Most Prominent Triggers: Can Dairy Cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome?


When it comes to dairy, researchers have opposing views. Some recommend milk as a particularly healthy food, others claim that it contributes to a vast range of health problems.

There are no differing opinions about the manner in which dairy products affect individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Milk, cheese, yogurt and butter are seen as trigger foods that can aggravate the condition. Individuals suffering from IBS are advised to refrain from consuming dairy products altogether.

What is IBS?

Abdominal PainIrritable bowel syndrome is quite common, affecting millions of people across the world. Some of its most common symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, gas, bloating, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea.

This isn’t an inflammatory digestive problem. There are no changes in the gastrointestinal tissue and though the problem can be quite irritating, it doesn’t pose a serous health danger.

The causes of irritable bowel syndrome are not known. Food moves through the digestive tract when the intestinal walls contract. These contractions could be much stronger in the case of people suffering from IBS, which produces the painful and uncomfortable symptoms.

Medics and researchers have identified a number of triggers that make the IBM symptoms worse. Dairy products are one of the most common and most powerful triggers.

Dairy Products and IBS

An interesting study was presented in the European Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Dutch researchers worked with volunteers to figure out how foods were linked to IBS.

The researchers established an interesting dependence – approximately 20 percent of the people suffering IBS happened to be incapable of digesting the lactose found in milk and dairy products. There seems to be a link between the so-called lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome.

avoid milk, ice-cream and soft cheesesAccording to the researchers, IBS symptoms are particularly triggered by products like milk, ice-cream and soft cheeses. These are the ones containing the largest quantities of lactose.

When it’s not digested properly, lactose is left to “ferment” in the digestive tract. This process is the one that causes many of the IBS symptoms.

Dutch researchers concluded that the avoidance of dairy products improves digestion and makes it much likely for individuals to suffer from irritable bowel syndrome bouts. Some of the products that are a general exception include yogurt and cottage cheese. The fermentation process that results in such products destroys some of the lactose and makes them much easier to digest.

The idea that IBS and lactose intolerance are linked isn’t new. Researchers have been studying the idea for more than 10 years. The new Dutch study, however, is the first one that provides definitive evidence and sheds some light on the possible causes of IBS.

Other Common Dietary Triggers

Though dairy product are linked to IBS, several other types of foods can trigger episodes and worsen the symptoms.

Foods that contain large quantities of insoluble fiber are another common trigger. People that suffer from the condition need to be especially careful about high fiber morning cereals, high fiber breads and pasta products.

broccoli and cauliflowerCruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower are difficult to digest, even if your gastrointestinal tract is healthy. The situation becomes even more troublesome in the case of individuals suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.

These are particularly dangerous when consumed raw but they can trigger IBS even if cooked.

It’s not just about food types – certain cooking methods are far from advisable for individuals that have IBS. Fried foods have to be avoided at all costs. The high fat content is the one that may burden the digestive tract and cause bloating or poor digestion.

Some other foods that individuals suffering from IBS should avoid include coffee, sources of gluten, beans, artificial sweeteners, garlic, onion and carbonated beverages.

What to Eat

Diet is one of the most effective options for controlling irritable bowel syndrome. Though certain foods should be avoided, there are many products that can improve digestive health and reduce the likelihood of experiencing stomach problems.

For a start, eat small meals. Having five to six smaller meals throughout the day will make it much easier for the digestive tract to process the entire amount without being burdened. Eating a large meal, especially if you do that in the evening, can lead to major problems.

peppermint teaDrink peppermint tea. It relaxes the intestinal muscles and improves digestion. This is a great end for every meal.

Some of the foods that are safe for all individuals that suffer from irritable bowel syndrome include toasted plain bagels, white bread, baked potatoes, rice, bananas, cooked pasta, lean beef, fish, chicken, fresh fruit, low fat yogurt, honey and soy milk.

Remember that the solutions working for one IBS sufferer may not produce satisfactory results for somebody else. If a certain food unlocks your symptoms, do your best to avoid it next time. The fact that dairy is seen as a general trigger doesn’t mean it’s going to make your condition worse. Consume balanced meals and eat in moderation – that’s the best way to be healthy and make the most of the foods that you eat.


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