When it was first suggested by a colleague over ten years ago that I stop drinking milk, I said no straight away. I loved milk and was not prepared to give it up. They say dairy (like sugar) is addictive and like any addiction; you have to want to give it up. At that time of my life I was unhappy and sought comfort in what I ate.
Over the years I have reduced my sugar in-take and stopped drinking milk but continued to eat cheese. To try and identify what was causing my flare ups I recently started a food journal and I was shocked to see how much dairy I was still consuming despite giving up milk. I realised I was eating cheese with most meals and was always over generous with butter.
Recently it was confirmed by Dr Nigma Talib (my naturopathic doctor) that I was severely intolerant to cow, sheep and goats milk. I stopped eating dairy immediately; interested to see if my allergy to dairy was the cause of my breakouts.
Of course not all acne sufferers are allergic to dairy but many say that going dairy free helped clear their skin. So what is it about dairy that causes us to breakout? This is quite a hot topic among nutritionalists, dermatologists and conventional doctors; so it is up to you to decide what you believe.
It is well documented that the hormones present in dairy interfere with chemical reactions and transmissions within our cells. This can impact our health in a number of ways but the main and most relevant to acne; is it’s link to inflammation and hormonal imbalance.
If you buy your milk from organic dairy farms who do not medicate their cows then this may not be applicable to you; as independent farmers take much better care of their animals. So if you are not ready to give up dairy just yet, you could start with researching where your milk comes from.
With the abundance of alternative, nutritious nut milks available; you could also start by making that swap first working towards eliminating cheese and butter when you are ready. Remember to always check the labels of your milk first as some are loaded with sugar and flavourings which can lead to another cause of breakouts!
We probably all know that sugar is bad for us. We deem it as a treat food and naturally try to limit the amount we consume to prevent gaining weight. But what you might not know is how much sugar can be found in everyday food items.
When I first started cutting sugar out of my diet a few months ago; I was shocked to find it hidden in food that I deemed healthy. I’ve never wanted to be that person that reads the back of a food label to check the calories and ingredients. But when you are intentionally trying to cut something out of your diet, you have to check.
It was at this point I started to find it everywhere. It was in healthy snack bars, bliss balls, my favourite granolas and even my savoury snacks. More worryingly I discovered sugar was frequently the largest ingredient.
By reading food labels I began to feel more in control of what I was eating. I was proud to know that I was nourishing my body instead of mindlessly putting food in my mouth. Of course there is always room for treat days once in a while but to be honest, once I cut sugar from my diet it no longer had the same hold over me like it once did. I didn’t crave it anymore and I didn’t feel like I was going without.
Naturally, this new sense of control was starting to have a positive impact on my mental health and I started to feel really positive about the direction I was headed.
So how does sugar increase our chances of breakouts?
You might already know that when we eat our favourite sweet treats, our body has a very clever way to stabilise our blood sugar levels. Every time we eat something sugary our body produces the hormone insulin and when produced in large volume it causes inflammation. In addition sugar also has the ability to unbalance our hormones. This is also largely due to the over production of insulin which leads to an increased production of testosterone.
In addition to cutting out the white, refined sugar I have also stopped eating white, refined carbohydrates; which once digested turn into glucose.
Although fruit contains a lot of fructose, I’m still keeping a variety of fruit in my diet as it is natural sugar providing vitamins and antioxidants to nourish and protect my skin.
Changing my diet was one of the hardest things I have ever had to commit to. But if changing the way I eat could stop my thirteen year struggle with acne; then it is worth trying!