Milk and Constipation

Question

Dr. Greene, our 19-month-old son has seemed to have trouble since his birth. He wouldn't be miserable all the time, just a good portion of the time. At 1 year, he was introduced to cow's milk. Before this time, he had consumed cheese and a few other dairy products. He is a very unsettled, miserable-acting child. As his mother, I know something is wrong. He has been having trouble with constipation for a while now. We have tried increasing fruit, veggies, and whole grains to no avail. He goes for days between stools, and when he does eliminate, there is a very hard, very large "plug" of stool that comes out, followed by two to five diapers full of loose stool within a couple of hours. His father is lactose intolerant yet can drink skim milk with no problems. My question is: should we try skim milk? Or should we try a lactose-free type of milk or soymilk? Any help would be appreciated greatly!!!
Shannon - Woodstock, Nebraska

Dr. Greene`s Answer:

A cranky, unhappy toddler may well be responding to physical discomfort. Tummy troubles of one type or another can make anyone feel miserable. Milk is a major part of most children’s diets. If a child is intolerant to milk, this can affect how he feels every single day of his life. Nausea, cramps, and pain can squelch the normal joys of discovery and mastery.

But the classic symptoms of milk intolerance are diarrhea, spitting up, or abdominal pain. Many kids with milk intolerance also wheeze, especially when they get a cold. They can also have the dry, sensitive skin of eczema and their noses always seem to be running. Ear infections are also more common than in other kids. Constipation, however, has not been typically associated with milk intolerance — until now.

The observation that constipation might sometimes be caused by milk intolerance has appeared in the medical literature from time to time, dating back as far as 1954 (Pediatric Clinics of North America, 1954; 4:940-962). But only recently has there been a well-designed study published showing that this is indeed the case. The results of this study, when widely known, can set many children free to enjoy the exuberance of childhood without pain.

Researchers at the University of Palermo in Italy worked with 65 children with chronic constipation. All of these children had been treated with laxatives when dietary measures had failed. Even with the medical treatment, these children were still constipated, having hard, painful stools only every 3 to 15 days. Forty-nine of the their little bottoms had fissures and redness or swelling from the hard plugs of stool.

Each child received either cow’s milk or soymilk for 2 weeks, with no one knowing which was which. Next, they had a week during which they could eat and drink anything they wanted to wash out the effects of the first 2 weeks. Then they switched sides for 2 weeks and got the milk that they didn’t get the first time. Careful recordings of the bowel habits were made.

When the secret code was broken at the end of the study, they found status quo constipation for each child while he or she was on cow’s milk. But while they were taking soymilk (which causes firmer stools in most kids), 68% of these kids were no longer constipated! The redness, swelling, and fissures on their bottoms healed (New England Journal of Medicine, 1998; 339:1100-1104). How wonderful to finally have relief after diet and medicines hadn’t worked for so long!

The results were most dramatic in kids who also had frequent runny noses, eczema, or wheezing. Nevertheless, sometimes constipation can be the only symptom of cow’s milk intolerance.

This has broad implications. The children in this study were those with severe chronic constipation that was unresponsive to medications. I am convinced that they are only the tip of the iceberg. There must be a much larger group of mildly allergic children whose constipation improves with laxatives. Time may prove that it is better for these children to avoid the offending protein by switching milks rather than being treated with laxatives.

Presumably, swelling of the intestinal lining causes the constipation. Whatever the exact mechanism, the problem is likely with the protein in cow’s milk, not with the fat or lactose (the sugar). Skim milk or lactose-free milk will not help with this one. Switching to soymilk and other soy products might transform the life of your son in only a couple of weeks!

Unfortunately, some children are also soy protein intolerant. As it happens, this is more common in kids who are allergic to cow’s milk protein. If you don’t get good results within 2 weeks, I suggest also eliminating soy from the diet for 2 weeks as a trial. You might use Alimentum or Nutramigen (protein hydrolysate infant formulas) as the milk for these next 2 weeks because your son is much less likely to be allergic to the protein in them. If they work, you can then experiment with other sources of calcium, protein, and fat for the future (perhaps rice milk).

It’s not that common for simple changes to relieve relentless, longstanding problems. But when a child is made miserable by an allergy, removing the source can result in a rapid, dramatic improvement in the quality of life. I hope, Shannon, that this turns out to be the case with your son and that this next season his smiles double to make up for those he has missed.

