Why fermented milk helps IBS symptoms

Some say the first yogurt was created when nomads began traveling across the dessert thousands of years ago. Goatskin bags full of milk were draped over the backs of camels. The bacteria in the goatskin, the body warmth of the camel, and the searing heat from the sun turned milk into yogurt!

Although fermented milk has been around for thousands of years as a drink, marinade or preservative, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that people began associating fermented milk with health benefits.

Microbiologist Lewis Pasteur recognized that when foods ferment, certain bacteria digest the sugars, starches, and carbohydrates, which are then converted into alcohols, carbon dioxide, and organic acids. Interestingly, the bacteria linked to spoilage, rotting, and decay don’t survive in this process.

Pasteur realized that fermentation can make it easier for the body to absorb much-needed nutrients, but it wasn't until 2012 that researchers at Cedars Sinai Medical Center definitively linked bacterial fermentation to IBS.

“In general, most people are not able to produce large amounts of lactase, an enzyme that helps break down the sugar in milk,” said Magnus Simrén, MD, PhD, a professor and senior consultant at the department of internal medicine & clinical nutrition for the Institute of Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

According to Dr. Simrén, the natural fermentation process that occurs in the intestinal tract promotes the growth of good bacteria, which then breaks down the enzymes that can cause bloating, indigestion, and intestinal gas. Fermented milk is considered a probiotic and has the potential to enhance the body’s ability to digest lactose and perhaps improve stool consistency.

If your body can tolerate fermented milk (some can’t), having fermented milk daily might be helpful for those who suffer from IBS-C. The most common types of fermented milk include yogurt, sour cream, kefir, buttermilk, cheese, cottage cheese, and ricotta.