How Martha Rotter Cured Her Acne By Self-Experimentation

Several months ago I posted about how Martha Rotter figured out that her acne was caused by cow dairy products. Now a longer version of her story (by me) is on Boing Boing. There is a ton of useful information in the comments. Some examples:

Dairy is what caused my acne.” Someone replied: “Same here, specifically milk. I switched to soy milk in high school and my moderately-bad acne went away very suddenly. . . . If I eat a lot of cheese at once, like having pizza more than a couple days a week, my backne gets worse and I get acne inside my ears.”Someone else misunderstands genetics: “I do have tumor-forming disease (fortunately stable, and partially corrected with surgery) so I do have some sympathy when it comes to this sort of thing, but my condition is so well established as genetic I never even saw hope in trying to control it with diet.” Aaron Blaisdell had a well-established genetic condition (porphyria) that went away when he changed his diet.

Someone else found that dairy mattered:

I had terrible acne as a teenager and I drank almost a carton of milk every day. . . .  When I moved  out on my own, I no longer had milk delivered at the door and I fell out of the habit of drinking it altogether, switching to tea and water instead. My face cleared within weeks. . . . Whenever I indulged in cheese, the break-outs returned.

Someone else discovered multiple causes:

I have had strikingly similar experiences with a very particular form of acne, for years. Multiple doctors with no results until I got frustrated with it. I heard that the four most common causes of skin reactions can be wheat, milk, peanut butter and eggs – so I took all of them out *and* meat.

And watched my skin slowly return to normal.

After playing with my food by putting one thing in, seeing what happened, and then taking that out and trying something else, I found that wheat in particular is the trigger for me with dairy as a close second.

Someone else: “I took wheat from my diet, and my skin cleared up. If I allow wheat back in for one day, the next day I have acne.”

Not all solutions were dietary:

My wife and I found the only thing that worked reliably–even including a couple of different kinds of antibiotics–was “the regimen” as described on Basically you use a low-strength (2.5%) benzoyl peroxide every day and moisturise like mad afterwards.

These are just examples. There are many more helpful comments.

3 Replies to “How Martha Rotter Cured Her Acne By Self-Experimentation”

  1. As one commenter says, “I suspect there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to acne anyway.” That seems a very sensible, obvious point. Walk around any American city and you’ll see a huge variety in people’s faces: skin/hair color, the shapes of their eyes, noses, mouths. I don’t see any reason why that wide individual variability wouldn’t also extend to food sensitivities.

    Nobody mentions food combinations. Personally, I don’t have noticeable breakouts with wheat or dairy on their own, but eaten together (pizza, buttered waffles) they almost always give me trouble. My theory is that the butter makes my skin oilier, while the wheat has some inflammatory effects that obstruct the oil secretion pathways.

  2. I recently took the expensive ALCAT food “intolerance” test. So did a friend. We were each given a list of foods to avoid – completely different lists – and both of us have found some relief from our symptoms.

    Each of us is complex and unique, and only individualized testing (whether self-testing or a commercial battery of tests) can help us figure out the optimal path for ourselves. For one person it’s drinking pork fat and avoiding milk – for another, it could be the opposite.

    Can we generalize at all? Smoking, mercury, and beefy running shoes: suboptimal.

  3. People use diet to overcome some of their ailments, but give up on dairy intolerance? I mentioned oestrogen inhibiting lactase in a previous comment, and it seems progesterone can do the opposite. Bacteria in the small intestine are also very efficient at inhibiting lactase. I’m sure there are many other factors than these three.

    Dr. Ayers talks about the importance of bacteria with lactose-digesting gene clusters, and some of his readers have overcome dairy intolerance by carefully consuming kefir and other LAB-containing foods. Those Peat-arians don’t seem to have too much trouble overcoming it when they try either.

    I’m starting to translate “taking dairy out improved my acne” to “my diet sucks and my GI tract looks as good as my face during a breakout.” I’m sure I could be wrong, but it definitely doesn’t seem clear cut, and pizza was mentioned more than once in those comments. I don’t think it’s a case for demonising dairy.

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