Last medical review on: June 30, 2014
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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At age 16 I started showing symptoms of chronic constipation and eczema. By age 18 the symptoms were absolutely unbearable. The eczema was so bad the doctor thought it was a rash associated with ringworm. It was only in small patches but had a very particular (circular) shape. The constipation was awful. No brand of laxative helped. Not a single one. Not even the ones they use after surgery. The only thing that helped was consuming linseeds that had been soaked in water overnight – worked a dream. Age 18 I eliminated dairy from my diet (after 10 GPs and 1 Dietician were utterly no help, one even said I was making it up). I cannot emphasise enough how much eliminating dairy has worked. Age 23 I’m still happy!

Hi, My 2 year old son seems to have always had trouble with milk — of all sorts. While breastfeeding I had to go off dairy because of his GERD and belly aches. He had earaches almost monthly after switching to milk-based sensitive formula at 6 months and had to take miralax daily for 3 to 6 months after that. Now we can’t seem to get him straightened out — he’s either got diarrhea or he’s constipated. There is no happy medium. He won’t drink soymilk except as a last resort and is constipated when he does. Almond milk seems to be an allergy and he won’t drink it either (diarrhea if he does). Lactose free milk didn’t solve the problems but he would drink it. He loves milk. We tried 2% milk but that causes constipation. Whole milk leads to diarrhea. We’re currently mixing the two, but we haven’t gotten the proportions right yet. He eats poorly and is very low in terms of BMI and weight percentage. Any suggestions/advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

Have you tried A2 milk? It has a different composition from most of the milk in the US. It started with the cows in New Zealand. The A2 milk there was tolerated by some people who couldn’t drink other cow milk. It’s available in some Australia and US locations, but you may have to ask your local grocery store to carry it. In California, some Safeway stores carry it, but I think you need to ask them to order it. It’s what I drink.

Might we worth a try.

Hi my child is 4 months, i have changed her milk numerous times. Her last visit to the Ped they moved her to Simalac Soymil, its been 2 weeks now she is very badly constipated she is consistently in pain, i had an xray done the stools are all hard in her tummy causing unbearable pain. Please can you advise maybe this milk is not agreeing.

Wow, that sounds painful. And sounds like it’s time to try one of the truly easy to digest formulas like Nutramigen. What is your child’s doctor suggesting?

I use to give nido fortified milk to my 5 yrs old baby.. she has great problem of constipation for last 2 yrs.. do u think milk causing yhis constipation.

After 8 years of these exact symptoms with an unhappy and difficult child who was so constipated that he was diagnosed with “sneaky poo”. He was tested for everything imaginable including coeliacs, as our life and his was so constricted by the constant faeces in his underwear. He had to wear nappies to school for the first few years of which made me terribly distraught. He wasn’t able to go for play dates or on swimming carnivals etc. Going out at all was difficult as he was always smelly. The paediatrician was at a loss and said he will grow out of it, but it hadn’t changed in all those years. I lost sleep over worrying where this would all go and if he would ever be able to lead a normal life. It wasn’t until I stumbled across this page, after many years trying to google my way to an answer. Everything to do with milk was always about diarrhoea and or lactose intolerance. It wasn’t until I realised that ANY mammal milk / cheese / dairy product was the culprit. No lactose free, goats milk, A2 made any difference and that was where we thought we were on the wrong track. We noticed a significant difference within weeks of going onto just rice milk and absolutely no dairy. If you read the back of labels you realise then how many things include dairy products and you wouldn’t realise. 6 months before he could go nappy free. I am assuming there was much damage done to his gut/intestines before it settled completely. He is a new child. He is confident and happy and he is able to concentrate now. Academically he has gone ahead and leaps and bounds. It has changed our lives. He is symptom free and we can all get on with our lives. I so wanted to share this in case there was just one child / mother / family that this may help.

Hello Gwen ….you just switched your kid to rice milk????

Thank you.

Mine is 7 years now, and she is categorized as autism. I always believe that there is a missing puzzle piece as her main problem is communication. She has flashes of communication — she can say something today and go for 3 months before flashing another sentence.

Lets try this, hope it will work for her.

Good day my daughter has been always struggling to poop and everytime she poop she cries a lot and the stool is always hard i have tried all the medicine dat doctors gave me but nothinv seems to work please help it pains me to see my daughter in pains every day shes only ond year six months

My 3 year old recently went through almost 4 months of constipation. We were so concerned as he is a big water drinker and when he did go it was painful and scary and the stool was rock hard. We believe he started to retain as he was frightened of the pain. So many trips to the doctor for advice still didn’t help, we tried stool softeners and increased fibre and still nothing, and as my son is a fussy eater we mixed prunes or pears with his meals and we’d add Benefibre once a day yet his symptom was still the same.
After speaking to a dietitian we tried stopping milk, which he would have half a bottle before bed, I replaced with more water. He passed a slightly softer stool 3 days later and every day since he has passed stool. He still eats cheese, but right now no cows milk. He ALSO suffers from eczema where we would regularly apply Advantin Fatty Ointment as we noticed a breakout spot/area. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence but since he’s had no milk, we’ve currently has no eczema breakouts.

