Colon health and dairy: What to eat and what to avoid

SAN JUAN, ALICANTE, COMUNIDAD VALENCIANA, SPAIN - 2018/10/30: Fermented milk, Kefir or kephir, are seen displayed for sale at the Carrefour supermarket in Spain. (Photo by Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SAN JUAN, ALICANTE, COMUNIDAD VALENCIANA, SPAIN - 2018/10/30: Fermented milk, Kefir or kephir, are seen displayed for sale at the Carrefour supermarket in Spain. (Photo by Miguel Candela/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

If you have ongoing tummy trouble, you’ll probably try an elimination diet for better colon health. One of the suspected foods for colon inflammation people often cut from their lives first is dairy.

However, such an approach might not be best for everyone. While some individuals are lactose intolerant, dairy, in general, has scores of health benefits, including for your large intestine.

All products are not created equal — an ice cream cone differs from a yogurt parfait. What should you eat and avoid? Here’s what you need to know about dairy and eating for colon health.

Is Dairy Bad for Your Colon Health?

When people think about eating for colon health, they mistakenly assume they should cut all dairy for several reasons. These foods are often associated with tummy trouble, like constipation. However, these effects don’t occur in many people, and unnecessarily eliminating these products from your life could impact your health. Recent research suggests that dairy may protect against colon cancer, so striking cheese from your diet without cause is unwise.

Worse, many people aren’t aware of early signs of trouble. Although you should get screened for colon cancer starting at age 45, many people skip their annual visit, often because of financial hardship. However, early detection offers the best chance of a cure if the worst occurs.

What About Lactose Intolerance?

Some people are lactose intolerant, meaning their bodies cannot fully digest the special type of sugar found in milk. Their stomach doesn’t produce enough of the necessary enzyme. Pay attention if you experience the following symptoms after consuming dairy products:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea, rarely vomiting
  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Gas

Some people with lactose intolerance become constipated after eating dairy, although diarrhea is far more common. Becoming constipated after consuming dairy can be a hallmark of IBS or an inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Only your doctor can make the correct diagnosis.

However, most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of dairy. Others find they do okay with certain foods — like yogurt and cheese — but have problems drinking milk. Over-the-counter lactose supplements can help replace the missing enzyme. It’s a wise idea to eat them before you dive into that towering banana split if similar foods produced symptoms in the past.

Eating for a Healthy Colon: General Rules for What to Eat and Avoid

What are some general rules surrounding dairy and eating for a healthy colon? Here are some foods you should add to your menu — and those you can avoid.

Yogurt is a dairy product nearly everyone should consume these days. Why? It’s rich in probiotics, the live beneficial bacteria that help replenish your intestinal microbiome.

Your Microbiome, Probiotics and Prebiotics

Everyone is born with a unique microbiome, a colony of beneficial intestinal bacteria that act as your body’s workhorses. They do everything from helping you digest foods to assisting serotonin production, a critical neurotransmitter made primarily in your gut. Over time, your microbiome depletes from factors like poor diet, overindulgence in alcohol, antibiotic use and the joys of aging. Consuming probiotics can help replace what you lost.

Yogurt is one of the richest sources of probiotics. Best of all, you don’t have to eat the sour refrigerated kind if you find the taste objectionable. Instead, dig into a bowl of the frozen stuff to get your daily dose of healthy bacteria.

What are prebiotics, then? This term refers to insoluble fibers that feed your microbiome. Your best sources are fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grain cereals like Kashi — perhaps sprinkle on a bit of oat bran to make a healthy parfait?

Yogurt is especially valuable for pregnant mamas. It provides calcium to nourish their developing baby’s bone and probiotics to tame some of the intestinal upset that can happen while expecting.

General Rules on What to Eat and Avoid

Before you rush out to order a double-dip ice cream cone to perk up your large intestine, pause. As beneficial as dairy may be for your colon, you still have to consider the other ingredients, particularly added sugars.

You already know yogurt is an excellent choice, but even there, you should be careful of added sugars. Greek generally has a lower amount of the added stuff, so opt for that when possible. Other wise dairy choices include:

  • Milk: Although skim and reduced-fat milk does not contain added sugar, it’s present in a higher percentage by volume because of the fat reduction. Drink any type of milk if you have no issues with your weight. Those concerned about diabetes risk might do better with a full-fat version in moderation.
  • Hard cheese: Hard cheeses have more calcium than soft, although some people with migraines may find aged varieties like cheddar triggering because of the tyramine content.
  • Ricotta cheese: This stuff also contains fermented wheat germ, making it a prebiotic and probiotic rolled into one.
  • Kefir: This trendy drink is a cross between milk and yogurt and supplies millions of probiotics per serving.

Dairy foods you can pass on include:

  • Ice cream
  • Butter
  • Cream

It’s okay to allow these foods in limited amounts, but please consume them in moderation. Why? The high-fat content can pile on extra pounds in a jiffy.

Foods for Colon Inflammation: Tips for Those With Inflammatory Bowel Conditions

The above rules apply to people who are generally free of major health concerns. However, some foods spur colon inflammation in those with inflammatory bowel conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s.

Every patient is different, so listen to your body and doctor in that order. An elimination diet may reveal dairy as one of your triggers — or you could tolerate it without problems.

Colon Health and Dairy

Do you avoid dairy foods because you fear they’re bad for your large intestine? Think again.

Now that you know the truth, you can improve your eating for colon health. Indulge in some healthy dairy today — you may lower your cancer risk.

Next. Frozen Yogurt vs. Soft Serve Ice Cream: Which is the best frozen treat?. dark