Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Experimenting with Reducing Dairy Consumption

 My pursuit of clear, calm skin feels never ending. But it is becoming more and more clear that my persistent cystic acne is very much related to my diet, and the impact that it has on my endocrine system.

This week, in addition to keeping up the no sugar, I am going to cap my dairy intake and make what I do eat full fat, to what impact these changes have on my skin.

Whether milk impacts on acne is still considered contentious, but in the same way as in the sugar debate, the milk lobby is pretty strong.  Several studies published over the last 5 years have shown a correlation between higher levels of milk consumption and high levels of acne, and there is some evidence to suggest an even greater correlation between skim milk and acne.

 If you want to read some of the studies, check here, here, here, and here (abstracts and executive summaries).

Recent reviews of all the evidence from the last 50 years of diet/acne studies have also shown a tangible link between the consumption of dairy and suffering from acne, mainly due to the growth hormones that are naturally present in milk, which are called Insulin-like Growth Factor, which stimulates insulin production and helps baby cows grow. According one of the studies listed above, IGF-1 in cows can bind to the same protein chain in humans, so its effects on us become more potent.

The other thing that really interested me is the whole milk vs skim milk thing. There is some suggestion that skim milk is worse for acne prone skin as the process of removing the fat also removes some of the hormones that help balance the effect. The idea is that if you must drink milk, at least make it whole milk (this could be said to be true about all foods, the closer we get to unprocessed food the better).

I'm not going to pretend to understand all the science. I don't. I understand enough to be able to make an informed decision, and do what is right for me.

Right now that means limiting my dairy intake as far as possible. For me, that means I am not quitting altogether. Like with the sugar, I am not going to sweat it if I am out one day and really want a cake with lashings of cream, or a strudel with custard, I am not going to say no. Lets face it, I do not have a life or death thing with milk, just a skin thing. So I'm thinking just a splash of full fat milk in my 3-4 cups of tea a day (probably works out to about 40ml milk per day) and see how it goes. This is only because I don't think there is a good substitute for milk in tea, otherwise I'd probably avoid it altogether. I'm not that worried about my skin enough to give up my morning tea (or the afternoon tea, or the pre bed tea...), and I'm British, so tea without milk just isn't going to cut it! Nor will an alternative tea. Trust me, I'm a much better human being when I have had a cup of strong black tea with a splash of milk in the morning.

So, lets see if this is the final piece of the jigsaw. I suspect this is just the beginning of a switch to as whole a diet as I can manage (within reason, dinners out notwithstanding!). I'll add my thoughts about reducing milk to my weekly sugar update.

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