We are now looking for an alternative to cows milk to see what he can tolerate.

Hi Shann,
Often it’s difficult to make dietary changes to “see if it makes a difference”. But experimentation and observation can lead to great finds. Seems like you’ve found your son’s culprit. It will be interesting to see how this plays out for him. Do update us as you continue to experiment.
Best, @MsGreene Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I am 94 years old and found that cheese constipates me. Will goats milk cheese also constipate and what is better, pasteurized or unpasturized

I’d love to know a reply to this as well! I have the same issue. I am 47 and have been dairy free for 6 years. Is it safe to try an unpasteurized cheese? Or goat cheese?

hi there hope everything’s good now. Sorry to hear your struggle. how about the idea of probiotics? you can also try it, since it helps in digesting foods and adds good bacteria. You can try and check it out.

I havr a 19 month old who constantly sufferes from constipation from the moment i stopped breastfeeding at 10 months. Ive tried probiotics, doctors prescibed softeners and laxatives, lactose free milk and soy no luck.
I read this post and have stopped giving him dairy, instead alternating with rice and almond milk but now he has diarhea!
Obviously it was the cows milk causing thr constipation but we have gone the other way and now im not sure what to do.

Hi Natalie. Hemp Milk is Carrageenan free.

One more comment. I believe Dr. Greene is spot on. If something is causing discomfort to the body, remove it, abstain from it. There are other foods that offer the same nutrients. Think outside the norm, outside the box and get calcium and protein from beans and vegetables.

No I am not a vegan or vegetarian(which is fine). I am just a common sense thinker. Thank a God for good old common sense and self education through the internet. Also, thanks to everyone who share their knowledge for free. God Bless You All! ☺

Cow milk substitutes i.e, rice, soy, nut milk, etc have carrageenan(an additive used to thicken products) as an ingredient. Carrageenan is reported to cause digestive irritability such as diarrhea,etc.

I suggest finding the milk substute without the carrageenan or make your own. There are plenty of YouTube videos or instructions online. I wish we had this technology when my daughter suffered with digestive issues as a baby.

Unfortunately, medical doctors are not properly trained in nutrition, therefore, they are not qualified to help in that area. A good registered nutritionist or a nature pathos doctor is where we need to get help for nutrition and digestive help.

God Bless you all:)

All I can say is yes milk or all dairy in that fact does make a difference. I am 56 years old and have suffered all my life with constipation because of dairy products. I was given my first enema at 3 weeks old I was bottle feed. I to this day can not have any dairy products because I get horrible constipation. Now my husband on the other hand gets diarrhea from dairy. Nearly all of my grandkids get constipation from dairy also along with my children. I don’t believe that humans should consume cow’s milk. I believe you can get most of the vitamins and nutrients from other foods. Also, we can not drink or eat foods that are high in Iron which all my children, grandkids and myself also get constipation leaving them to have soymilk rather than baby formula. So I guess my point is, do an elimination process. If you think dairy is your culprit eliminate it and then reintroduce it at least three weeks later, if your problems start again, then stay off that type of food or liquids. Everyone thinks they know the answer but they don’t, so evidently growing out of dairy problems by the time your three years old is a myth and I and my children and grandkids are living proof of that. I may also add, that I have eczema and I use to blame my acid reflux on the acid in my stomach but, when I stay off the dairy products I have no flare ups and have now been off my Prilosec for nearly a year which was a five year battle.

My 3y old son was having tummy pain and constipation. We tried every possible remedy to settle his tummy but nothing worked until we started him with Toddler magic tea which helped and relieved his constipation and tummy ache.

im 38 years old and milk makes me have hard stool so I don’t drink it..very painful

What kind of magic tea she is just turned 1 n cries can’t poop kills me pls help

Hi my one year old is was on Enfamil infant from birth and I didn’t hav a problem,, wen he turned one I start giving him klim1+ that he likes, he poops everyday but it is hard and pebble like he drinks alot of water since he doesn’t like juices. I can see he is straining to pass the stools but I don’t know what to do since I’m a ftm.. Can I get some advice please.

Hi Vidya,

Thanks so much for writing in! Sometimes constipation can be the result of an intolerance to certain foods. If this is the case, it can be helpful to eliminate or change the food in question and see if the symptoms improve.

