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  • Writer's pictureLiza Klassen

DAIRY - hormonally helpful or harmful??

Well friends, this is a big question, and it's not as simple as you may think. I've decided to break it down based on condition/symptom and share the best evidence to help you make the decision that's right for you and your body.

Here you go....

  1. Endometriosis - Helpful, except for butter. Based on population level studies, there is a general recommendation to increase your low-fat dairy and dairy protein (think whey or greek yogurt!) in general. Women and adolescents who consume 1-2 dairy products per day such as yogurt have a lower risk of endometriosis. Butter has been shown to increase the risk of endometriosis. This is the only dairy product that appears hto worsen endometriosis.

  2. Fertility - Helpful, but consider other healthy fats first. Dairy intake, specifically full-fat dairy products, have been shown to have a positive impact on fertility. Prospective cohort studies found that high intake of low-fat dairy products may lead to an increase in the women’s risk of ovulation-related infertility, whereas incorporating more high-fat dairy foods may decrease the risk for infertility. We know that a low fat diet (in general) increases risk of anovulatory cycles. Consider increasing other high quality fat sources (think nuts, olive oil, avocado) to help restore ovulation and hormone production.

  3. PMS - Helpful, because it's a primary source of Calcium for most women. We know that women with diets low in dietary dairy have lower calcium levels (which naturally fluctuate through the cycle and dip before our periods) and worse PMS symptoms. AND we know that when we give women with low dairy intake and PMS symptoms calcium, their symptoms improve. Do you have to start drinking milk if you experience PMS? No...but ensuring calcium adequacy is important. ⁠

  4. PCOS - Likely harmful, especially if you experience acne. Dairy directly increases DHT (a strong androgen) production in the skin, which is the underlying trigger for acne in PCOS. For many patients with PCOS & acne, lowering dairy intake and improving overall nutrition, patients may see a benefit in the frequency of acne spots and the severity of acne.

  5. Acne - Harmful, until we decrease the dose. Even in patients without PCOS, dairy increases DHT and oil production in the skin that triggers the development of acne. For most people, avoidance of dairy is the only support they need to keep the inflammation in their skin low and acne under control.

DOSE MATTERS - It appears that patients who eat dairy less than daily (meaning 6 servings per week) may have less severe acne than patients who have dairy daily. Some research suggests that less than 3 times per week may be an optimal dose.

LIFESTYLE MATTERS - Patients who exercise, eat vegetable and who use other acne treatments are not as affected by dairy intake. You may be able to reintroduce dairy when other parts of your health plan are achieved, or if your acne is treated from multiple angles.

Is dairy good for ME? Only YOU can answer this one.

How does it feel in your body? Do you notice GI symptoms (like bloating, gas, loose stools?), does your acne or period pain worsen when you eat it regularly? Is there a certain AMOUNT of dairy (ex. 1 serving/day) or type of dairy (ex. Fermented options like kefir) that feel good for you?

I will never tell you to eliminate something completely from you diet. Not my style. I’ll give you the information and then you get to take responsibility and make the decision that feels right for you 🤍

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