Woody Harrelson health: Actor suffered from ‘terrible acne’ and ‘mucus’ before diagnosis

Milk allergy and lactose intolerance: What’s the difference?

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In the past Harrelson, whose most iconic roles include Marty Hart in True Detective and Bill Willoughby in 2017 hit Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, has been crowned a “vegan hero” for promoting the specific diet in pursuit of more energy. “Diet is crucial,” Harrelson has been reported saying; he not only eats a vegan diet, but mostly a raw diet, which is defined as eating uncooked foods. “Raw food is anything that has not been refined, canned or chemically processed, and has not been heated above 48C.” The actor has also delved into his past, revealing that it was his diagnosis as a lactose intolerant that made him give up all things dairy and meat for good.

As a budding actor in New York, Harrelson suffered from a runny nose and acne all over his face. Having suffered for years with the conditions, the star thought nothing of it, having blamed puberty and a fluctuation in hormones.

This was, however, until a woman on the same bus as him said that he might be lactose intolerant, giving cause for his irritating and constant symptoms.

“I was on a bus and some girl sees me blowing my nose,” Harrelson explained a few years ago.

“I had acne all over my face, which I’d had for years and years. And she’s like, ‘Hey, you’re lactose intolerant. If you quit dairy, all these symptoms you got will be gone in three days.’

“I was like 24. And I was like, ‘No way!’”

To his shock, as soon as he gave up eating dairy products, within “three days”, both his mucus-filled nose and irritated skin had “gone”.

Ever since this life-changing moment, the actor vowed to to prioritise his health, questioning “old wives’ tales” about what is best for your health and what isn’t.

He continued to say: “So I started thinking to myself, Jeez, I’ve always been told nothing but, ‘Milk does a body good.’ It’s a fundamental thing.

“So from there it was like, ‘What else are they lying about?’ I just started realising, there are all these things we are brought up to believe that are just a total hoax, just bull**** advertising, you know?”

In another interview, where Harrelson is seemingly advocating about the importance of eating well and cutting out fast foods, he addresses his remarkable health change again, saying: “All the changes that happened to me are all related to energy.

“It makes sense to me that celebrities are health nuts. I mean, you can’t play a leading man if you’re fat with acne, right? Acne’s part of how I got into all of this!

“I used to have terrible acne on my face: red, splotchy discolouration. And mucus – I was constantly blowing my nose. Then one day, this woman sits down next to me on a bus, and says, ‘You’re lactose-intolerant.’ It all cleared up in three days. That changed my life. Doctors couldn’t figure it out.”

With symptoms such as Harrelson’s clearing up in such a short amount of time, doctor’s were left baffled, but the NHS explains that those who are lactose intolerant can help control their symptoms simply by making changes to their diet.

The common digestive problem is caused by the body being unable to digest lactose – a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products. Uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing symptoms tend to develop within a few hours of consuming food or drink that contains lactose.

These symptoms, which may be more or less severe for different individuals include:

  • Farting
  • Diarrhoea
  • A bloated stomach
  • Stomach cramps and pains
  • Stomach rumbling
  • Feeling sick.

Although acne is not mentioned as a connection to lactose intolerance by the NHS, Dr Zenovia, a skincare professional and expert on hormonal dermatology explains that a diet high in sugar has been linked to acne.

Since milk has a high sugar content, consumption of excess sugar can cause inflammation leading to skin breakouts and irritation. Specifically, an increased level of IGF-19 (insulin-like growth factor 1) can lead to acne flare-ups.

Like Harrelson, in order to test whether dairy products are affecting your skin, individuals are encouraged to try eliminating all foods in their diet containing dairy for at least a month to monitor how the skin reacts to the change in diet. This should also reduce other more common symptoms that are mentioned above.

The NHS notes that dairy products contain calcium, protein and vitamins such as A, B12 and D, which are important to develop strong and healthy bones. This means that cutting out dairy completely can make it difficult for individuals to get the right amount of vitamins and minerals.

This may lead to unhealthy weight loss and put individuals at increased risk of developing the following conditions:

  • Osteopenia – where you have a very low bone-mineral density; left untreated, it can develop into osteoporosis
  • Osteoporosis – where your bones become thin and weak, and your risk of breaking a bone is increased
  • Malnutrition – when the food you eat does not give you the nutrients essential for a healthy functioning body; this means wounds can take longer to heal and you may start to feel tired or depressed.

For those concerned about this, the NHS advises speaking to a professional dietician who can comment on your diet and whether you may require food supplements.

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