Hope that helps,
Alexandra (caring helper at DrGreene.com, not a doctor)

My daughter is 21 months old & I think she has a milk protien allergy. When she was a newborn she was put on Enfamil Gentleease because of her colic. At first as a newborn she had trouble going to the bathroom. There were a couple times I had to take her to the ER because she wasnt going for a few days. When she turned one, I introduced her to cows milk. She seemed to be doing fine until a couple weeks later she started have diarrehea. Every time she had a bowl movement her diaper was FULL. Im talking about full to where it would be all up her back & her front area. I took her to her pediatrician & he recommended soy milk or almond milk. Ive tried both of those products & she is still having the explosive stools. She also has a little bit of a rash on the creases of her arm & back. Im desprate right now, I need some help or answers!

Please i realy need advice i have a 2 year old baby girl and she weighs about 26 lb and her hight is 35 inches and every time she drinks any kind of milk she starts not wanting to eat and gets constipaded for 2 weeks on and off im afraid her intestin could rupture or something and shes always crying when she need to do the restroom and when she does do it she only leves the diper ith a small mark or a small pellet. What do i do to help her ?
how do i know shes fine from her insides? PLess some one help me i cant stand to see her like that no more

Mine same way pls help just switched milk

Kiana,

Thanks for writing in.

The description you give follows the course of a classic cow milk intolerance. It’s pretty easy to find out if this is the case by taking her off cow milk and seeing if there is an improvement. Often kids who have a cow milk intolerance can drink goat milk. Other kids can’t tolerate either and need to switch to a soy alternative.

You can do the switch yourself or, if you are uncomfortable with the process, you can ask for your pediatrician’s guidance.

If this switch doesn’t work, you should talk to your daughter’s physician.

Best, @MsGreene
Note: I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, but I am not Dr. Greene and I am not a doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

I have a 2 year old daughter who has suffered from chronic constipation since she was 7 months old, which was the time we changed from breast milk to cows milk and started solid foods. She has been on and off miralax mostly on, and we have had to use suppositories on several occasions. She has a fissure which has developed a skin tag, and her stools are large. Concerned about long term problems we decided on our own to seek out help from a nutritionist and a GI doctor. The GI doctor suggested possible milk allergy so we are now going to an allergist tomorrow for testing. I wish I would have read this article sooner I would have asked for allergy testing sooner, or at least tried a no cows milk and no soy milk diet. I only wish more pediatricians would stop making parents feel that constipation is normal and it can be easily treated with miralax and will go away on its own. Reading all these post I’m so sad by all the parents and children suffering from this awful problem. Thank you for the informative post,

Yes my daughter has the same problem and I’m so tired of seeing my poor girl in pain and not knowing what to do. So what type of milk should I use instead of cows milk? What did the doctor say? If u could help that would be great. Thank u.

Can you please tell me how the allergy tests go? Im in the same boat as you ever since i stopped giving her breast milk my daughter has had problems and the doctor just have us mirilax.

Hi there,

My son who is now 17 months old has really bad constipation as well. Ive tried switching from cows milk to soy milk but unfortunately he doesnt want it, he tried and just threw his bottle away. I am completely desperate and wondering what other milk should i give him instead please? Lactose free or almond milk or skim milk?

My daughter gets really constipated from cows milk as well I switched her to lactose free. It tastes the same so she drinks it no problem and now her poop is a more normal consistency.

Bella,

Some kids do well on goat milk. At 17 months he can take a goat milk formula or whole goat milk.

I hope that’s helpful,
@MsGreene
Co-founder & Executive Producer DrGreene.com, Mom
Note: I answer a lot of questions on DrGreene.com, I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, Dr. Greene’s business partner and wife, but I am a not doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

Hi I have just been told from pediatrician the the hospital my baby is dairy intolarance they have giving me alternative powder milk but he hates it and doesn’t drink it been trying for over a week now and still nothing so have tried sweetened soya milk from tescos and he is drinking it fine he is 11 months old and suffers from exzma it’s all flared up at a lose end as font know what to do wheatgerm to take him of his powder milk as he eats breakfast lunch and dinner and just stick with soya milk? Any suggestions from some who may be other have had same trouble? Many thanks advance

Caroline,

If your son doesn’t like the alternative powder milk that your pediatrician recommended, you can try other brands. Goat milk formula can be very good for children with eczema.

Typically doctors suggest breastfeeding or formula until at least 12 months old. Soya milk does not have the nutrients growing baby’s need. Doctor do not ever recommend sweeting any drinks given to children. Sweetened drinks teach kids to love that flavor and reject savory flavor and can have a negative effect as they grow up — even into adulthood.

