Is Dairy bad for the digestion?

November 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Nutrition Tips

My nephew asked me a very common question and I thought I’d share the answer with you all. His question was: “isn’t dairy bad for your digestion?” The short answer is NO.

There are some caveats to that answer. Dairy is a very healthy food and an important component of a healthy diet (it’s one of the four food groups in Canada’s Food Guide for Pete’s sake!). But some people develop the inability to digest dairy properly. This is usually caused by a deficiency of an enzyme called lactase which breaks down the milk sugar in dairy products.

When we’re children, we all have enough of the lactase enzyme. As we age (and this is truer for certain ethnic groups) our lactase enzyme production can decrease. If this happens, we can’t tolerate the volume or load of dairy as we used to. Tell-tale symptoms that you might be having difficulty tolerating lactose is gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort or diarrhea associated with the consumption of dairy products.

If you think you’re experiencing some of these symptoms due to dairy products, not all hope is lost. Dairy products are not all created equally. There is less lactose in cheese and yogurt than there tends to be in fluid milk. So what do I recommend?

  • Try taking a the lactase enzyme orally with dairy products (ask your doctor about “Lactase”).
  •  Try replacing just the fluid milk in your diet with Lactaid milk (has the enzyme in the milk) or a fortified soy milk; you may find you’re still able to tolerate cheese and yogurt.