This is why dairy products make your stomach hurt

Science and Health

The feast of dairy products – Shavuot – is almost upon us, which for many people spells trouble for their stomachs. In the eighth episode of Walla’s “Nutrition on the agenda” podcast, Gil Avidor-Aloni hosted Roni Baruch, a senior dietitian in the nutrition unit and the unit for functional diseases of the digestive system at the Gastroenterology Institute in Ichilov Hospital, as well as the chairman of the Gastro Forum at Atid Association.

They tried to understand whether dairy products are really as healthy as we always thought – and who is recommended to avoid them completely.

Most are lactose intolerant

According to estimates, up to 70% of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant. This is a result of a full or partial lack of an enzyme called lactase, which is responsible for breaking down lactose. When lactose isn’t broken down, it can result in abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas and bloating.

If you think you might be included in this statistic, there are two ways to find out: First, try to take out dairy products from your diet. Do you feel better now? Great. This might have been the reason for your troubles.

If this doesn’t work, you can also do a breath test, which is done with a 12-hour fast and after a day in which you did not consume any dairy products.

Milk for sale at the Rami Levy supermarket in Jerusalem on July 17, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The degree of sensitivity can change from person to person. This means that even if you were diagnosed with lactose intolerance, you still might be able to enjoy some dairy products. You can try to consume products that have a relatively low amount of lactose, including hard cheeses like parmesan, cottage cheese, yogurt and of course lactose-reduced milk and other dairy products.

If you don’t suffer from lactose intolerance and don’t refrain from dairy for ideological reasons, remember that dairy products have lots of health benefits. They are for example an excellent source of high-quality and easily available protein and help strengthen the bones. 

You should still consume dairy in a smart way and prefer low-fat products with no added sugar, as well as fermented products like yogurt or low-fat cheeses.