Best, @MsGreene
Co-founder & Executive Producer DrGreene.com, Mom
Note: I answer a lot of questions on DrGreene.com, I am the co-founder of DrGreene.com, Dr. Greene’s business partner, but I am a not doctor. Please keep that in mind when reading my comments and replies.

This article was really helpful. My 5 year old has been struggling with many of these symptoms. She has chronic ear infections, sensitive skin and ezcema, and when she has bowel movements it is like a a few marbles at a time. Even when we try Miramax she still has issues. I am going to have her stop dairy and see if this helps. I just wanted to know though… When she does have diarrhea or even just a softer bowel movement it burns her poor bottom so bad. Does a milk intolerance cause her stool to be more acidic if say she drank orange juice. She cries so bad after just going once so its not just because of frequently going or anything. Please let me know what you think. Thank you!

You are describing exactly our daughter’s symptoms. I think the pain or ‘burning’ during non-hard stools is likely because there are small fissures (cuts) in the rectum from the hard stool pebbles that hardly ever heal, so when any soft stool touches them, it burns like a cut would. If I’m correct, then once normal/soft stool becomes the norm and fissures heal this should go away. I found this article 5 years ago when our daughter was 3 and our pediatrician insisted that dairy could not cause her constipation despite our observations to the contrary. This post helped us take first step in taking her off Miralax (which did not help anyway). We started by skipping cow dairy as this recommends. Then while looking for good sources of calcium for her, we learned about making and drinking/cooking with broth and bone broth. That lead to learning about and doing a GAPS intro diet for a few months (with dramatic improvement). We then moved onto a combo of GAPS/Paleo/WAPF diets and it has helped our whole family with things we never thought were relevant (like asthma for DH, joint issues for me and season allergies for whole family, overall mood and health as well). I still feel she does not process cow dairy as well although she can get away with some, so we mostly rely on raw goat dairy for her. Very grateful for this post starting us off in the right direction.

hello sir, my baby is 40 days old and she is on exclusive breast feed, her poop is not regular it takes 5 to 10 days or more …and her expressions show that she has discomfort.. my wife is taking dairy products mostly buffalo’s milk.. what to do now to get the relief… please suggest!

Hello,

I’ve been having problem with my daughters constipation ever since we made the switch to milk. I pumped exclusively for the first year of her life. I then switched her to Cow milk, I noticed right away she was pooping pellet like balls. So, I then decided to switch her milk again, this time I used Goat Milk. We used Goat milk for a few months and to no sucess , she was still constipated. I recently switched to Organic Almond Milk, and she is still constipated. Her Dr said its normal but I know it is not.. I do not want to put my daughter on any medication as it’s un natural. ANy advice would be appreciated.

Im going through what seems to be the same complications. My 2 year old is constantly straining to pass pellet like hard balls. After formula I decided to use enfamil enfagrow being that he was a picky eater. After his 2nd birthday i decided to try cows milk. He became very constipated starting then. I read and read and decided to try organic 2% milk. This current day, im still searching for a solution. I would try the almond but from what you’ve said that didnt help either. Have you found any remedies

Ihave the same problem w my daughter who is 10. We had to eliminate ALL dairy fresh and backed in. I have tried everything and meds and this is the only thing that has worked! It’s stressful grocery shopping everything we ate had dairy or added whey in it!

My son is now 13. He had all the symptoms as a baby with constipation. The spitting up, loads of diapers at one time, stomach cramps and so on. He is constantly constipated even now. I took him to the Pediatrician many times and they just prescribed laxatives. I can now try something different. I always had a feeling it was milk but I was always told no. Thank you for posting this study.

Chastity,

We’d love to hear if this works for you. Please come back and share your experience.

Best,
@MsGreene
Co-founder & Executive Producer DrGreene.com, Mom

My 15 months son is currently on soy milk and becomes very constipated everyday. What other milk can I give him?,

Hi Nkele,

Dr. Greene has a great Q&A called “Which milk is best — soy, rice, almond, or reindeer?“. In it he says, “Of the other milk’s out there, such as soy milk, rice milk, oat milk, almond milk, or other mammal milks, such as goat milk, they all can be found with plenty of calcium and vitamin D and fat – 3 of the biggies. So the biggest consideration is usually protein.” You can read the full article for more in-depth information.

Best,
@MsGreene
Co-founder & Executive Producer DrGreene.com, Mom

My todler 2.5 was told that they were prob lactose intolerant at Christmas and put her on infant soy powdered milk. It is now the following September and the doctor said she isn’t lactose intolerant as she prob has grown out of it and she should be put back on cows milk… So Sunday night we gave her a bottle of cows milk. Sunday night she threw up her milk. It is Now Thursday and she is still throwing up once a night s had any type of milk since Sunday. Would the throwing up 5 days on still be from the milk on Sunday. Very worried as this is not normal for my child… I appreciate your help…

My son was allergic to milk since 1 month old so was put in Alimentum..he’s 1 already and the specialist has put him on lactose free milk ..but now my baby is crying alot and constipated what milk should I give him now??

