This So-Called Health Food Is Responsible For Your Breakouts

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There's one so-called health food that I think is responsible for tons of breakouts, and this is yogurt—yep, yogurt. Why am I throwing this well-known health-boosting food under the bus?

It’s true that yogurt offers your gut (the tube that stretches the length from your mouth to your navel) live probiotics that can help with many digestive issues and can actually help reduce acne breakouts for many people. Yogurt is a complex food and can come in many guises. You might be clued into the fact that fruit-flavored or fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts are too full of sugar, or that the "light" varieties are full of chemicals and artificial sweeteners—but the pitfalls run deeper than this. So while yogurt is still a great health food, for some it can cause a worsening of acne and breakouts. How do you know if you might have an intolerance to yogurt, and what causes this sort of breakout?

Dairy allergy versus lactose intolerance.

Here’s where a lot of people get confused. People who are lactose intolerant can often eat yogurt without consequence, while those who have an allergy to milk and milk products won’t be able to eat this cultured milk. Why? Yogurt is much lower in lactose—a sugar found in dairy products—than other milk products. If you are lactose intolerant, it means that you are missing the enzyme lactase that is necessary to digest the complex sugar that the dairy sugar lactose is—and it’s much more common than milk allergy. Around 65 percent of humans are diagnosed as lactose intolerant, while milk allergy affects about 2.5 percent of children under 3 years old and becomes more rare with age. It’s the proteins in milk—whey and casein—that can be difficult for the body to process and thus cause allergy. A milk allergy happens when your immune system overreacts or rejects milk proteins. Symptoms of a milk allergy can range from rashes, hives, itching, swelling, and acne to trouble breathing, wheezing, and anaphylactic shock. Lactose intolerance tends to cause less severe symptoms that include cramping, bloating, nausea, gas, and diarrhea.

How to tell if yogurt is causing your complexion problems.

If you are experiencing acne—blackheads, pimples, or cystic acne—it’s a good idea to do a complete cleanse from all foods that are likely to cause this sort of inflammation. After you’ve taken a break, you’ll start to weave back in one potential food culprit at a time to see where the source lies (see suggestions below).

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Try a two-week cleanse.

A great way to give yourself an easy detox is to use nondairy smoothies for a couple of weeks. Try one of the following smoothie recipes in the sample menu below for breakfast and lunch, and then have a dinner made of lean protein with salad or stir-fried veggies. This gives your entire digestive system a break, allows your immune system to switch into high gear, and removes all inflammatory foods from your diet. During this time avoid all dairy products. If your skin clears up, you can try adding back in a small amount of plain yogurt and see if your skin has any recurrence of breakouts.

  • Breakfast: Make a Chocolate Protein Smoothie by combining 1 cup of unsweetened rice milk with 1 frozen banana and 2 scoops chocolate pea protein powder. Enjoy!
  • Lunch: Make a Tropical Delight Smoothie by blending 1 cup rice milk with ¼ cup each frozen pineapple and mango, 1 small banana, and 2 scoops vanilla pea protein powder.
  • Dinner: Steamed or stir-fried veggies, or a big bowl of salad. Top with lean chicken or fish.
  • Snacks: For the next two weeks, enjoy herbal teas in between meals.

Fat-free won't fix it.

You’ll notice that my go-to yogurt recommendation is plain Greek yogurt—not nonfat or fat-free. Why? While it used to be a given that a doctor or nutritionist would always make recommendations regarding dairy to be sans the fat, today most experts know that there’s essential value to fat—it isn’t bad, and it won’t cause weight gain. Sugar is much more likely to be the culprit—and all milk products have sugar, even the plainest and most fat-free. If you are already eating plain Greek yogurt but are still having breakouts, here’s what to do.

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Don't miss your probiotics.

Even though you’re taking a break from dairy, you can still get your probiotics in a supplement or by using nondairy yogurt. Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kefir, bone broth, sourdough bread, and kombucha, but probiotics can also be taken as supplements. You want a probiotic that is well-labeled, with five or six strains of bacteria and at least 20 billion CFU (colony-forming units).

Pay attention to your beauty routine.

While you’re detoxing your insides, take a look at getting your outside routine back on track as well. I know how it is. You get busy, and one night of falling asleep without taking off your makeup doesn’t seem like a big deal—but to your skin it is—sleeping all night long with leftover cosmetics, not to mention dirt and oil from the day's pollutants, is hard on your skin. Make sure that you are using a gentle cleanser each night to remove any dirt and other substances from your pores. Don’t forget to moisturize with a non pore-clogging cream, and in the morning you can just rinse your face with warm water.

This woman suffered from cystic acne—until she tried the one diet that finally cured her.

And are you ready to learn more about how gut health is the foundation for the health of your entire body? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Vincent Pedre.

Taz Bhatia, M.D.

Integrative Medicine Doctor
Dr. Taz Bhatia, MD, is a board-certified physician, specializing in integrative and emergency medicine, pediatrics and prevention, with expertise in women’s health, weight-loss, hormone balance and nutrition. She is the author of the best-selling books “Super Woman RX” and “The 21-Day Belly Fix.” Personal health challenges in her twenties combined with a broken health care system motivated Dr. Taz to pursue an alternative definition of health and healthy living. As a young resident, she was sick and without answers, and began searching for help to heal her health issues. Studying various systems of medicine including Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture and Ayurveda, she found a wealth of information not yet taught in conventional medical schools. It led her to opening her now nationally-recognized practice, CentreSpring MD (formerly Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrative Medicine). Today, Dr. Taz and her team work relentlessly to find a patient’s core health problems, their centre, in order to spring them forth in health, pulling from multiple systems of medicine, including integrative, functional, Chinese and holistic medicine.
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Taz Bhatia, M.D.

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