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Does Dairy Cause Acne Or Is It Your Gut Health?

Updated: May 2

Debunking dairy: Is dairy a skin superfood?

I know what you're thinking.... you’ve never really heard someone call dairy a skin superfood and based on what you've been previously told about dairy this seems hard to believe. Dairy is often a controversial topic, especially in the realm of skincare. For years, people have blamed it for causing acne and other issues, however, there are so many nutritional benefits from dairy that are essential for the human body, particularly in terms of skin health.

Milk pouring down and splashing everywhere

  Photo by Anita Jankovic on Unsplash

So why can’t people digest dairy?

Many people can struggle to tolerate dairy despite its nutritional value, experiencing symptoms like bloating, constipation, acne, and fatigue. The reasons for dairy intolerance can vary, but a common factor is poor digestion, which usually comes from poor gut and metabolic health. It's important to remember food sensitivities are a symptom, not a root cause. You have not cleared your acne by going "dairy-free"- you have temporarily suppressed your acne and the imbalance that is causing it.

Can you not digest dairy or is it a problem with your gut health?

So now you're probably wondering why your body can’t seem to digest dairy, so let's look into why dairy may not be the issue, but rather your gut health.

Digesting Dairy:

Dairy contains protein, fat, and lactose, a carbohydrate that many struggle to digest. Some tolerate cheese (low in lactose) better than milk (high in lactose). So heres how it works: your body needs to break down lactose into glucose and galactose to digest it properly. An enzyme called lactase does that job and its made by the cells lining your gut.

Inflammation & Dairy Sensitivity:

Inflammation in the gut can lead to not enough production of lactase, which is known as secondary lactase deficiency. Without enough lactase, lactose isn't properly digested, causing digestive discomfort and various symptoms like bloating, gas, headaches, and skin issues.

Gut Healing & Dairy Tolerance:

Addressing underlying gut issues can improve overall digestive health and potentially allow for successful dairy reintroduction. It's really important to know the underlying reasons for digestive issues. One way to understand where you are with your metabolic and gut health is through hair mineral and stool testing which can provide insights beyond just cutting out dairy to suppress your symptoms. I find the HTMA and GI map tests to be the most definitive and the easiest way to find the root cause!

If I can't consume dairy yet, what’s the best milk alternative?

Besides "why people can't tolerate dairy", the most common question I get is what milk alternative I recommend. If you’re still working on your gut and metabolic health and aren't quite ready to reintroduce dairy yet, you’re probably wondering what milk alternative is the best for your health. Before I share my recommended plant-based milk, I want to first compare regular milk to a few non-dairy choices. For starters, 1 cup of milk has about 150 calories and 8g of protein, fat, and carbs. Dairy is an extremely balanced food, so when you’re replacing milk with something else, it is important to keep this in mind. All plant-based milk alternatives have low protein content except for soy milk, but that can be a problem if you're allergic to soy or have other health concerns. Plant-based alternatives also tend to contain synthetic additives and vitamins which isn't ideal for our health. Another thing to think about with these alternatives is the presence of anti-nutrients like phytic acid, which can block mineral absorption. So, what's my top recommendation for a milk alternative?

Without a doubt, coconut milk!

When my clients are working towards repairing their gut and metabolic health, to be able to rid themselves of food sensitivities like dairy, I always recommend coconut milk as an alternative until their gut is in a better state. Coconut milk boasts lower levels of phytic acid and is rich in saturated fats and medium-chain triglycerides, both beneficial for hormonal and metabolic health. Additionally, it's high in potassium, promoting thyroid and overall well-being. However, it's essential to note that coconut milk is low in protein. If you’re using it as a substitute for protein-rich options like Greek yogurt, consider adding additional protein sources like collagen or bone broth protein.

What are the benefits of dairy?

When it comes to staying healthy, calcium is super important. It helps with things like keeping our blood sugar levels steady and managing stress. We all know dairy is a great source of calcium that our bodies can easily use. But why does this matter so much? Well, calcium does way more than just keep our bones strong; it also helps control our blood sugar levels. Having too much calcium can mess with how our cells take in sugar, leading to insulin issues and low blood sugar. But not having enough calcium can mess with how much insulin our bodies make, causing high blood sugar levels. And even though foods like spinach and almonds have calcium too, it's not as easy for our bodies to absorb, which can make getting enough calcium a bit tricky.

The Thyroid Connection:

Calcium isn't just for strong bones; it's super important for our whole body. Calcium helps keep our pH levels balanced and our nerves in check. But if our calcium levels get out of whack, it can mess things up. Not having enough calcium can make us feel more anxious and stressed out all the time. Having too much calcium, which may show up as high levels on an HTMA (hair tissue mineral analysis) test, doesn't just weaken our bones but also slows down energy production. A sluggish metabolism messes with everything from digestion to hormone balance to how we deal with stress, showing just how important calcium is for keeping us healthy all around.

Does the quality of dairy matter?

Raw vs. Pasteurized

You may be wondering if the quality of dairy matters, and the answer would be YES. Raw dairy is the best source of bio-available calcium and unfortunately, when dairy is pasteurized or homogenized, the calcium level is much lower. Raw dairy, which is essentially unpasteurized and unprocessed, offers a range of benefits compared to pasteurized dairy. So, what are the benefits?

1. Preservation of Nutrients:

The pasteurization process involves heating milk to high temperatures to kill "harmful" bacteria, but it also destroys all the good bacteria, that are essential for overall health.

