On a recent trip to Whole Foods the cashier noticed the items in my basket and asked if I were a vegan. She expressed her interest in trying it out. Like most people, she was a little reluctant because she assumed it would be too hard. She went on to say that even if she didn’t commit to trying a vegan diet, she at least wanted to try to avoid dairy. I noticed that she had acne and I encouraged her to definitely work on getting dairy out of her diet. Let me explain why.


First, I wrote a blog last year about why dairy, especially milk, does not do the body good. It’s called, “Got Milk, Let’s Hope Not.” I addressed some of the common myths associated with why people think they need dairy, especially for the calcium and Vitamin D. So, I won’t get too deep into that aspect. You can go back to review that blog post.

According to statistics we now have more than 17 million acne sufferers, and there are dozens of infomercials offering topical solutions to fix it. As an advocate for following a plant based diet, I can tell you, the primary solution to most acne (severe cases of acne may be different) is not found in what you put on your skin, but more so in what you put in your mouth.

A 2007 study carried out by Harvard School of Public Health found that there was a clear link between those who drank milk regularly and suffered with acne. Interestingly, those who drank skimmed milk suffered with the worst breakouts, with a 44% increase in the likelihood of developing blemishes. It is thought that processing the milk increases the levels of hormones in the drink.

According to doctors, much of the milk that we drink is produced by pregnant cows and contains high levels of hormones that can send oil glands into overdrive. Progesterone, Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1) as well as compounds that the human body turns into dehydrotestosterone (DHT) are passed on to the milk, which can aggravate acne. Unfortunately, organic milk from cows is not exempt. The hormones in organic milk are just as bad.

So, here are a few things you can do to improve your acne through your diet. Each of these have anti-inflammatory effects on the skin.

  • Replace the calcium that you would normally get from dairy by eating other foods such as calcium-rich leafy greens like kale, mustard greens, bok choy, and broccoli.
  • Incorporate more omega 3 fatty acids into your diet. Though fish is the main source of omega 3’s, there are several plant based sources, including flaxseed, walnuts and canola oil. Flaxseed is the best plant source for essential fatty acids.
  • Consume more antioxidants, like Vitamins A, C, and E, which can be found in a host of fruits and vegetables (i.e. kale, spinach, sweet potatoes, oranges, etc.)
  • Consume more flavanoids, which are found in red wine, colorful fruits and vegetables, etc.
  • Drink green tea.

So, even if you’re skeptical as to whether or not dairy is causing your acne, follow a dairy-free diet for at least four weeks to see if your skin improves.


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