If you suffer from acne, dairy is one of the worst triggers out there and could easily be disrupting your own hormone balance and making your acne worse. So today, I wanted to talk about the best dairy free milk alternatives to help you clear your acne.
how does milk affect acne?
If you’re hormones are troublesome and you’re suffering from persistent skin problems then milk, cheese and yogurt from cows dairy is one of the first things you need to cut back on. According to the American Journal of Dermatology, cows milk contains, on average, 60 different hormones which are present in all types of dairy; pasteurised, grass-fed, homogenised, raw, organic, yogurt, cheese etc – there’s basically no escaping the acne causing hormones in cow milk!
It makes sense when you think about it, cows milk is designed to grow their baby calves very rapidly. All these growth hormones mean that milk contains high levels of androgens such as testosterone and IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor). These two androgens are now widely known to contribute to skin disorders such as acne and eczema. Not only does milk contain acne causing hormones, dairy products can also have a huge impact on your insulin levels too which can have a knock-on effect on your skin.
Cows dairy is problematic for acne because it contains highly inflammatory A1 casein. A1 casein should be avoided by anyone who suffers from acne or any sort of hormonal issues such as endometriosis, PCOS and even just chronic PMS. However, Goats, Ewe and Buffalo dairy contain A2 casein and most women don’t suffer the same inflammatory response as cows dairy. It’s one of those things that you’re going to have to try it and see how you get on. I recently read on this post by Lara Briden that if you used to suffer with regular ear/throat infections as a child, it’s a very good indicator to whether you can or can’t tolerate dairy. Those who suffered with upper respiratory infections as a child should avoid dairy completely as those childhood infections “were driven by A1 casein, and in adulthood, the same immune-disruption manifests as other inflammatory conditions.” (L.Briden, 2013)
Unfortunately, quitting milk can be quite tricky… You need to become a savvy label reader as milk derivatives like powdered milk is often found in everything, from soups to crisps! One of the first things I recommend doing is replacing your cows milk with a dairy free alternative as cows milk often has the highest concentration of potentially problematic hormones. The process of fermentation (a process used to create kefir, yogurt and cheese) actually deactivates some of the IGF-1 (1) but I still advise to go completely tee-total to start with so you can reset your system and kick start your body on the path to healing. Whether you like a splash of milk in your tea, cream in your curries or yogurt with your granola for breakfast, if you’re serious about healing your acne you need to switch your milk for a dairy free alternative. Luckily it’s now easier than ever to get your hands on a carton of shop-bought, dairy-free milk – just make sure you check the labels and avoid any with added sugar or lots of preservatives!
the best dairy free milks for acne prone skin
So, you’re probably thinking you can make the simple switch to the ever popular almond milk and be done with it? Unfortunately when suffering from acne we need to be extra cautious about everything we put in our bodies, particularly during the first stages of healing when we want to put all our focus into reduce inflammation and bringing the body back into balance.
When suffering from any sort of inflammatory skin disorder, whether it’s acne or eczema, keeping inflammation down is one of the key things we need to do in order to heal. One of the best ways to decrease inflammation is to make sure we’re getting the right balance of Omega-6:Omega-3. Ideally, we should be looking at a ratio of between 1:1 and 5:1, but with the modern diet containing a lack of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 and way too much inflammatory Omega-6 hidden in many foods, the ratio for a Western diet is more likely to be around 17:1. Unhealthy foods deep fried in vegetable oils (sunflower/canola/rape seed) are a big no-no when it comes to our skin as they all contain a high percentage of inflammatory Omega-6 and very little anti-inflammatory Omega-3 which can throw our omega level totally out of balance. But here’s the shocker…‘healthy’ nuts and seeds can be an issue too!
When switching over to a healthy lifestyle, our intake of nuts usually skyrockets! We replace our mid afternoon chocolate biscuit for a handful of nuts, ground almonds become a key ingredient in our baking and nut milks form a base for our porridge and shakes. These ‘healthier’ lifestyle switches are a great start, but if you’ve cut out the dairy, sugar and gluten but are still breaking out, then it’s time to really crack down on the foods that could be causing inflammation within the body.
Although they have many health benefits, nuts and seeds can contain really high amounts of Omega-6 and not much Omega-3, you may have heard that Walnuts, for example, are a great source of anti-inflammatory Omega-3. However, while they may be high in Omega-3 (9g/100g) compared to other nuts, they’re also crazy high in Omega 6 too (38g/100g)!
