Constipation affects the physical and psychological aspects of health. Many foods such as red meat, fried foods, frozen meals, and cookies cause constipation. Normally, most foods that cause constipation lack fiber. However, some people even are constipated after having the most natural and healthy drink─milk. Can milk cause constipation? And if yes, how does milk cause constipation?
Read on to find the answer to these questions.
Does Milk Cause Constipation in Adults?
Consuming milk and other dairy products can cause constipation in adults. Milk is high in fats and low in fiber. It has a binding effect on stool, but that may not be the real reason for constipation.
The beta-casein protein in milk may be difficult for some people to digest. But this is unrelated to lactose intolerance.
Constipation due to milk may be because of some fault in the immune system of a person that causes the inability to digest the protein. However, this is largely inconclusive, and more research is needed in this area to build evidence. As such, it is considered a milk allergy and is mostly present in a person since childhood. This condition is different from lactose intolerance which is the inability to digest sugars in milk.
Some Other Probable Causes
Milk and other dairy products are damp forming foods. The digestive system doesn’t like these types of foods. As a result, dairy causes constipation and digestive problems.
Some other causes of constipation include lack of fiber in the diet, stress, dehydration, and medical conditions like hypothyroidism, diabetes, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Can Milk Cause Constipation in Toddlers?
Researchers from the Department of Health at the University of Western Australia recently found that feeding children homogenized, pasteurized cow’s milk causes constipation.
Milk intolerance is also common in children. It may lead to asthma-like symptoms, eczema, and ear infections.
Study Shows Soy Milk is Better for Bowel Movements
Does milk cause constipation? A study published in the journal Nutrients shows the answer to this question. The study researchers investigated the effects of beta-casein A1 and beta-casein A2 in cow’s milk on chronic functional constipation (CFC).
For the two-week study, the researchers gave some children cow’s milk. Meanwhile, the others were given soy milk. They found that CFC is related to cow’s milk consumption.
The children who consumed soy milk showed better bowel movements than those who drank the cow’s milk. Children whose constipation resolved on the soy milk had cow’s milk protein intolerance.
The beta-casein in A2 gene in milk did work on some children, but the results were mixed. On the other hand, the milk with the A2 gene is said to be good for lactose-intolerant people.
Various types of raw milk and breast milk naturally contain probiotics. The probiotics in raw milk neutralize the elements that cause constipation in pasteurized milk. Yogurt or milk fermented with probiotics can significantly reduce constipation.
Factors Resulting in Constipation from Drinking Milk
Milk is usually pasteurized. Pasteurization removes the enzymes that help with digestion. The process removes the essential vitamins and minerals from the milk.
Pasteurization also removes probiotic bacteria that feed on the milk’s sugars. As a result, the probiotics can’t neutralize milk proteins such as casein and beta-lactoglobulin in pasteurized milk.
Enzymes such as lactase help to break down and ferment milk and dairy products in our system, as well as release excess gas. Removal of the enzyme may cause bloating, abdominal discomfort, and constipation.
2. Milk protein intolerance
Milk protein intolerance can also cause constipation. If the digestive system isn’t capable of processing whey and casein proteins found in milk, it leads to milk protein intolerance.
The small intestine cannot digest the protein in milk and results in intolerance. As a result, the stool hardens and hampers the ability of the colon to pass it.
3. Beta-lactoglobulin and casein
Beta-lactoglobulin and casein in milk may also be responsible for causing constipation. Casein is a sticky protein found in most dairy products. However, probiotics can neutralize beta-lactoglobulin and casein present in milk and prevent constipation.
Are Milk Intolerance and Lactose Intolerance the Same?
Milk intolerance is not an allergy like lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder similar to milk protein intolerance.
Milk products contain lactose. Lactose intolerance is not the intolerance to the proteins found in milk but to the sugar. Lactose is a complex sugar which is difficult for the body to absorb.
The sugar should be simplified into galactose and glucose for the body to digest it fully. For that, our body needs the enzyme called lactase. A lack of lactase causes bloating, nausea, gas, cramping, and diarrhea.
Alternatives to Prevent Constipation due to Dairy Milk
To relieve constipation and other digestion-related problems, you can opt for unpasteurized milk rather than pasteurized. To prevent milk protein intolerance, you should eliminate milk products from your diet.
You can opt for other sources rich in vitamins and minerals to compensate for and prevent nutrient deficiency. Upon consultation with your doctor, you can try drinking goat’s milk or cow’s milk containing the A2 gene instead of non-dairy milk.
Milk is an important source of calcium and protein. If it makes you feel constipated, you should find alternatives to dairy milk.
Here are three alternatives to dairy milk you can try for constipation relief.
1. Soy milk
Soy milk comes from soaked, crushed, and cooked soybeans. It has the highest amount of proteins than other alternatives.
Children suffering from chronic constipation can get relief after switching to soy milk. Moderate consumption of soy milk is safe for children.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women who consume a high amount of soy protein had a 60% reduced risk of breast cancer than those who consumed low amounts.
2. Almond milk
Almonds help relieve constipation, and you can get the same benefit by consuming almond milk. A serving size of eight ounces of almond milk contains one gram of fiber.
Almond milk is a low-calorie drink that is free of saturated fats. It contains vitamin E which enhances skin and hair texture. And, it tastes great.
Commercial almond milk contains emulsifiers like carrageenan. So, you should make your own almond milk at home whenever possible to reap all it’s health benefits.
3. Cashew milk
If you miss the texture of dairy milk, you can go for cashew milk. Cashew milk is rich and creamy like dairy milk.
Cashew milk is enriched with calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B, and zinc. A cup of cup of plain, unsweetened cashew milk contains only 25 calories. It contains a gram of protein per cup.
So, does milk cause constipation? Yes, in some people, it does. It largely depends on your ability to digest the beta-casein protein in cow’s milk.
There are also other dairy products that cause constipation. High-fat and low-fiber dairy products like cheese and ice cream are some of the other dairy products that cause constipation.
If your constipation is specifically due to milk, you can remove it from your diet. However, if you frequently suffer from constipation, you need to add more fiber to your diet, eat fresh food, and exercise regularly.
“Lactose Intolerance,” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, June 2014; https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/lactose-intolerance, last accessed June 2, 2017.
Crowley, E., et al., “Does Milk Cause Constipation? A Crossover Dietary Trial,” Nutrition, January 2013; 5(1): 253-266. doi: 10.3390/nu5010253.
“Can milk cause constipation?” Constipation Experts; http://www.constipationexperts.co.uk/blog/2014/06/can-milk-cause-constipation.html