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07/14/2015 09:22 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Dairy Can Do To Your Skin

Thanks to the 1980s, many of us are familiar with the tagline, "Milk: It does a body good." And while drinking milk has always had clear benefits -- from helping you reach the daily recommended dose of calcium to replenishing your body after a workout -- there's more to dairy's impact than you may realize. And some of it is literally skin-deep.

Registered dietitian Maria Bella of Top Balance Nutrition says that certain skin issues may be related to how much dairy your consume. She tells #OWNSHOW in the above video that it's a relationship she's seen firsthand in her practice.

"Most of my youthful-looking, amazing clients have one thing in common: They do not have any dairy as part of their diet," she says. "There is a very strong correlation between consuming dairy products -- such as milk -- and acne, skin breakouts and aging."

The reason? Hormones, Bella says. "Most of the cows used in farming are actually pregnant cows. The hormones such as progesterone and insulin growth factors make their way into the milk," she explains. "When we consume the milk, it leads to increased levels of inflammation, skin breakdown, aging and acne in many people."

If you're dealing with these types of skin issues, Bella believes that it may be worth nixing the dairy from your diet as an elimination test.

"I recommend cutting [dairy] out completely from your diet to see how your skin responds. Do it for about 12 weeks, or 120 days, to see significant improvement," she suggests. "Once that happens, try reintroducing one dairy product at a time back into your diet, to see if you're actually sensitive to it."

This twelve-week period, she adds, is a timeframe rooted in science. "An average life of a skin cell is about 120 days, so you should be seeing significant improvements in your skin tone and any breakouts that you have within 120 days of cutting dairy out of your diet," Bella says.

Of course, simply eliminating dairy from your diet may mean you're no longer getting enough calcium into your system. That's why Bella says it's important to incorporate other non-dairy food sources that contain the critical mineral.

"Foods like sardines have a third of your daily calcium intake. Almond milk is loaded with calcium, fortified tofu is really high, but also, soy beans and nuts have substantial amounts," she says. "One cup of dark leafy greens has about 150 milligrams of calcium, so incorporate more spinach, kale and broccoli."

Another tip for skin health: Foods with a high glycemic index may also cause acne for some people.

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