What milk is best for IBS?

    The Best Milks for Your Belly

    Updated on October 31, 2021

    Even though lots of us were raised with a tall glass of milk alongside our meals, milk is not always a friend to our digestive systems. Many people have an  intolerance to lactose , which can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and excessive intestinal gas.

    Milks that are friendly for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are low in lactose and don't contain any other ingredients that lead to digestive distress.

    Researchers at  Monash University have devised a list of  FODMAPs , which are various types of carbohydrates that can make symptoms worse in people who have IBS. This list clarifies which milks are easiest for our bellies to digest.​

    This article takes a quick look at several dairy and plant-based milks that may be good options for those with digestive issues.


    Lactose-Free Milk

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    People with lactose intolerance don't have enough of the enzyme lactase to digest lactose easily. Lactose-free milk is typically cow's milk that has had lactose removed. This allows people with lactose intolerance to enjoy milk without unwanted digestive symptoms. Lactose-free milk is allowed on a low-FODMAP diet .

    Some nutrition experts point out that cow's milk contains important nutrients including protein, vitamins, and calcium. Because of its nutritional makeup, milk has been considered essential for bone health .

    Other health experts question whether humans should be drinking milk at all. Some research does not support the claim that milk reduces fracture risk.

    Drinking milk could also bring about other health risks. Dairy milk has been associated with acne and eczema. A few studies have linked cow's milk to a higher risk of prostate and ovarian cancers.

    Lactose-free milk is a good choice if you have IBS and/or lactose intolerance and want to avoid stomach cramping and excessive gas. But knowing about the possible risks of cow's milk can help you to feel better about using non-dairy milk for the sake of your stomach.


    Almond Milk

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    Almond milk used to be considered a high-FODMAP food . Luckily, almond milk has been recently tested by the researchers at Monash University. They've determined that a 1-cup serving is low in FODMAPs.

    Almond milk contains a whole host of vitamins and minerals including vitamin D, vitamin E, and calcium. 

    Store-bought almond milk may contain added sweeteners. Some brands contain carrageenan, a somewhat controversial thickening agent.


    Hemp Milk

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    Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds. Are you thinking, "Isn't hemp marijuana?" It is true that they are both classified within the same family, but they're actually very different plants.

    Hemp milk is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids . It also contains a wide variety of other vitamins and minerals. Hemp milk is a good source of plant-based protein, so it can be beneficial for vegetarians.

    The good news: Monash researchers have found that a 1-cup serving of hemp milk is low in FODMAPs.


    Coconut Milk

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    Coconut milk is made from the meat of coconuts. It's a good source of fiber and is filled with lots of vitamins and minerals. Coconut milk is high in saturated fats , which are considered a "bad" type of fat. Even so, its lauric acid levels and medium-chain triglycerides may promote good health.

    If you have IBS, portion size for coconut milk is important. According to the Monash University app, a serving size should be limited to 1/2 cup.

    Many commercial coconut milks have guar gum added. Guar gum is not a FODMAP but may have a laxative effect. It is unclear if the coconut milk tested at Monash University contained guar gum.

    Like almond and hemp milk, coconut milk is easier to make at home than you might think. If you make your own coconut milk, you won't have to worry about added ingredients.



    esemelwe / E+ / Getty Images

    Kefir is a fermented milk drink typically made from the milk of cows, sheep, or goats. It can also be cultivated from coconut milk and not-so-IBS-friendly soy and rice milks. As a fermented food , kefir is filled with beneficial probiotic bacteria and yeast.

    Kefir is thicker than regular milk but much thinner than yogurt. It has a pleasant, tangy flavor. 

    Kefir may do more than help you avoid digestive symptoms. It may actually improve the health of your digestive system. 

    Kefir has not yet been tested at Monash University for its FODMAP count. However, the fermentation process results in a low-lactose food. For that reason, it may be well tolerated by those who have IBS.


    If you're looking for a milk that won't upset your digestive system, you may want to try lactose-free varieties. They have low levels of the milk sugar that causes problems.

    You may also want to take a look at Monash University's FODMAPs list. It's a helpful guide to foods to avoid if you have IBS or other digestive issues. According to this guide, almond, hemp, and coconut milks may work for people with IBS. Just pay attention to your serving size.

