Can cheese trigger IBS?

Certain foods and stress are the main triggers for individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). An individual can experience flatulence, bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, diarrhea or alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation. The potential trigger foods for IBS tend to vary from one individual to another. Gas-forming foods such as cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts as well as foods that have high short-chain fermentable carbohydrates such as wheat, apples, garlic and high-fructose corn syrup are the usual culprits for individuals suffering from IBS. Various compounds present in cheese and other dairy products can also trigger the symptoms of this digestive condition.

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance can occur among individuals with or without IBS. If an individual has IBS and experiences symptoms after eating cheese, it might be due to the lactose present in different types of cheese especially if there is bloating, diarrhea and flatulence.

Many individuals with lactose intolerance can tolerate the small amounts of lactose present in cheese, but others are highly sensitive and overly react to even minimal traces of lactose. Take note that fresh varieties of cheese such as ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, cream cheese and fresh mozzarella usually contain more lactose than aged cheeses such as Gouda, cheddar or Swiss.


An individual can experience flatulence, bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, diarrhea or alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation.

Intolerance to casein

Casein is one of the proteins present in dairy products particularly cheese, ice cream, milk and yogurt. The symptoms of IBS that manifest after eating cheese might be linked to intolerance to casein, particularly if the individual has a previous similar reaction after eating yogurt and milk. The casein content of various types of cheese is quite similar, thus regardless of the type of cheese eaten; the IBS symptoms are somewhat similar.

Intolerance to amine

Amine is described as a natural substance present in various foods including tomato, avocado, chocolate, balsamic vinegar and cheese. The amines are typically linked with migraines and headaches but can also be connected with IBS symptoms. In case amines are known to trigger the condition, the individual is more likely to react to aged cheese. Fresh types of cheese such as cottage, ricotta, mascarpone, quark and cream cheese are relatively safe for individuals with amine intolerance.

What is the elimination diet?

In most cases, the doctor finds it difficult to determine whether cheese triggers the IBS symptoms due to the casein, lactose or amine content. Remember that some individuals can even react to two or all of these compounds. The ideal way to find out is to eliminate cheese and dairy products from the diet for a few weeks and then reintroduce to check if they trigger the symptoms again.

If an individual is intolerant to casein, he/she should not tolerate any cheese. As for those who are lactose intolerant, it is recommended to stick with aged cheeses. In case amines are the issue, the individual can consume fresh cheese without any issues. A doctor should be consulted for guidance in order to balance out the diet especially for those who need to avoid dairy or cheese.


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