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Is Milk Bad for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Irritable bowel syndrome is a common medical condition that can occur to anyone. About 20% of the people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome find it hard to digest the sugar lactose that is present in the milk. This condition is termed as ‘lactose intolerance’.

Lactose is found in milk and numerous dairy products such as soft cheese, ice cream etc. Our body cannot digest lactose directly and thus it is first broken down into galactose and sugar glucose. If lactose is left undigested, it starts to ferment in the lower gut and leads to IBS symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating etc. Thus, all those people who are intolerant to milk must it. Milk can cause IBS in the some people but not all.

Is Milk Bad for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Is Milk Bad for Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

There are studies and researches that reveal a strong relationship between intolerance to milk and irritable bowel syndrome. About 33% of people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome suffer from intolerance to lactose and thus milk. In one of the studies conducted in Italy, it was found that about 84% of the people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome reported improvements in the symptoms when they switched to lactose-restricted diet. Also, 43% of the people reported that the symptoms never reappeared.

There is another group of medical experts who believe that we need more research to conclude that lactose intolerance can actually cause irritable bowel syndrome. It is still not absolutely conclusive from any studies that milk is bad for irritable bowel syndrome or can cause symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Hydrogen breadth test is one of the simplest ways to find out if you are lactose intolerant. A person is given a small dose of lactose and then his breadth is analysed for the concentration of hydrogen in the exhaled air. If the level of hydrogen is more than the recommended level, it is clear case of lactose-intolerance.

There are lots of simple and safe methods that can help you in avoiding lactose. The first thing that you would need to assure is to stay away from lactose diet. It includes everything like milk, cheese, ice-cream, yogurt and several products made from choose.

A lot of people who are intolerant to lactose, they can tolerate a yogurt without any symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea. It is because of the presence of bacteria in the yogurt that helps in digestion of lactose.

If you are intolerant to lactose and have irritable bowel syndrome, you can get the special lactose-reduced milk that is processed to remove the excess lactose. You can easily get the lactose-reduced milk in the local food stores and supermarkets. You can also add a supplement that supplies lactase. It is an enzyme that helps in the digestion of lactose. Liquid lactase is also available in the food stores that you can add to normal milk to make it safe for drinking. However, you would need to add it a day before the consumption. Lactose pills are also available that you need to take half an hour before consuming dairy products. Thus, you do not necessarily need to give up the milk or dairy products completely.

The best way to manage irritable bowel syndrome is to switch to lactose free diet and avoid milk and other dairy products. Soya milk and rice are free from lactose and safe for you. They also supplies calcium to the body if you choose the calcium fortified form of soya milk.


  1. International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Diet and Treatment: https://www.aboutibs.org/ibs-diet.html
  2. Mayo Clinic – Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): Symptoms & Causes: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/irritable-bowel-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20360016
  3. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases – Lactose Intolerance: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/lactose-intolerance
  4. MedlinePlus – Lactose Intolerance: https://medlineplus.gov/lactoseintolerance.html

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 8, 2023

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