    You may also want to try kefir. The fermentation process lowers lactose to a better level for those with IBS and lactose intolerance.

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    Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

    1. Nanayakkara WS, Skidmore PM, O'Brien L, Wilkinson TJ, Gearry RB. Efficacy of the low FODMAP diet for treating irritable bowel syndrome: the evidence to date . Clin Exp Gastroenterol. 2016;9:131–142. doi:10.2147/CEG.S86798

    2. Bian S, Hu J, Zhang K, Wang Y, Yu M, Ma J. Dairy product consumption and risk of hip fracture: a systematic review and meta-analysisBMC Public Health. 2018;18(1):165. doi:10.1186/s12889-018-5041-5

    3. Juhl CR, Bergholdt HKM, Miller IM, Jemec GBE, Kanters JK, Ellervik C. Dairy intake and acne vulgaris: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 78,529 children, adolescents, and young adults . Nutrients. 2018;10(8):1049. doi:10.3390/nu10081049

    4. Abid Z, Cross AJ, Sinha R. Meat, dairy, and cancer . The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014;100(suppl_1):386S-393S. doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.113.071597

    5. Fraser G, Miles F, Orlich M, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Mashchak A. Dairy milk is associated with increased risk of breast cancer in the Adventist Health Study-2 (AHS-2) Cohort (P05-026-19) . Curr Dev Nutr. 2019;3(Suppl 1):nzz030.P05-026-19. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzz030.P05-026-19

    6. McCarty MF, DiNicolantonio JJ. Lauric acid-rich medium-chain triglycerides can substitute for other oils in cooking applications and may have limited pathogenicity . Open Heart. 2016;3(2):e000467. doi:10.1136/openhrt-2016-000467

    Additional Reading

    Is Amul milk pure cow milk?
    Contains Pure Cow Milk with 3.5% fat and easily digestible. Per 100 ml: Energy: 62 Kcal. more
    Is Wal-Mart milk real milk?
    Walmart's new milk processing facility in Indiana is one of the largest in the U.S., producing white and chocolate milk for 600 Walmart and Sam's Club stores across the country. It sources raw milk from 31 farms that are all within 210 miles of the plant, meaning the company is saving on freight. more
    Is pistachio milk better than oat milk?
    Pistachio milk is rich in B vitamins. Oat milk has considerably more calories, carbs, and fiber than nut milks, even cow's milk. It has less protein compared to all nut milks, soy and cow's milk. Energy-filled and protein-poor, oat milk is an ideal pre-workout drink. more
    Do milk cows always produce milk?
    All cows provide milk, but they don't constantly produce it. Only cattle who are female and have been pregnant are called cows. Cows will produce milk for their calf. Dairy cows produce excess milk, or too much milk for one calf. more
    Is fairlife milk real milk?
    Fairlife​​ milk is made via a filtration process that separates milk into water, fat, protein, vitamins & minerals, and lactose (milk sugar) and then recombines them in different proportions to produce lactose-free milk with 50% more protein, 30% more calcium and 50% less sugar than regular milk. more
    Is Kirkland milk cow's milk?
    Yes, Costco Kirkland organic milk is grass-fed. Grass-fed milk is obtained from the cows that feed only on grass-fed. more
    Is Nestle milk real milk?
    Nestle Nesquik Chocolate Low Fat Milk is made with 100% real milk and has 8g of protein in every 8 fluid ounce serving. more
    Is chocolate milk made from expired milk?
    The simple answered is that expired milk is disposed of and not used for anything, including cheese, sour cream, or yogurt. As for the rumor that chocolate milk is made from sour milk, it is untrue. No amount of boiling and added flavoring could remove the sour taste from milk gone bad. more
    Is almond milk really milk?
    Almond milk is a plant milk with a watery texture and nutty flavor manufactured from almonds, although some types or brands are flavored in imitation of cow's milk. It does not contain cholesterol or lactose and is low in saturated fat. more
    What milk tastes closest to breast milk?
    Goat Milk. Goat milk is often praised as being one of the closest to breastmilk. more

    Source: www.verywellhealth.com

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