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Is Milk Bad for the Stomach?

by
author image Serena Styles
Serena Styles is a Colorado-based writer who specializes in health, fitness and food. Speaking three languages and working on a fourth, Styles is pursuing a Bachelor's in Linguistics and preparing to travel the world. When Styles isn't writing, she can be found hiking, cooking or working as a certified nutritionist.
Is Milk Bad for the Stomach?
A glass of milk on a wooden table. Photo Credit HandmadePictures/iStock/Getty Images

As a rich source of protein, calcium and vitamin C, milk offers lots of nutritional value. However, it also has the potential to cause an upset stomach, or worsen existing symptoms. If you suffer from digestive upset after drinking milk, discuss your symptoms with a physician and opt for milk alternatives, such as almond or soy milk.

About Milk

Lactating mammals produce milk as a source of nutrition for their young. It contains several nutrients, including notable levels of calcium, saturated fat, protein and vitamin C. The most common milk consumed by Americans is cow’s milk, which is slightly acidic and typically processed to some extent. However, humans can consume milk from other animals including goats, sheep and camels as well. Humans are the only species that naturally consumes milk past infancy.

Milk and Upset Stomach

If too much acid causes an upset stomach, milk might neutralize some of it and ease a stomachache. However, when dealing with stomachaches caused by cramping, bloating and indigestion, consuming milk often causes symptoms to worsen. Whether milk eases your upset stomach is often a case-by-case basis dictated by how well your body digests lactose. If you have any level of known lactose intolerance, avoiding milk when you have an upset stomach might prevent symptoms from worsening.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance refers to a common condition that occurs when your small intestine does not produce enough lactase. Lactase is an enzyme that allows your body to digest milk; infants naturally produce lactase. Lactose intolerance is more common in African Americans, Native Americans, Asians and those with Mediterranean lineage over Europeans. By the age of 20, around 30 million Americans are lactose intolerant to some degree, according to PubMed Health. Within 30 to 120 minutes of consuming milk, lactose intolerance causes one or several symptoms. They can include gas, nausea, diarrhea, cramps and bloating. The more milk you consume, the worse the symptoms become. The best method to eliminate lactose intolerance symptoms is to remove milk from your diet or reduce the amount you consume. Those affected with lactose intolerance can often consume as much as 2 to 4 ounces of milk without symptoms, writes PubMed Health. In addition, lactase enzymes in chewable tablets can be taken before consuming milk to be sure it digests properly, reducing symptoms.

Considerations

Eliminating milk from your diet can cause a deficiency in vitamin D, calcium, riboflavin or protein. To prevent this, take a daily multivitamin suited to your age, gender and lifestyle. In addition, consuming vitamin-enriched juices and foods can help prevent a deficiency caused by avoiding milk. If you believe you are lactose intolerant or that milk causes negative effects for your stomach, consult your physician. She can examine your diet to determine if milk is the cause of negative symptoms and advise you on how to change your diet. Replacing dairy milk with soy or almond milk provides a suitable substitute in most situations without the risk of lactose irritating your stomach.

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