News and info hub

How does dairy affect gut health?

From milk and butter to yoghurt and cream, many of us are opting for dairy-free alternatives these days. But why?

In recent years, dairy has developed a bad reputation as more and more people – approximately 68% of the world’s population, to be exact – become lactose-intolerant. Furthermore, there’s conflicting information surrounding the health benefits of dairy. 

Here are a few ways that dairy affects your gut health and whether it has a place in a healthy diet. 

Breast milk promotes a healthy gut

Our introduction to dairy is usually through breast milk. Breast milk is a source of nutrition for infants and contains diverse microbiota (good bacteria) that helps develop the gut microbiome. According to research, good bacteria from the mother’s intestine may transfer to an infant through breast milk. 

Furthermore, breastfeeding also plays a role in promoting gut health in the baby, as the breast tissue itself contains bacteria. The bacteria passed from mother to baby positively contributes to the gut-bacteria community and thus the baby’s immune health. This also reduces the severity of bacterial infections later in life.

Dairy-related protein may inflame your gut

The most common protein found in dairy is the slow-release casein. Casein has become a popular protein supplement of choice for athletes and fitness enthusiasts, as it aids in muscle recovery and repair.

However, according to a study published in the Nutrition Journal, casein may cause gut inflammation and digestive discomfort. This may be because it stimulates the production of harmful amino acids called BCM-7, which trigger inflammation. 

Probiotics can help balance gut bacteria

Your gut health depends on fermentation to maintain the cycle of bacteria growth. Probiotics are strains of live bacteria usually found in fermented products.

Fermented dairy products are a great way to include probiotics, which contain good bacteria. Yoghurt, kefir and cheese may also prevent the growth of harmful, pathogenic bacteria

A low-dairy, high-fat diet may balance gut bacteria

A Mediterranean diet is rich in healthy fats and plant-based foods. It usually includes fruit, vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, olive oil, legumes and fish. Dairy, red meat, processed meat and sweets are eaten in moderation. Research has shown that a diet low in dairy and high in healthy fats, such as the Mediterranean diet, balances gut bacteria. 

This diet may also reduce intestinal inflammation that’s associated with too much dairy and red meat. This is helpful for conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease. 

The bottom line

Although dairy can negatively affect gut health, it still contains essential vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, protein and vitamin D. If you have a dairy allergy or are lactose-intolerant, there are other excellent options to keep your gut healthy. 

Some of these include fermented foods such as kombucha, kimchi (fermented cabbage) and sauerkraut. Finally, remember, eating in moderation is key. Talk to your doctor or dietitian about how best to include dairy in your diet. 

Note: Frequent stomach discomfort, digestive issues, fatigue and chronic bowel problems could be signs of gut-related conditions. A gastroenterologist is a specialist who can help diagnose any underlying causes.

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a healthcare professional. E&OE. Life Healthcare Group Ltd does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage suffered by the reader as a result of the information provided.