Thank you so much for this article it is very helpful! I am 15 and I have been struggling with constipation and chronic stomach aches for my whole life. It’s been hard having to just suck it up and live with this pain and It feels good to finally take steps to putting an end to it all! I have been going dairy free for a couple weeks now and it’s helping me a little bit and it feels good to finally have hope in this!

It’s great to hear that you’re getting a bit better. Other things that can have a big impact are eating a high fiber diet (fruits, vegetables, beans, etc.), drinking enough water (everyone is different, but 8 glasses per day is recommended), moving (walking, jogging, biking swimming), and probiotic foods (fermented foods, cultured foods) or supplements.

Often after finding a dietary culprit, the other interventions can work — even if they didn’t previously.

Best,
@MsGreene
Co-founder & Executive Producer, DrGreene.com

My son has been struggling with constipation for most of his two years! I stumbled upon this article, and after one day I noticed a difference! Almost a week since he has been on soy, he has poo’d every day! Life changing!! Thanks Dr Greene! I just wish I had found this article sooner!

Thank you for letting us know. It’s always great to hear from people who have been helped by reading our site.

Please do not be scared of soy because of the compound in soy bearing the chemical similarities to estrogen, when cows milk literally contains actual estrogen.
Soy has been found to raise testosterone and lower the chance of breast cancer.
Please do some research before jumping on the “soy is scary” bandwagon.

remember that thanks to Monsanto most of the soy is GMO in the USA. also, as far I know soy is also hard for the digestive trac especially when the person consuming it has issues.
other alternatives could be to make your own cocunut milk or almond milk (homemde is better).
my four year old had severe constipation for over three years and it turned out that she had so many allergies including cow’s milk. she is being treated with NAET allergy elimination along with a strick gut healling diet (GAPS)… and the results have been amazing. its hard work, expensive, and stressefull but its all worth it to see that she is no longer constipated, and better overall and her severe eczema is almost gone without medication.

I think researchers need to investigate more on cow milk for infants. I have two boys and my oldest son is extremely constipated anytime he consumes cow milk. My husband and I decided to take milk and any diary products from his diet and that help. It is sad to see your child straining to go to toilet. I hope there will be more research on cow milk causing constipation in babies and children to help reveal this mystery.

I am feeling SO hopeful after reading this information. I am 53 years old and have suffered from severe constipation since I was three weeks old and my mum stopped breast feeding me. It has made my life a misery as I have to take strong laxatives once a week to clear my bowel which can result in pain so bad I have passed out and can’t leave the house. I have tried every remedy I’ve ever heard about… natural and medical.

After I had my daughter 21 years ago I tried giving up dairy because she was a miserable baby and I thought maybe it was my breast milk causing colic. I had normal bowel movements for the first time ever and went excitedly to see my doctor. I was told that cows milk does not cause constipation and I was sent for a scan incase the normal bowel movement was caused by cancer (NAD). So I went back to cows milk and two decades later it’s worse than ever. I have also suffered from acne all my life (which is was mentioned by someone else) and have generally always felt fatigued and depressed. I am going to cut out cheese, butter and yogurt and change to almond milk and see what happens. Wish me luck…

Good luck Kerrie! Please let us know how it goes.

BTW — check labels for hidden dairy and be sure to ask for dairy-free options in restaurants.

My now 5 year old granddaughter has been suffering with constipation for the past two to three years. She’s had a decent amount of ezcema since she was just a little thing. And my daughter, who had tried to nurse her, had to give that up because my grandbaby had developed reflux; she had to drink the very sensitive formulas and they had to be changed often because of reactions (plus she is very sensitive to taste changes). So, now at 5 we’re fighting constipation and using Miralax and even mag citrate when absolutely necessary. My question: are there known studies regarding the effects of goats milk with children who suffer from apparent cow milk sensitivities? I only ask because she loves milk so much and doing away with it completely might cause a lot of grief (not saying she calls all the shots, just saying this is her life). I’ve read that goats milk has a lower lactose and smaller fat globules but I haven’t found anything to help me know whether this is a good avenue for kids like my granddaughter. Any thoughts? Thank you!