The exception to this rule is Macadamia nuts, tiger nuts and coconut (which is actually a fruit, not a nut), which contain a much more balanced ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Unfortunately, Macadamia nut milk and nut butter are not readily available on the market so it means a little extra work in the kitchen is needed if you want to create your own, but don’t fear! I’ve got the perfect recipe for macadamia nut milk below.
the best dairy free milks for acne prone skin
When our diet contains an abundance of nut-based foods including nut milks, energy bars, bliss balls, ground almond based desserts and granola, it’s easy to see how those pro-inflammatory omega-6 levels can creep up and potentially cause problems with our skin, especially if we’re not eating lots of healthy sources of omega-3’s from foods such as salmon or chia seeds!
To give you a comparison on the omega-6 levels of various foods, coconut contains just 0.7g of omega-6 per 100g while macadamia nuts contains 1.5g, avocado 1.66g, egg yolks 3.5g, hazelnuts 5.5g, cashews 7.8g, almonds 12.1g and vegetable oil contains up to 74.6g of pro-inflammatory omega-6 per 100g! In fact, 1 single tablespoon (14g) of vegetable oil contains, on average, a crazy 9.5g of inflammatory fat!
If you’re looking for a nut-based milk, then coconut, macadamia and tiger nuts are the best options for keeping inflammation down and your omega-6 levels in check as they contain a balanced ratio of omega-3:omega-6. All these dairy free alternatives are highly nutritious choices, containing plenty of vitamins and minerals, including acne healing minerals such as magnesium and zinc. If your diet doesn’t really include huge amounts of nuts during the day then almond milk is a great option – just make sure it doesn’t contain sugar, sweeteners or fillers such as rice.
Coconut, macadamia nuts and tiger nuts can all be made in to ‘milk’ and can also be ground into a fine meal to use in baking as a replacement for ground almonds. I tend to make my own macadamia and tiger nut milk using the recipe below and buy organic, sugar-free almond and coconut milk from the supermarket.
make your own dairy free nut milk for acne
The first thing you need to do before you actually start making some milk is to activate your nuts! What the hell are activated nuts you say? Well, simply put, all nuts and seeds contain an anti nutrient called phytic acid. Now, that may sound scary but it’s actually a naturally occurring compound which locks in the essential minerals (especially calcium, magnesium and zinc) found in nuts, making them more difficult for the body to digest.
When you activate nuts, seeds or whole grains like oats, it kick starts a germination process (it basically brings them to life!). This neutralises the phytic acid, making them much more easily digested than raw or roasted nuts, meaning that you will be able to absorb and benefit from many more nutrients!
Anyway, now the science lesson is over, let’s get on to making some milk! I couldn’t believe the difference between my usual shop-bought carton and the creamy delicious nut milk you can make at home! It’s so much smoother in taste and you’ll be surprised at just how easy it is!
- 1 cup tiger nut or macadamia nuts
- 4 cups filtered water (+ extra to soak)
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- stevia or yacon syrup – sweeten to taste
- container for soaking
- muslin cloth
- glass bottles
- Pop the nuts into a jar or container and cover with filtered water. Leave to soak for a minimum of 12 hours (I like to soak them over night so I can have a fresh batch of milk for my breakfast smoothie!)
- Drain the almonds and give them a quick rinse.
- Add all the ingredients into a blender and blitz.
- Pop a large piece of muslin cloth on the inside bowl of a sieve and hold over a measuring jug.
- Pour the nut/water mixture into the muslin cloth and squeeze out all of the liquid.
- Pour the milk into some airtight jars, keep in the fridge and consume within 3-5 days.
cacao & bee pollen milkshake
This is such a delicious alternative to your conventional dairy-laden chocolate milkshake. Simply blend 1tsp ground bee pollen, 2tsp raw cacao powder, 1 tsp of Yacon syrup OR 5 drops of stevia, a pinch of pink Himalayan salt topped up with macadamia milk, blitz in the blender then pour over ice for a deliciously naughty chocolatey shake!
Have you found replacing milk with dairy free alternatives has helped heal your acne? Let me know in the comments below!
Peace, Love & Clear Skin
The Effects of Dairy Processes and Storage on Insulin-Like Growth Factor-I (IGF-I) Content in Milk and in Model IGF-I–Fortified Dairy Products [ONLINE] http://goo.gl/oVt2lp