Milk has often been called nature’s perfect food. And it may be, if you are a calf. But in human beings can milk cause acne?
In the same way that a mother’s breast milk is meant for babies, a cow’s milk is meant for it’s calf. You see, cows only produce milk after they have given birth. The cow will continue to produce milk as long as it is ‘milked’. This can last for 2-3 years until the cow’s milk dries up, then the cow must get pregnant again to produce milk. So is the life of a dairy cow.
Now, a cow’s milk is designed to help a baby cow grow very fast. For this reason it is full of anabolic hormones. If you’ve ever seen anyone who uses steroids, you know that anabolic hormones cause acne. There are over 50 different hormones in your average glass of milk, even in organic and raw milk, as these are natural hormones we are talking about, not the bovine growth hormone some dairy cows are injected with.
There have finally been some large controlled trials that have found a relationship between dairy products and acne. These trials showed an increase in the severity of acne as well as the number of people who got acne. Milk may not cause acne in everyone, but if you have acne, you should experiment with not drinking milk and see if that helps.
So how do dairy products and milk cause acne?
There are a few different ways. We will look into the hormone connection as we briefly discussed, as well as inflammation and blood sugar levels.
Hormones and acne
Some of the hormones contained in that glass of milk designed to make a calf grow rapidly are IGF-1 or insulin like growth factor-1. IGF-1 stimulates sebum production. Sebum is the oily/waxy substance secreted by your glands that makes your face and hair oily or greasy.
Milk also contains DHT (dihydrotestosterone) precursors. Once again, DHT causes more sebum production.
Insulin is another factor in the milk/acne problem. Milk contains insulin, which, once again, stimulates the production of sebum. Plasma insulin responses are elevated after drinking milk, and elevated insulin is associated with acne.
Inflammation and acne
Whether they know it or not, many people are allergic, even mildly, to whey and casein which are proteins in milk. Our immune system will attack these foreign proteins which leads to inflammation throughout the body and can result in acne.
Another source of inflammation is all of the bacteria and toxins that can be found in milk. The majority of dairy cows live in less than ideal conditions, eating unnatural food to them that is full of pesticides. Even with organic milk, the cow is still fed a diet that is unnatural to them in most cases, although it is organic. Cow’s are meant to eat grass, not corn, oats, soy, and other manufactured feeds that make them sick.
Because of this unnatural feed and the filthy conditions that most dairy cows are forced to live in, they also get regular shots of antibiotics to try and keep them healthy. How much of these antibiotics are passed on when you drink their milk?
One of the main reasons for pasteurization of milk is to kill off all the bacteria in the milk due to the filthy conditions the cows live in. Pasteurization of milk kills off all the vitamins it contains which then have to be added back in. It also kills off the natural enzymes that help us digest the milk, one of the reasons some people are lactose intolerant.
Blood Sugar Levels and acne
Milk contains sugar, albeit ‘naturally occurring’. The lower the fat content of the milk, the worse it will affect your blood sugar levels (think skim milk or 1%).
Sugar raises insulin levels, which promotes the production of sebum and other hormones such as testosterone in women. Raised blood sugar levels also cause inflammation.
The bottom line on milk and acne
If you drink milk or consume dairy products will you get acne? Not necessarily. Many people’s bodies can handle the effects of cow’s milk. However, if you have acne and you drink milk or consume dairy products, there is a good chance that the milk is making your acne worse. There is some evidence that shows that milk is the worst offender, some people can tolerate cheese and yoghurt and not get breakouts.
Bottom line, cow’s milk is meant to be consumed by cows, not humans. Of the 5000 or so mammals on this earth, humans are the only ones who continue to drink milk after we have been weaned from our mothers. Your body does not require it.