Acne Caused By Pasteurized Dairy: How One Person Figured It Out

A reader of this blog named Tony Mach explains how he figured out that his acne was caused by pasteurized dairy products:

In summer 2010 my health problems got noticeably worse (unrefreshing sleep, strange pains, strange sensations in the skin and other stuff I don’t want to share here :-P ), and I had to do something. Furthermore I was gaining weight,  so I was suspecting something along the lines of diabetes or other metabolic problem.

As I was looking into dietary changes, I stumbled over Wolfgang Lutz’s and Robert Atkins’ work. Being an engineer by training, I figured that if blood sugar might be the problem (which, as it turned out, wasn’t the case for me), then reducing carbs might be a solution (stop fueling the problematic sub-system) – so both Lutz and Atkins appealed to me. I thought let’s give it a try. I was a bit frightened about such an radical change of diet – you read all kind of BS – but hey, I felt like I was going to die anyway.

Before the change, I ate a lots of white bread, some milk chocolate and drank lots of milk. First I reduced carbs – like Lutz suggested, I tried to aim for 6 bread units – but within days I noticed that some problems (like the strange pain and skin sensations) diminished right away. The acne cleared up noticeably. So I thought why bother with low-carb, let’s go full no-carb (like Atkins suggests for some month).

And voila, with no-carb everything got better. I started to feel healthy for the first time in my life. I lost over 30 pounds, all health problems either went away or were almost gone, and life started to become enjoyable. This was a period of about two months over with most problems went away, some fast, some slower.

So for over half a year I was focused on the carbs=evil scheme, started eating cheese again (hey, no carbs!), when slowly some of the health problems returned and my weight started to rise again.

At that point I panicked a bit and made a huge mistake: I thought I can figure this one out too, I have to do something right away. So I trusted what some doctors had written about a pathogen (which I tested for with borderline results), how to cure it (with over the counter medications like Vitamin D and NAC and other stuff) and I thought let’s try this too! The things I took made me worse, but as it was supposed to be a “die off”/”herx” reaction, I wasn’t too alarmed. Turned out that experiment cost me almost an year until I got better again. So for about a year I was not in the mood for big experiments and personal stuff like moving to another city kept me busy.

But slowly I introduced “safe starches” into my diet (like plantains), because I kept reading one should not go too much low-carb. I tried out self-made sourdough rye bread (makes me enormously hungry, so I stopped again) and at one point I thought: What the heck, I’m going to eat ice cream today. Three hours later I got slightly noticeable pimples and local inflammation (I think they are called nodules) and after another roughly 3 hours the acne was prominent.

After that, my suspicion was that milk might be bad for me, but maybe some properly “ripe” cheese like hard cheese (properly digested by bacteria) might be OK. So I waited for the acne inflammation to go away and tried again with a Parmesan cheese. Bingo, acne again, and again in the 3 to 6 hour time frame.

So I didn’t touch milk or dairy again, but now I looked for raw milk cheese, as I read something about it being possibly better. After a while I found raw-milk-cheese, tried it – and got no acne. Tried again, after some time, with another brand – again no acne. Tried cheese from pasteurized milk – acne.

As I still have health problems, I am still in the process of figuring out things. Next up for me is trying to get rid of beef for a week or two, to see if that might be a problem for me.

In summary:
– I was not very systematic in my experiments, and had some lucky moments.
– All the macro-nutrient ratio paradigms are IMHO BS and not applicable for the majority (might make sense if someone has real/major metabolic problems like T1DM, etc.)
– Having said that, in my view some carb foods come with baggage: e.g. cereal grains and (pasteurized) milk
– A quickly reacting, non-dangerous, clearly visible (objective) surrogate health marker (in my case acne) is worth its weight in gold [I agree, canary in coal mine. In this case it isn’t clear what else besides no acne was gained by avoiding pasteurized dairy. — Seth]
– With such a marker, one should completely eliminate suspicious foods (in my case *ALL* dairy) and then introduce it again (two or three challenges)
– For me, pasteurized dairy = acne, raw dairy = no acne
– Milk chocolate is dairy [A friend’s mother said, “If I’m ever in jail, bring me some chocolate.” She’ll break out.– Seth]
– Some surrogate health markers (e.g. weight) reacted “funky” for me: I changed my diet to no-carb, my weight went down, and without any big changes [in diet or exercise] my weight started to climb again. [Same thing happened to Alex Chernavsky. — Seth]
– For most of the health problems that went away, I don’t know exactly what food (Cereal grains? Dairy? Vegetable oils? etc.) caused what problem
– As I felt like I was going to die on my old diet, I am not particular keen on going back full scale to my old diet to see if after one or two month all my old symptoms return, to determine which food caused which symptom… [Better to test the old foods one at a time. — Seth]
– Medical science and several MDs helped me diddly squat
– Paleo blogs were much more helpful than the medical community

