In this brief article, we will answer the question, “does milk help you poop?”, and will also discuss what happens when you cannot poop, the effects of consuming dairy products on digestive health, and the foods that can help you poop.
Does Milk Help You Poop?
The quick answer is no, milk will not help you poop. Consuming dairy products such as milk and cheese during constipation can make your symptoms worse. However, studies have shown that the consumption of 1 to 4 servings of milk per day may reduce constipation symptoms. Evidence showed that cow’s milk contains specific glycoproteins that possess prebiotic properties, which may modulate the gut microbiome composition, which plays a key function in regulating bowel movements. Therefore, consuming less dairy or not consuming dairy at all may lead to deprivation of key ingredients from the diet that benefits gut microbiome composition and may consequently instigate constipation (2).
However, consuming raw milk instead of the commonly available pasteurized varieties can help make you poop and relieve other digestive complaints since it is more easily digested.
Can Hot Milk Make You Poop?
Although consuming a lot of dairy or dairy products can in fact cause constipation to people who are allergic to milk protein (3), some individuals can benefit from a warm glass of milk to stimulate bowel movement, particularly when some ghee is added to it. However, the effect of milk is related to the stimulating effect of the milk to the gut microbiota, which favors bowel movements (2).
Why Does Dairy Make It Difficult To Poop?
Commercially available milk is considered to be a processed food which increases its prospect to further irritate the digestive system and trigger constipation, especially in individuals sensitive to grains.
Milk contains hormones and antibiotics from the cow it is obtained from and is commonly pasteurized to kill milk-borne bacteria.
However, pasteurization also destroys important enzymes that help the body digest milk and other essential minerals and vitamins. Constipation of children caused by milk is associated with protein allergies. But the possible link between dairy and constipation remains understudied in adults; importantly, there is no clear consensus on what type and component of dairy may relate to constipation. Fermented dairy products such as yogurt, acidified milk, and cheese consumption have demonstrated an inverse association with constipation (2).
How Often Should You Poop?
Individuals generally poop between three times a day to three times a week. Hence anything within this range is deemed healthy.
Pooping less frequently than this is considered constipation, and more frequently might mean diarrhea, and either indicate signs of compromised gut health.
What Happens When You Can’t Poop?
According to the medical community, reduced bowel movements or difficulty pooping results in constipation. Primary constipation is also referred to as functional constipation. Secondary constipation is associated with chronic disease processes, medication use, and psychosocial issues. Chronic functional constipation, defined as having one bowel motion every 3 to 15 days, is characterized by the presence of symptoms for at least three months (1,2).
People with constipation often have the following complaints:
- dry, hard, or lumpy poop
- bloating and difficulty passing gas
- poop that resembles marbles or tiny stones
- discomfort and pain while passing stool
- feeling that the bowels aren’t fully empty
- significantly reduced appetite because of the continuous feeling of fullness
- bright red streaks in the poop or on the toilet paper after cleaning
- hard stools, abdominal bloating, pain, and distention (1).
Each individual has different eating behaviors and bowel habits; however, constipated individuals generally have less than three bowel movements in a week.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 16 out of every 100 adults suffer from constipation in the United States, and the risk increases with age, about 33 out of 100 adults ages 60 and older have symptoms of constipation.
What Foods Can Make You Poop?
The following healthy, natural foods and beverages can help you poop (4).
- Water: dehydration causes constipation because sufficient water isn’t added to the poop from the intestines. Consuming water can prevent this problem and make poop less hard and lumpy.
- Yogurt: fermented dairy products such as yogurt and kefir contain good bacteria known as probiotics, mainly Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium lactis. These improve gut health and soften poop.
- High-Fiber Foods: beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, wheat bran, grapes, blackberries, cereals, and pasta are all good sources of fiber/insoluble fiber that promote digestion and relieve constipation. These foods also contain other nutrients that help you poop, such as zinc, folate, and vitamin B6.
- Plain Soup: clear soups are easy to digest, nutritious, and add moisture to dense poop which makes it easier to pass.
- Prunes: besides their fiber content, prunes are rich in phenolic compounds and sorbitol which has gastrointestinal benefits.
- Broccoli: the sulforaphane in broccoli protects the gut, aids digestion, and prevents the growth of harmful intestinal microorganisms that can cause constipation.
- Pears and Apples: these fruits contain various compounds that aid digestion, including sorbitol, fiber, and fructose. They also contain high quantities of water that softens poop; eating them raw with the skin intact provides the most benefit.
- Kiwis: Kiwis contain fiber and the enzyme actinidin which promotes gastrointestinal movement, along with various phytochemicals that enhance digestion and promote bowel movement.
- Flaxseed and Olive Oil: these oils have a moderate laxative effect, which eases the movement of substances through the intestines and promotes passing poop. Moreover, they contain antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Sauerkraut: this fermented food product contains probiotic bacteria that promote the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut, improve digestion and prevent constipation. Probiotics may also enhance immune function and the digestion of lactose.
- For babies, the best is breast milk. The fat composition of human milk may help create softer stools. Besides, breast milk contains non-digestible oligosaccharides, which act like dietary fiber, stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria, and promote maturation of the gastrointestinal tract (4).
Other FAQs about Milk that you may be interested in.
In this brief article, we answered the question, “does milk help you poop?” and discussed what happens when you cannot poop, the effects of consuming dairy products on digestive health, and the foods that can help you poop.
If you have any questions or comments, please let us know.
- Mounsey, Anne, Meghan F. Raleigh, and Anthony Wilson. Management of constipation in older adults. Am family phys, 2015, 92, 500-504.
- Aslam, Hajara, et al. Associations between dairy consumption and constipation in adults: A cross-sectional study. Nutr health, 2021, 02601060211004784.
- Crowley, Elesa T., et al. Does milk cause constipation? A crossover dietary trial. Nutrients, 2013, 5, 253-266.
- Bae, Sun Hwan. Diets for constipation. Pediatr gastroenter hepat nutr, 2014, 17, 203-208.