does yogurt cause diarrhea?

Does Yogurt Cause Diarrhea? The Sweet and the Tangy

You might have encountered health gurus promoting yogurts as a healthy snack and it’s a good reason to. But is it all good and dandy in Yogurt land? Or does yogurt cause diarrhea?

Yogurt is a tart, sour and thick cultured milk product. In the simplest form, It only requires two ingredients – milk and bacterial culture. Two bacteria are generally allowed by the FDA – Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. These two microorganisms produce lactic acid which also serves as a preservative for yogurt.

Yogurt is a probiotic. And, as a probiotic, it is helpful with the gut microbiome and in turn, the gut health of a person. These beneficial bacteria balance out the harmful bacteria in the gut. This helps improves digestion, reduces bloating and prevents constipation. 

Like Yin and Yang, there is a dark side to yogurt. It is not beneficial for everyone. 

Does Yogurt Cause Diarrhea?

Yes, it does. There are different reasons why.

To start with, there is Lactose Intolerance. To put it simply, the body is unable to digest milk and milk byproducts due to the low amount of lactase. Lactase is the enzyme that digests the lactose from milk. Remember how milk and cultured bacteria are the only ingredients of a basic yogurt?

Well, Greek yogurt doesn’t contain as much lactose. Contrary to the 12g of lactose in one cup of milk, yogurt only contains 4g per 6-ounce.

If you feel the following after eating any form of dairy product, you might be lactose intolerant:

  • Stomach flu
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea 

Fun fact: Lactose intolerance is most common in Finland wherein one in every 60,000 newborns is intolerant. 

Another possible reason is secondary lactose intolerance. This is a complication from another medical condition which results in a temporary decrease in lactase production. Some conditions include gastroenteritis, stomach flu, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, and HIV/AIDS.

Yogurt and IBS

Another heavy-hitting reason for not eating yogurt is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The symptoms of IBS and the duration of the symptoms vary from person to person. This is because IBS is like a salad – it is a mix of a group of symptoms of the intestines that happen together.

Studies about yogurt’s effect on IBS vary and do not give a conclusive answer. Some people with IBS found consuming probiotics beneficial. But, others had negative results and did not aid with IBS and constipation.

Dairy yogurt is a big NO-NO for IBS. For one thing, it contains fat, and this fat helps increase the chances of diarrhea. Another reason is that most IBS patients are lactose intolerant. Because of this, instead of improving the symptoms, it worsens them. Dairy products as a whole are not allowed for people with IBS.

There are some additives in yogurt products to create more flavor and variety. Some examples of such are:

  • sucrose
  • fruit bits
  • color additives
  • flavoring ingredients
  • sweeteners

Most people have no problem with this food, but some people have a problem absorbing fructose. When this happens, they experience gas, stomach cramps, bloating, or even diarrhea.

Fructose is a type of sugar that occurs in fruits. One fruit, in particular, is famous for being mixed with yogurt. You guessed it right! Strawberry!

Some people feel gassy, bloated, or have diarrhea even if they don’t have the conditions mentioned above. It only means that the healthy bacteria is doing its job. They are displacing the harmful local gut bacteria and improving the digestion process. That’s why the stomach may feel queasy after eating probiotic food. 

One Spoonful at a Time

Yogurt is a healthy snack for people that need to balance the gut microbiome and improve gut health. It is beneficial for people without pre-existing conditions. But for those who have lactose intolerance, prone to secondary lactose intolerance, or have IBS, they should have a second thought about eating yogurt. They must consult with their physicians on what probiotic they can take to help their gut health. 

If you love yogurt even if it sometimes disturbs your tummy then take it one spoonful at a time. This way, you’re slowly introducing the live, healthy bacteria in your body without any drastic changes. After taking a bit of yogurt, observe yourself for any improvement. Take it a few days apart so you’ll have time to check. In this way, even if yogurt does cause diarrhea for some people, others can get used to it and improve their gut health one step at a time.

What fruits do you add to your yogurt to create some variation?

Nicole Castaneda - RND

Nicole is a professional Nutritionist-Dietitian who advocates for food variation, moderation and the effect of food choices on the body. She loves to write light and easy to understand articles about food and gut health.

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