2. Enhanced Digestibility:

Raw dairy contains natural enzymes that help with the digestion of lactose and proteins, making it easier for some individuals to digest raw dairy compared to pasteurized dairy. This can be beneficial for those with lactose intolerance or sensitivity to processed dairy products.

3. Supports Gut Health:

Raw dairy contains good bacteria, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium, which support a healthy gut microbiome. These probiotics may help improve digestion, boost immunity, and reduce inflammation in the digestive tract.

4. Reduced Risk of Allergies:

Some people who experience symptoms of dairy intolerance or allergies to pasteurized dairy may find that they can tolerate raw dairy better. The preservation of natural enzymes and proteins in raw dairy may reduce the risk of triggering allergic reactions or sensitivities in certain individuals.

5. Potential Anti-inflammatory Properties:

Raw dairy contains bioactive compounds, such as immunoglobulins and cytokines, which may have anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming raw dairy products could potentially help reduce inflammation in the body and alleviate symptoms of inflammatory conditions.

Some people believe that pasteurization is necessary to kill harmful bacteria in raw milk but that’s why I believe it’s important to source raw dairy from reputable and certified producers to ensure quality and safety! Your metabolism will thank you for the switch! If you can’t find raw dairy near you, then you're probably wondering what the next best option is.

What are the different types of dairy?

Dairy products come with a ton different of labels, which can make knowing which product you should purchase overwhelming. So, let's break down the different labels:


Raw milk that hasn't undergone any heat treatment. This will be the most nutrient-rich.

Low Pasteurized:

Subjected to mild heat to kill harmful bacteria while preserving some nutrients.


Heated to a higher temperature to eliminate bacteria, extending shelf life but reducing nutrient content.


Exposed to ultra-high temperatures for longer shelf life, but may sacrifice taste and nutritional value.


Processed to evenly distribute fat particles, creating a uniform texture.


Contains natural fat separation, resulting in a creamier texture and potential health benefits from intact fat globules.


Animals graze on pasture, enjoying a natural diet and lifestyle.


Animals may be confined to feedlots or barns, with limited access to pasture.


Fed primarily on grass (typically not at the end though), which is closer to their natural diet.


Fed grains such as corn or soy, which may alter nutrient profiles and fatty acid composition.


Raised on a grass diet throughout their entire life cycle (even at the end), ensuring optimal nutrition.


Produced without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, or antibiotics, following strict organic standards.


May contain synthetic additives and be produced using conventional farming methods. Each label carries implications for taste, nutrition, and ethical considerations.

If you don't have access to raw dairy, I would recommend that your next best option would be to source organic, grass-fed milk with no additives but it’s important to just do your best with what you have access to!

So how do I reintroduce dairy?

If ditching dairy has left your stomach feeling better, there are ways to bring it back into your diet without causing trouble. It's all about tuning in to what your body's telling you and sorting out any gut issues you might have. Start by giving your gut some TLC—fixing up your gut bacteria can make it easier to handle dairy. Figuring out why dairy bothers you in the first place and working on healing your gut and metabolism is key. Once you've done the groundwork, reintroduction can begin like this:

Month 1:

Start with a small amount of hard cheese like parmesan (aged is best) with one meal every other day, you can then begin to slowly increase by eating parmesan with every meal every day for the next four weeks. If you notice that you are experiencing symptoms at this stage, then that means you need to stop the reintroduction and go back to working on your gut and metabolic health.

Month 2:

The next step is to add in a piece of goat or sheep cheese with a meal every other day and slowly increase to larger pieces daily for the next month. If this causes any symptoms for you, go back to month one and try again in another couple of months.

Month 3:

Now you can start to add in a spoonful of goat or sheep milk/ yogurt every other day and then slowly transition into daily spoonful’s, which will eventually become multiple spoonfuls, and lastly bowls or cups over the next 4 weeks. If this causes any issues, go back to month 2 and try again after a couple of months.

Month 4:

This is when you can begin to ass in a small piece of grass-fed cow’s cheese (aged is easiest to digest) once every day and then increase this to daily and larger pieces over the next 4 weeks. If symptoms arise, go back to month 3 and try again in a month or two.

Month 5:

In this month you can add in a spoonful of grass-fed cow’s milk or yogurt every other day and then slowly increase this to multiple spoonfuls and then lastly bowls or cups. If you notice any issues arise, go back to month 4 and try again later.

I've witnessed many of my clients achieve success with this method. After dedicating six months to improving their gut health and gradually reintroducing dairy, they've been able to enjoy dairy products without any issues. If you’re interested in working together to improve your metabolic health, I provide complimentary calls to discuss your options. Let's chat and see how we can get you on the right track!

Is dairy worth the effort?

In my opinion, yes, dairy has so many nutrients that are essential for optimal health. It’s got everything you need, from a perfect macro balance to loads of vitamins and minerals – including bioavailable calcium, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2, and important minerals like magnesium, potassium, and selenium – dairy is superior to any plant-based milk nutritionally. And let's debunk the myth surrounding saturated fat – it's not the villain it's made out to be. Saturated fat in dairy offers protection and plays a crucial role in hormone production. Cholesterol, which is also found in dairy, is another misunderstood part that is essential for making hormones and overall health.

So... if you've been missing out on dairy's nourishing benefits, don't hesitate to reintroduce it into your diet. Take it slow, listen to your body, and focus on holistic gut healing – soon, you'll be able to enjoy all the advantages dairy has to offer. If you need guidance, don't hesitate to contact us.

P.S. Watch my FREE Clear Skin Masterclass to learn exactly how to get to the root root of your acne. This is a must watch if you are starting your natural skin healing journey! You will learn the steps I take to get my clients life long results. 



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