Hi Judy,

Dr. Greene answered another parent with a similar questions:

“Goat’s milk is closer to human milk than cow’s milk is, and in many countries it is used exclusively for infant feeding. The protein in goat’s milk is easier to digest than the protein in cow’s milk. If you are going to use goat’s milk, the biggest thing to be aware of is that goat’s milk is low in iron and certain vitamins, especially vitamin B12 and folate. Infants fed unfortified goat’s milk who do not get supplemented with iron and vitamins can develop anemia. The other big thing to be aware of is that a bacterium called brucellosis can occur in goat’s milk, so you should boil it before giving it to babies. For children over 1 year old, goat’s milk is probably better than cow’s milk, just not as readily available in the U.S.”

You can find his complete answer here — Goat’s Milk.

Hope that’s helpful.
@MsGreene
Co-founder and Executive Producer, DrGreene.com

If god wanted is to drink cows milk we would have been born out of a cows……duh

So we should also eat human flesh?

I prefer bottle feeding more because it can be easier to regulate a routine. With this comes an easier way to regulate a routine knowing when your kid is hungry and when your kid is fussing because of tired. Plus, formula milk helps to treat constipation issue.

It is the case with my 2 year old, we tried introducing cows milk many times but she has always ended up constipated (painfully) and runny nose. We have now given up trying and simply stick to formula milk which gives her a normal poo.

There is no debate. Human milk is best for humans. Yes, babies can survive on formula, but it is clearly that just in countless ways, substandard.

What should I do then? Send my dearest LO to the hospital? He complained to me that he felt stomach ache and cant poop because his stools is hard as rock. Any other solution to treat his constipation issue instead of sending him to the hospital?

Mira lax should work and break down stools

The current formula milk is not suitable for your little one for sure. Do you know that kids tummy are very sensitive? Once your kid consumed the unsuitable formula milk brand might cause your kid into trouble such as constipation or tummy ache.

Same thing happen to my little one as well. My dearest LO will have constipation issue when I feed him with whole milk. His cousin who’s also same age with him did not encounter this kind of issue. What’s wrong with my LO?

I think Sustagen and Pediasure are pretty good. My boy is consuming Sustagen and so far didnt encounter in any terrible issue.

pediasure…. be sure to do your reaserch on these milks because the ingridients are everything but healthy….. from GMO’s to preservatives and more.

It’s rather subjective when comes to formula milk powder preference but you can ask your friends who are mother as well. Maybe they will provide better opinion for you.

My question is, my grand baby is allergic to milk, eggs, some dairy products. She’s been on soy milk, she’sreal picky, my daughter & husband have used everything to spatory to fiber pills, she goes then the next day she’s screaming, poop hurts. She’s only 2 yrs.old. we need help, what should we do.

Try almond milk or lactose free milk

My question has to do with the type of milk used in the study. In many European countries UHT (ultra pasteurized) milk is common. Was the study done using this UHT milk or fresh milk?

I ask because I was raised on a dairy farm and drank raw milk until high school when my family moved out of state. After college I lived in Europe for a couple years where I drank primarily UHT milk until I realized that I was becoming lactose intolerant. Once I switched back to raw, or at least the fresh pasteurized, milk I’ve had no more problems.

Perhaps the children in the study were also feeling the effects of UHT milk on their digestive system?

What is UHT?

Like many here I’m relieved to find that I’m not alone in having a toddler who gets seriously constipated by dairy. My little one is 2, and we’ve been trying to introduce cows milk for a year. Each time we try, she gets very constipated and can’t poo for 5-6 days at a time. She strains and shakes, and it’s absolutely terrifying for her and for me. I’ve taken her to the pediatrician, who called my concerns “ridiculous”. You can probably guess that she’s on miralax.

Please do not administer Miralax. Any concerned parents here, please research or google Miralax toxicity. It was never tested for children. It is suspected by many worried parents to cause neurological concerns.

What kind of milk are you giving her (see my comment above). Is it possible for you to give her fresh goat milk or raw cow milk?

This article just helped me so much. For a while I have been suffering with constipation or fissure issues. Sometimes I was scared to have a bowel movement because the pain was unbearable. When my body would finally recover (if it did) I would go back to drinking my Vitamin D milk and my problems would persist all over again. So I switched to 2% milk thinking that would make a difference and to no avail it’s not the cure. I am going to try soy milk. I believe that will do the trick. I tried soy milk about 4 months ago when I had these issues and about one serving cleared my system and my bowel movements were regular.

This is a great article…this is my daughter exactly. But inwould never refer to this as an allergy. An allergy usually creates a sudden onset of symptoms like hives, itchy mouth, and vomiting and can result in breathing problems and even anaphylaxis causing death. This is actually more of a casein-intolerance most likely. Please, for the sake of children with life-threatening food allergies, use the correct term— intolerance…not allergy. Thanks.

