Irritable Bowel Syndrome (otherwise known as IBS) is a common, yet vague disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. IBS is characterized by recurrent abdominal pain and bloating, accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, or an alternating combination of both. These symptoms tend to be chronic, but may come and go over a period of several months or years. Research estimates that 10 to 20% of adults within the United States alone suffer from IBS, placing it at the top of the list for the most common functional GI disorders.
Dairy is a potential offender for many IBS sufferers, and it may attack from various angles:
- Lactose Intolerance – Lactose intolerance has the ability to mimic or aggravate IBS symptoms. The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) references two studies on lactose intolerance/malabsorption in which patients diagnosed with IBS were given a hydrogen breath test to clinically identify lactose intolerance. The first study estimated that almost 25% of IBS patients had evidence of lactose malabsorption. The second study was performed on IBS patients who had no noticeable symptoms related directly to the ingestion of milk. Lactose malabsorption was identified in 68% of these patients! Symptoms improved on a lactose-limited diet.
- High Fat Content – Eating foods that are too high in fat is a well-known trigger of IBS symptoms. The majority of dairy foods consumed have a high fat content, including cheese, ice cream, and other whole milk products.
- Milk Protein – For the allergic, or just the hypersensitive, whey and casein may cause severe digestive problems. Food hypersensitivities among the general population have recently been estimated at about 5%, but may be as prevalent as up to 65% in IBS patients. Diet exclusion studies are now underway. If proof positive, then even skim milk products may serve as aggravators to IBS sufferers.
- Irritable bowel syndrome, Information from the Mayo Clinic
- “DIETARY FACTORS IN GASTROINTESTINAL DISEASES” International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Inc. (IFFGD); Article by Jarol B. Knowles, M.D., M.P.H.
- IBS Education, IBS Support, & Self Help for IBS Patients, Help For IBS
Other Useful Links:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Resource Center
- Eating for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Diet & Recipes
- Personal experiences of IBS