6 side effects of consuming too much dairy, from bloating to acne

  • Many of us have been told that dairy products like milk and yogurt are important to build strong bones and healthy muscles.
  • However, you can have too much of a good thing. A majority of the population is sensitive to dairy, and can experience side effects when consuming too much.
  • Here are some of the side effects you might experience, including bloating, nausea, and acne.
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You might feel nauseous.

According to research from the National Institute of Health, 65% of adults have some form of lactose intolerance. That's nearly 3 out of 4 people worldwide. 

Symptoms can include nausea and in extreme cases, vomiting, after consuming most forms of dairy that contain lactose, including milk, ice cream, and cheese.  

Lactose intolerance tends to be more common in people of Asian, South American, or African ancestry, according to research.

And despite its growing popularity, health experts don't recommend ever drinking raw milk. 

Too much dairy can cause bloating and digestive distress.

Even if dairy doesn't make you sick, you could still be sensitive to lactose, and too much of it could cause other digestive issues like bloating, cramps, or diarrhea. 

If you're not able to easily break down lactose, it travels through your digestive system and is broken down by gut bacteria is a process of fermentation. Side effects of that process include the gassiness and other digestive woes associated with lactose intolerance. 

Hormones found in commercial dairy products can make acne worse.

Even if you can digest lactose, you may experience other side effects from dairy products that contain growth and milk-production-regulating hormones.

In your body, this is thought to aggravate acne by disrupting insulin regulation through something called insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Skim milk appears to be the most likely to worsen acne, so if this is a problem for you, consider switching to full-fat dairy from cows not treated with hormones.  

Full-fat dairy can be healthy, but could lead to eating too many calories.

Dairy products are nutritious, with important vitamins and minerals like calcium, potassium and vitamin B12. However, they often contain a lot of fat, making them very calorie-dense foods.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing — research has shown full-fat dairy can actually help prevent obesity. It's not entirely clear why, but the fat content may convey some metabolic benefits, and potentially make you feel fuller and more satisfied after eating. 

However, if you are trying to slim down, keep in mind that any weight or fat loss depends on a calorie deficit, so those extra calories in a sprinkle of cheese or cream in your coffee can impede your efforts. 

Too much dairy could increase risk of certain cancers.

Aside from the immediate side effects, there's mixed research on the long-term health consequences of consuming dairy. 

Some studies have found high dairy intake is linked to higher risk of certain types of cancers like prostate or breast cancer. However, other studies on the same subject have found no significant increase in risk. Many of these studies are epidemiological, meaning they look at trends in consumption and illness in the population over time, and therefore can only determine correlations, not causation. 

Other research has found dairy could also lead to a lower risk of other types of cancer, such as colon cancer. 

Milk could increase risk of heart disease, but cheese and yogurt may decrease the risk.

Dairy's effects on heart health are even more complex. As Insider previously reported, research has shown that drinking milk can increase the risk of heart disease by a small but significant amount. 

However, consuming other dairy products like milk and cheese can actually lower your risk of cardiovascular illness, studies show, and lead to a longer life overall.

Researchers are still working to understand why, but it may have to do with the way that fat and protein molecules are arranged differently in milk compared to cheese and yogurt.

Read more:

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