The cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not known, but it is thought to be related to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There are several triggers that are thought to aggravate the condition. One of these triggers is diet. Dairy products have been implicated as a possible cause for seborrheic dermatitis flares.
The jury is out on cow’s milk. There is no research linking dairy to seborrheic dermatitis. However, dairy can cause inflammation and imbalance of gut bacteria, two factors that can affect control of seborrheic dermatitis. Cheese and yogurt may be lesser triggers.
Let’s take a deep dive:
Can dairy (cow’s milk) make seborrheic dermatitis worse?
The jury is out on cow’s milk. There is no research to suggest that dairy can make seborrheic dermatitis worse. Dairy is a key source of calcium for children and adolescents. Plus, yogurt and some cheeses contain probiotics which can improve the gut and skin microbiome. Daily consumption of yogurt has been linked to reduced inflammation.
However, if you are allergic to cow’s milk or you’re lactose intolerant, dairy can cause gut and systemic inflammation that will probably worsen seborrheic dermatitis.
If it doesn’t agree with you, dairy may also alter gut bacteria, leading to two major issues:
- imbalance of gut bacteria influences the balance of skin bacteria as well. Overgrowth of certain bacteria strains have been found to be associated with dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.
- inflammation from allergy or lactose-intolerance can cause your immune system to be more sensitive and hyper-reactive to Malassezia and its byproducts, leading to an SD flare.
Is All Dairy Off-Limits for Seborrheic dermatitis?
I’m Asian, and therefore almost certainly was doomed from birth to be lactose-intolerant. It didn’t stop me from consuming it and I paid for it in various bodily reactions.
A good number of the world’s population (up to 75% by some accounts) become lactose intolerant in adulthood. There’s a good chance you’re one of them.
Dairy proteins are also more likely to trigger allergic reactions or inflammation, especially when your immune system is not at its best.
Plus, cow’s milk contains lots of hormones like estrogen, growth hormones etc. that can wreak havoc on seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, and acne.
If you’re in doubt, cow’s milk should be a no. However, cheeses, yogurt, kefir and other dairy? It’s still a maybe.
How does cheese affect seborrheic dermatitis?
In one of the few studies we have linking diet and seborrheic dermatitis, cheese was considered part of a ‘Western diet’ and was associated with worse seborrheic dermatitis.
However, cheese is a great source of calcium, fat and protein. The best part? Aged cheeses like parmesan, cheddar, Swiss or brie contain minimal lactose. You can probably still tolerate these cheeses even if you’re lactose intolerant and they probably won’t aggravate seborrheic dermatitis.
There’s cheese and there’s cheese. There are so many types and variety of cheeses. Some have added ingredients like apricot and sugar, others don’t even contain milk (not real cheese).
You’ll need to try cheese out for yourself to see if it aggravates your SD. Eaten in small amounts, non-processed real cheese shouldn’t cause issues with SD.
How does yogurt affect seborrheic dermatitis?
Yogurt is high in calcium, B vitamins, and trace minerals, which are all important for your skin health. If you buy a good quality yogurt, it’s also rich in probiotics are good bacteria that populates your gut and influences your skin bacteria. When Propionibacterium falls below 50% and Staphylococcus rises above 44%, more dandruff is likely to occur.
Keeping the balance of the microenvironment is very important in order to prevent scalp sebum overproduction and dandruff. Yogurt may be able to help curb seborrheic dermatitis by helping keep the balance of the microenvironment in check.
However, some yogurts contain high amounts of added sugar which contributes to inflammation and encourages the growth of bad bacteria. And some yogurts don’t even deserve to be called yogurt. They don’t contain any live bacteria at all.
That’s why it’s important to look for brands that contain live and active cultures to get the best possible results from yogurt consumption. Be sure to check the ingredients before purchasing yogurt to make sure there are no added sugars.
In fact, if you can make your own yogurt or kefir, that’s even better. There are plenty of starters on Amazon.
What foods contain dairy?
There are many different types of dairy products available, including milk, yogurt, cheese, butter and cream. You know the usual culprits. However, dairy also hides in all sorts of other foods like:
- chewing gum
- processed foods
- canned fish
- cereal bars
To wrap up
Dairy products are often thought of as being healthy and beneficial, but for those suffering from seborrheic dermatitis, dairy may be a trigger. It’s hard to avoid dairy altogether but try eating dairy products in moderation.