Debunking Dairy Myths for IBS: Finding Balance in Nutrition

Debunking Dairy Myths for IBS: Finding Balance in Nutrition

Written by Crystal Wong - Accredited Practicing Dietitian



Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) often involves managing dietary recommendations, with a common myth suggesting that individuals with IBS should entirely cut out dairy. This blog aims to debunk this myth and provide insights into effectively managing both IBS and lactose intolerance.


Dispelling the Myth:

Fortunately, individuals managing IBS on a low FODMAP diet can find relief in the fact that restricting lactose is only essential if they suffer from lactose intolerance. While reducing or eliminating lactose may alleviate IBS symptoms for some, it doesn't apply universally to everyone.


Differentiating IBS and Lactose Intolerance:

IBS is characterized by symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and changes in bowel habits [1]. In contrast, lactose intolerance results from insufficient lactase, the enzyme breaking down lactose in dairy products [2].


Scientific Evidence on IBS and Dairy:

Insufficient quality evidence supports the universal elimination of dairy to improve IBS symptoms. [3,4] Avoiding dairy without symptom correlation may lead to avoidable nutrient deficiencies, including low calcium levels.


For those with IBS and dairy challenges, alternative options exist:


  • Low-Lactose Options:

Most individuals with lactose intolerance can tolerate up to 12–15 grams of lactose per day. [5] Choose lactose-free or low-lactose alternatives for dairy products, including lactose-free milk, yogurt, and hard cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss).


  • Lactase Supplements:

Consider lactase supplements to aid lactose digestion when consuming dairy products. These supplements provide the necessary enzyme and are available in tablet or droplet form. Explore a variety of lactase enzymes available at FodShop by clicking on for more details.



Recent evidence challenges the notion that individuals with IBS must strictly avoid dairy. Personalizing an IBS-friendly diet involves individual experimentation and expert guidance to identify triggers and tailor the diet accordingly. Work with a registered dietitian specializing in digestive health to guide you through a dietary plan that considers both IBS and lactose intolerance.





[1] Saha, L. (2014) ‘Irritable bowel syndrome: Pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and evidence-based medicine’, World Journal of Gastroenterology, 20(22), p. 6759. doi:10.3748/wjg.v20.i22.6759.

 [2] Deng, Y. et al. (2015) ‘Lactose intolerance in adults: Biological mechanism and dietary management’, Nutrients, 7(9), pp. 8020–8035. doi:10.3390/nu7095380.

 [3] Cozma-Petruţ, A. et al. (2017) ‘Diet in Irritable bowel syndrome: What to recommend, not what to forbid to patients!’, World Journal of Gastroenterology, 23(21), p. 3771. doi:10.3748/wjg.v23.i21.3771.

 [4] Cancarevic, I. et al. (2020) ‘Is there a correlation between irritable bowel syndrome and lactose intolerance?’, Cureus [Preprint]. doi:10.7759/cureus.6710.

 [5] VERNIA, P. et al. (2001) ‘Lactose malabsorption and the genesis of Irritable bowel syndrome symptoms’, Gastroenterology, 120(5). doi:10.1016/s0016-5085(01)81310-x.


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