I can only guess why raw milk and cheese are less harmful than pasteurized milk and cheese. Maybe milk and cheese contain acne-causing chemicals that leak into the blood. Maybe raw milk, which contains bigger entities than pasteurized milk, does a better job of plugging the holes from digestive system to blood.

9 Replies to “Acne Caused By Pasteurized Dairy: How One Person Figured It Out”

  1. Maybe you are already aware but there are some studies linking milk consumption to acne:

    You may also be interested in the website which provides nice short videos regarding the latest research on nutrition. Although (I believe) it cherry picks studies to promote veganism, it is very informative. For example, I am sure you will be interested in how the bacteria in the mouth affects athletic performance:

  2. I’ll get a pimple if I eat anything with casein, soy, or wheat in it. I have heard that there is a cross-reactivity with milk and wheat, but I don’t know if a similar protein is in soy or not. I won’t even eat stuff with soy lecithin, but what’s really annoying is when I try some supplement only to find it is made with soy. In some cases, I think the supplement making process may purify whatever they are taking out of the soy to the point where it isn’t a problem any more, but it is still a bit of a gamble.

  3. When you have multiple allergies, it is very difficult to figure out which foods are the culprits. I had terrific results identifying my food allergies with the Meridian Valley E95 Basic and A95 Food Panels.

    I had severe Rheumatoid Arthritis that did not respond to any of the dozens of treatments that my board certified rheumatologist tried over a period of several years.

    A holistic doctor suggested we try the Meridian Valley Food Panels, so we drew blood and sent it off. The results were very accurate when I checked them through elimination diet, and most of my symptoms went away when I eliminated dairy, eggs, wheat, and beef from my diet.

    Unless you can find a doctor already using the Meridian Valley tests, you will have to order a test kit and prepay for the test. And of course you must have a doctor willing to draw the blood and ship it. Meridian Valley is in Renton, WA. Their phone number is 425-271-8689.

    Seth: very interesting, thanks.

  4. Many people do better on raw than pasteurised milk. For a whole bunch of information about raw milk, you can check out;

    It is known that some of the milk proteins are denatured by pasteurization. For some people, their digestive system rects to these and their body mounts an immune response to it. Acne is often the result of gut irritation and/or mild autoimmune conditions.

    Powdered milk is even worse, and any productt that has “modified milk ingredients” has powdered milk, or worse.

    Skim milk is one example – it is “fortified” with powedered milk to make it taste less watery. For many people, they have trouble with skim milk and non fat yogurt – which we are all told to eat – but do fine with full fat milk and yogurt – the fats are somehow protective.

    Clearly, Tony is more sensitive to this, and acne was the way it was manifested.

    There are many raw aged cheeses available – under USDA rules, a cheese can be made from raw milk if it is aged for more than 60 days. Not all aged cheeses are raw, so check the labels.

    A final thought, most cows in the US are Holstein-Friesan, which produce milk with type A1 casein protein. Other cows, like Jersey, Guernsey, Dexter, all Indian breeds, buffalo, sheep, goats, horses and humans produce milk with type A2 casein. Many people are sensitive to A1 casein but not A2 – the people who can only drink goats milk. This is often mistaken for “lactose intolerance”.

    You can read more about A2 milk here;

  5. I could be mixing stuff up here, but I thought I heard that the fat droplets in pasteurized milk became too small and pass through cell walls, whereas unpasteurized doesn’t have that problem. Maybe Dave Asprey said this?

  6. I see from the Telegraph that there’s a Canadian Cardiovascular Congress going on. I suspect that this might provide you with a target-rich environment, Seth.

  7. My research for years has focussed on the dairy hormonal impact on acne.
    These stories make me more and more interested in learning about the possibility of an antigenic cross-reactivity between the proteins in milk (from mammary glands) and the proteins in sebaceous glands. Could an allergy to one cross-react with the other? There is NO science on this to date.
    BOTH glands are epidermal appendages and so should share antigens.

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