For years we’ve been told that milk and other dairy products are good for us—even indispensable for strong bones and healthy skin. But some nutritionists and skin experts aren’t convinced, arguing that the milk and cheese we’ve always believed to be nutritious and beneficial can actually do more harm than good. What does dairy have that makes it so detrimental to our skin and bodies? Can eliminating dairy from our diets equal healthy skin? We asked an expert to weigh in.
You Are What You Eat (Or Drink)
Fact: As of this writing, no food has ever been proven to cause skin issues like acne—not even pizza, burgers or chocolates. But Lauren Talbot, certified nutritionist and author of the book The Clear Skin Detox Diet, has reason to believe that everything we eat or drink has a negative, positive or neutral effect on our skin and bodies.
“The skin is the body’s largest eliminatory organ. This means that impurities that are not efficiently eliminated through the lungs and bowels can be eliminated via the pores,” explains Talbot. “In a way, our skin is the body’s magic mirror, displaying internal imbalances that are occurring within.”
She further notes that when food is difficult to digest—which is the case for dairy products—every process that goes on in the body slows down, including nutrient absorption and elimination of toxins, and this manifests itself through the skin.
What’s So Scary About Dairy?
So what is it about dairy that makes it so difficult to digest? According to Talbot, there are three things: casein, lactose and hormones.
All mammalian milk contains a protein called casein, an important food source rich in amino acids, carbohydrates, calcium and phosphorous. Cow milk is one of nature’s most perfect foods—but only if you’re a calf! “The casein found in cow milk is designed to nourish an 80-pound calf into a 1,500-pound mammal. Its molecule is 300 percent larger than in human milk, something that the human body will have a great difficulty breaking down,” she said.
Another problem is lactose. According to Talbot, even if you’ve developed a tolerance for lactose, this milk sugar can still pose serious threats to your digestive tract. Fortunately for us humans, a mother’s breast milk contains both this milk sugar and lactase, an enzyme that’s specifically designed to help the body break down and utilize this sugar. Unfortunately, this enzyme isn’t present in cow milk. “Without lactase the body cannot utilize lactose, and it becomes a hazard to the body and skin,” she added.
Lastly, there are hormones. Cow milk already naturally contains a considerable amount of hormones—an amount that’s both unnecessary and unhealthy for humans. But cows are also injected with synthetic forms of hormones to increase milk production. “A mother produces milk when she has given birth to a child,” Talbot explains. “A cow must be given hormones to fool its body into thinking it is with child. Hormones given to cows end up in our glass, altering the normal functioning of our body and eventually contributing to excess sebum production, clogged pores and other skin issues.”
It’s true that cow milk and cheese are important sources of protein and calcium, nutrients needed for strong bones and lean muscles. But with the facts mentioned above, the question now would be: Can a healthy diet exist without dairy?
“Absolutely,” exclaimed Talbot. “Calcium and protein found in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and collard greens are much more easily absorbed by the human body. Greens and other vegetables can leave the skin glowing and the bones healthy—and all without digestive discomfort and skin breakouts and issues.”
Aside from vegetables, eating seafood like salmon and munching seeds like chia, sesame and flax can also help you achieve the recommended daily calcium intake. Even those who got used to drinking milk and eating dairy products need not fret, because milk alternatives do exist—almond, hemp, rice and coconut milks as well as dairy-free substitutes for butter and cheese.
READERS—Have you experienced any skin issues with dairy? Did eliminating dairy from your diet help? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.