Many people consume a significant amount of milk in their daily lives, but how does this affect your gut and bowel movements? does it make you poop more? I’ve done my research and here is what I discovered.
According to Healthline, milk and other dairy products may promote bowel movements for people who suffer from lactose intolerance, as milk is high in lactose. They may even experience bloating, cramping, or diarrhea. For others, milk can cause constipation due to a sensitivity to the protein found in milk.
Keep reading to find out more about how milk affects your gut and bowel movements, as well as how you can tell if you could possibly have a milk intolerance.
How Does Milk Affect Our Bowel Movements?
Milk is something that many people include in their diets, which is why it is important to understand the effects it can have on our bodies, and in particular our digestive system.
There are some studies that have been conducted to analyze these effects, where milk and soy milk have been compared. There is one study, in particular, that I will focus on, which analyzed young children with chronic constipation, and their reactions to both soy milk and dairy.
It is important to note that these children were previously unresponsive to other constipation medications such as laxatives, so the problem was not going away despite all efforts.
Essentially, researchers at the University of Palermo in Italy conducted a study with 65 children with chronic constipation. The children were suffering terribly with hard, painful stools only every 3-15 days. Some of them even had fissures and swelling from this affliction.
Each child received either cow’s milk or soy milk for a period of 2 weeks, and nobody except the researchers knew which was which. They then were given 1 week to consume whatever they wanted to wash out the effect of the initial 2 weeks. Then they switched sides for 2 weeks and got different milk from the first time.
After the researchers carefully analyzed the bowel movements of the children, they discovered that the children who were given cow’s milk were still suffering the worst from constipation! The children who drank soy milk, on the other hand, were no longer constipated.
The important takeaway from this study is that these children were suffering from intestinal swelling, and this may well be a sign these children have a mild intolerance to milk. This would also explain severe constipation.
In fact, the statistics hint that up to 65% of the population may have an intolerance to milk and dairy and not even be aware of it, which would explain the high incidence of constipation and other related gastrointestinal problems.
The researchers believe that it is actually the protein found in the cow’s milk that may be leading to swelling and constipation. With that being said, if you are suffering from constipation often and regularly consume milk or dairy, you may want to consider whether you may have an intolerance to dairy.
Common Signs You May Have a Milk Intolerance
Before I dive into this, it’s important to note that there is a difference between lactose intolerance and a cow’s milk protein intolerance. Both can have similar side effects, but the main difference is that lactose intolerance is an allergy to the sugar found in the milk, whereas the other is an intolerance to the protein found in milk.
If you suspect that you may have an intolerance to the protein in milk, here are some of the common symptoms you can expect:
- Skin rash
- Stomach cramps
- Bloody stools
- Diarrhea OR constipation
For infants, some common symptoms, other than your child being constipated, is wheezing, irritability and poor growth.
Interestingly, the symptoms for lactose intolerance are almost identical, except there is less prevalence of constipation but rather a very runny tummy.
The best thing you can do is to go and see your doctor to get a proper diagnosis, so you can take the correct measures to change your diet.
With that being said, if cow’s milk is not agreeing with your digestive tract, you’re probably wondering what on earth you can drink instead of milk? Keep reading for the answer!
Best Alternatives to Dairy Milk
The good news is that there are some really healthy alternatives to dairy milk that not only taste good, but have all the benefits of cow’s milk and more! Here they are below:
01. Almond Milk
While soymilk is often a popular alternative to cow’s milk, it still contains soy proteins which can upset the stomach of someone who is sensitive to the proteins found in milk.
This is why almond milk is the perfect alternative to dairy milk! According to MedicalNewsToday, almond milk contains zero animal products, making it the perfect alternative to milk for those who are vegan, lactose intolerant or allergic.
When people are intolerant to lactose, the sugar in the milk passes down the colon and begins to ferment, due to the fact that the body is unable to digest it. This results in extreme discomfort, including bloating, gas and possibly diarrhea.
“Almond milk is an imitation milk and doesn’t contain any dairy at all, which makes it a popular milk alternative for vegans and people with lactose intolerance or milk allergies.”Healthline.
Almond milk is also packed with important vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin E, calcium, Vitamin D, and is also really low in sugar. This means you won’t have to worry about losing out on any nutritional benefits from switching to almond milk.
02. Flaxseed Milk
Flaxseed milk is a low-calorie, low-fat alternative to cow’s milk, and is perfect for those of you who are looking to ditch dairy for health reasons. This milk is jam-packed with healthy fats and carbs, and essential vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, and magnesium.
The ingredients listed above, especially magnesium, and well-known for their positive effects on gut health and helping to relieve constipation. In fact, according to MedicineNet, flaxseed is nature’s cure to constipation, as it is naturally high in fiber.
This fiber is known as insoluble fiber, which provides bulk to the stools and stretches the intestinal walls slightly, thus triggering bowel movements. They also contain a soluble fiber called mucilage, which binds with water to create a gel-like substance to keep stools soft.
So, reach for that flaxseed milk if you are having problems with your bowel movements!
03. Cashew Milk
Cashew milk is very similar to almond milk in the sense that it is completely loaded with nutrients such as healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals.
All cashew milks are naturally lactose-free, making it a perfect alternative to cow’s milk. Compared to almond milk, cashew milk has a slightly earthier taste, but it still has a thick and creamy texture.
Another important ingredient found in cashew milk is magnesium. According to VeryWellHealth, magnesium is an excellent stool softener as it works by drawing water into your intestines, making it an osmotic laxative. This increase in water will naturally stimulate your bowel.
Aside from softening the stools, this also increases the actual size of them, which triggers a bowel movement and makes it much easier to pass.
If you feel that you possibly may have an intolerance or allergy towards milk, my best advice would be to consult with a medical professional. The good news is that there are other alternatives to milk that have the same health benefits, and they aren’t difficult to find. Simply listen to what your body is telling you, and follow the tips above so you are able to pick out the telltale signs of an allergy intolerance.