Is Yogurt Good for IBS?
If you have irritable bowel syndrome, you might be considering any option to get relief. Symptoms include cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, and both constipation and diarrhea, often alternating. There is no cure for IBS, but it can typically be managed with medication, stress management, and the proper diet. One question that sometimes comes up is whether yogurt is good for IB.
Yogurt and IBS Reactions
A clinical trial in 2010 studied the effect of consuming a specific probiotic yogurt on symptoms of IBS. Since then, a number of studies have shown that probiotic yogurt can have a positive impact on symptoms, although the mechanism is unclear. In general, probiotic yogurt promotes good gut health by supporting the good bacteria in your gut and helping prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria.
For some people, however, the lactose in yogurt can trigger a flare-up. The reactions are different for different people.
Does Yogurt Help?
One study showed that homemade yogurt could cause complete remission as long as you continue to eat it regularly. Another, from 2012, tested a composite yogurt that also contained dietary fiber and showed significant improvement in gut function and symptomatic relief. The addition of fiber appears to help significantly.
The common wisdom is that people with IBS should avoid dairy products, especially as many are also lactose intolerant. However, yogurt is an exception to this rule for many.
What Research Says
Certain types of yogurt contain good bacteria, such as lactobacillus, that have been shown to improve your gut balance. These bacteria stay in your system for a few days, so you need to keep consuming yogurt regularly for it to work. You also need to consume the right type of yogurt.
In addition to the studies mentioned above, a number of clinical trials have studied a variety of probiotics, including lactobacillus, for the treatment of IBS. One study shows that these probiotics can help with small intestine bacterial overgrowth, an issue for some people with IBS, as well as improve gut motility. Yogurt is a potential source of probiotics that can work well for some, but not all, IBS patients. The effects of probiotics are solid, reducing bloating and abdominal pain and improving bowel habits. Probiotics can also help modulate your immune system.
It is worth trying probiotics and/or yogurt to see if they manage your symptoms.
Best Yogurt for IBS Symptoms
First of all, yogurt does not work for all IBS patients. While the fermentation process yogurt goes through breaks down most of the lactose, it does not break down all of it. If you are lactose intolerant or sensitive, then you may find yogurt causes flare-ups rather than being helpful. Lactose-free yogurt is sometimes available.
You need to purchase yogurt that has active cultures in it (probiotic or active yogurt). Inactive yogurt is more likely to make your symptoms worse.
Furthermore, you should purchase plain, low-fat yogurt. Greek yogurt is another good option, but it should be plain and unsweetened. If you find plain yogurt hard to stomach, consider adding low-fructose fruits such as berries or, better yet, nuts, which also help with IBS symptoms and have high levels of fiber. Peanuts, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pecans, and walnuts all work well. Consuming some fiber along with your yogurt appears to improve symptoms further. Avoid yogurt containers that also contain fresh fruit or nuts unless they only contain a kind of nut that you find helpful or at least neutral. Often the fresh fruit containers are heavily sweetened.
Why Is Yogurt Not Part of the FODMAP Diet?
FODMAP stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. The low FODMAP diet is recommended for people with IBS. It is a diet that is designed to reduce the consumption of those substances which can trigger symptoms. These foods also tend to cause gas. The fodmap diet asks you to reduce the following:
- Cow’s milk
- Ice cream
- Cottage cheese
- Ricotta cheese
- Agave nectar
- High fructose corn syrup
- Brussels sprouts
- A specific fiber called inulin
- Kidney beans
- Snow peas
- Artificial sweeteners
So, yogurt is not recommended under the low FODMAP diet, but it can still be helpful for symptoms. You should discuss this with your nutritionist and consider trying a small amount of yogurt to see if it induces a flare-up. If it does, you can consider other sources for probiotics.
Everyone with IBS should work with a nutritionist or dietician to help them establish their specific triggers, but the low FODMAP diet is a good start. In most cases, your nutritionist will advise that you cut out a category of foods and, if it helps, add them back in one by one until you work out what triggers you. Excessively limiting your diet is not good for you or your health.
The bottom line is that you need to establish what causes your flare-ups rather than what might be bad for others.
Studies and clinical trials have shown that active culture yogurt can help many people with IBS control symptoms, reduce pain, and have a better quality of life. Yogurt does not work for everyone with IBS, and it may be a poor choice if you are extremely sensitive to lactose. Lactose-free yogurt with active cultures may be available, and strained greek yogurt is also low in lactose.
It would be best if you worked with a nutritionist to establish your triggers and whether yogurt improves or worsens your symptoms. The bottom line of yogurt and IBS is that it is good for many, but not all, patients and may be an easy and nutritious way to control your symptoms if it works for you.
For those looking for comprehensive digestive health care, we are here to help. With a team of knowledgeable and experienced professionals, we offer a wide array of services tailored to each individual’s needs. From routine screenings and diagnostic tests to specialized treatments such as endoscopy or colonoscopy procedures, our staff can provide personalized support at every step. If you would like to learn more about your options, contact Gastroenterology Group of Northern New Jersey request an appointment today.