This has been up for much debate over the years. As dairy’s popularity decreases while the number of nut- and seed-based alternatives skyrocket, we begin to wonder how bad cow juice really is for our body as a whole. Many of us have trouble digesting it, which is no surprise considering the amount of processing and chemical additives that go into it, from hormones the cow was given to how the milk is treated before we consume it.
Some of us can handle dairy better than others, that’s for certain. Lactose is a type of sugar that naturally occurs in milk, and that is the main compound that a lot of us—about 65% of the world’s population, in fact—don’t have the ability to break down properly. However, there are varying degrees of lactose intolerance, which is why some people do OK with yogurt and hard cheeses (enzymes in the bacterial process of fermentation break down the lactose sugars, making it more tolerable) while ice cream and milk are a death sentence—or long night of stomach pain and trips to the bathroom.
But what about our skin? How do the compounds in milk and the elements of processing affect us? Is that a theory to sell more wellness-brand food alternatives, or is that the real deal? Science says it’s for real, baby.
Milk contains the compounds whey and casein, which are the primary amino acids—aka proteins—found in dairy products. These particular types of proteins are meant to stimulate hormones and thus growth and development in baby calves, but they can also affect hormones in humans.
This is because when we consume these proteins, they release a hormone called IGF-1, which literally translates to insulin-like growth factor, and indeed, acts similarly to insulin. The secretion of this hormone causes acne breakouts.
Another reason why this hormone intake can cause acne is because all our body’s functions depend entirely on our system of hormones. When something disrupts the delicate, intricate balance of hormones, a cascade of repercussions can ensue, and breakouts are often our body’s way of telling us something is off.
Because the purpose of milk is to stimulate growth—with hormones naturally present in it, occasional hormone additives given to growing cows, and the fact that many milk-producing cows are pregnant—dairy can produce androgens. An excess of androgens wreaks havoc on our hormonal system, especially in women, who need only 1/10th of the amount of androgens as men.
In short, dairy is not the devil, but must be considered in extreme moderation. It’s also important to understand the forms in which it is delivered—yogurt and aged cheeses contain less lactose than heavy cream, soft cheeses, or ice cream. When cooking at home, subbing coconut milk or coconut cream works in many soups and sauce recipes, and even in baking, without much compromise in taste or flavor. While we are big proponents of living our lives fully here at Poosh, a lifestyle of awareness and moderation is the key to longevity and of course, clear skin. Duh.