Ice Cream & Diarrhea

If you love ice cream, but find that it sends you running to the bathroom with full-blown diarrhea or even symptoms like slight bloating or mild cramping, you may have a disorder that prevents you from digesting dairy products properly. Learn what conditions might be responsible for your digestive discomfort and what you can do to avoid diarrhea after ice cream.

Ice cream can cause diarrhea for a variety of reasons. (Image: Stephanie Frey/iStock/Getty Images)

Diarrhea From Lactose Intolerance

If you are among the 65 percent of the population that have have a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy, you may be unable to properly digest a sugar found in milk and other dairy products such as ice cream. If you're lactose intolerant, you are deficient in a certain enzyme called lactase that is normally produced in the small intestine.

Without lactase, the lactose remains undigested in your gut and enters your colon, where it interacts with bacteria. This causes excessive gas, bloating, stomach pain, cramping and diarrhea. How intolerant you are of lactose and how much ice cream you eat will determine the severity of your diarrhea and other gastric symptoms.

If you think you might be intolerant to milk products, consider taking a lactose intolerance test. A lactose intolerance test can determine the ability of your intestines to breakdown sugars by either a blood test or a hydrogen breath test.

Diarrhea after ice cream may be prevented by taking the digestive enzyme, lactase, available in liquid and tablet form without a prescription. Chew the tablet form just before eating ice cream. .

Stomach Ache From Milk Allergy

Diarrhea can result within minutes of eating ice cream if you have a milk allergy. Milk allergies are one of the most common food allergies that primarily affects young children. An allergic reaction to milk is caused by an exaggerated immune system response to the presence of milk proteins.

Although diarrhea is a primary symptom of a milk allergy from eating ice cream, you may develop other symptoms aside from the digestive system, which might initially include:

  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Itching or tingling feeling around the lips or mouth
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
  • Coughing or shortness of breath
  • Vomiting

Other signs and lactose intolerance symptoms that may develop over time are:

  • Loose stools or diarrhea, which may contain blood
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Colic, in babies

Milk allergy can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction that restricts breathing, and requires treatment with epinephrine. Get medical help immediately if you suspect a milk allergy.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, is a disorder that causes abdominal pain associated with a range of symptoms including chronic diarrhea or constipation after eating certain foods. IBS is a common condition, affecting between 25 and 45 million Americans, according to the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders.

Dairy products, such as ice cream, are common food triggers for IBS symptoms. If you notice that you develop diarrhea constantly after eating dairy products, talk with your doctor about being tested for IBS.

Avoid Diarrhea After Ice Cream

Stomach pain after eating ice cream and other dairy products are most effectively eliminated by avoiding dairy. Dairy may be found in unlikely places, such as in deli meats, salad dressings and sauces. You can still enjoy eating a frozen treat and avoid diarrhea after ice cream by choosing alternatives to milk, such as ice cream made from soy, coconut or almond milk.

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