healthcare professional if you should take a calcium supplement to replace the amount of calcium you will lose from not consuming dairy. In most instances, eating enough of other foods that are rich in calcium will suffice.
Lastly, if you eliminate dairy, you may experience dairy cravings for a short period of time following the initial elimination. If you see that your acne is being caused or worsened by dairy consumption, there is likely an array of dysfunction occurring inside your system as well. If your acne clears from eliminating dairy, you may notice you feel better overall and that would be another great side-effect. At that point, in the face of dairy craving, I believe it is truly important to keep my personal philosophy in mind; Nothing tastes as good as HEALTHY feels!