Actually GI symptoms are also considered an allergic reaction. Breathing problems aren’t the only indicator of an allergy. Uncontrollable vomiting etc. is also a sign of anaphylaxis. My son has several allergies diagnosed after both IgG and IgE testing. GI reactions are his only reaction to milk, either lactose free or regular. Also know that intolerances can become allergies if the offending food isn’t avoided.

Are you honestly saying the information provided by a DOCTOR is incorrect? Please, leave the research and proper release of informations to the doctors, not some random internet commenter. He stated before the intolerance results in loose stools, not constipation. Sounds like an allergy to me if the intestinal lining is inflaming and causing constipation. Hmm inflammation is a sign of an allergic reaction, weird.

My baby is 3.5 yrs old and having constipation issue since 2 months…. He is been drinking the strawberry milk readily available in supermarkets…. Could this is the reason for constipation … If yes please suggest… The milk is called Rainbow Straberry Milk…

We only drink goat milk. In blind taste tests, no one has been able to tell a difference except that the goat milk tastes “smoother.” (How do you describe that?)

Goat milk digests super fast and many who are lactose intolerant can drink goat milk.

There’s nothing quite like “fresh squeezed” milk.

This is an interesting study. I drank cow’s milk all my life as a child and never had a problem. Then, around 31 years old, I started experiencing bouts of chronic constipation, and stool softeners offered only temporary, over-Night relief. Finally, I decided to cut out dairy from my diet based on a friend’s suggestion, and VOILA! I have switched to Almond milk and have had great results; however, If I go out to a restaurant or at work, and all that’s available is cow’s milk, my constipation starts within hours of digesting it. I would be interested to know I’d this type of pediatric study has been conducted in adults.

Very same here Lacynda. I always LOVED milk and elected to ignore the “problems” and take laxatives to alleviate the constipation, etc. I am by no means an infant, 60 years old, and am forced at this point to give up dairy due to blocked ear problems suspected to be caused by acid reflux stemming from dairy products ! All this coming from my ENT physician’s advice. This site here has been an additional blessing of info for even an elderly person such as me ! Many thanks to Dr. Greene ! We older folks can use this advice also. Blessings to you.

This is fascinating!!! Thank you!! I am just discovering this – I have a 4.5yo and a 2.5 yo on miralax for over a year now, and when my 10 months old had her first really hard stool after introducing milk, I panicked. Can’t imagine 3 with this.

Here’s my question – I can experiment with the third. It seems to me she is getting hard stools only in response to milk or yogurt, NOT fermented cheeses like brie etc. Is that possible? Are the proteins really that changed in cheese? It’s much easier to eliminate just milk and yogurt, than to eliminate all dairy…

Dr. Greene has described what we have been experiencing with my three-year-old for the last two years. Around 1 she was diagnosed with milk, soy, and nut allergies. Because of the soy allergy, soy milk was not an alternative, so we began giving her rice milk. All symptoms subsided for about a month when she began vomiting within minutes of drinking the rice milk. I discovered research in the UK that stated the UK Pediatrics Assoc. recommended no rice milk until after age 5 due to the risk of arsenic poisoning. We tried coconut milk, which she refused to drink.

She went back on milk, goes days without bowel movement, wheezes constantly-to the point of interrupting play, gets hives (eczema) on a regular basis, and began getting ear infections a year ago. Allergist has been no help, doctor just keeps telling us to increase laxative to no avail. After 2-3 days without a bowel movement, she quits eating until the “plug” comes out, and when it does it is so painful for her-about the size of a beer can and hard as a rock. I’m aware of the diet suggestions, but she is a picky eater as well.

Brings me to last night. Hasn’t eaten since Friday (four days ago), with the exception of a few strawberries and cheerios, hasn’t had bowel movement since Wednesday. She began throwing up last night long, hard (sausage-shaped) material. I called the dr. who sent us to the ER with concerns of a blockage. The Xray showed no blockage, but, rather, packed bowels. They gave her an enema, it didn’t work, and they sent us home saying to increase the laxative and water. Dr. Greene, if you read this, we really need help. Any one else who has experienced a similar problem and found a solution, I would appreciate any help, but the “fiber”, water, and laxative suggestions just are not working.

Olive oil, Lima beans and fresh spinach!!!!…..you can hide it in another meal like salad, blend it..whatever.get creative…but I’m telling you now, since my mother told me about this combination after ER visits,enemas,laxatives not working, I have NEVER had to push a piece of hard stool out again. If milk is doing this to her and making her sick….THEN STOP GIVING IT TO HER. Give her water….look into natural organic foods….I agree with the hemp milk.
I personally tried soy milk, and I have never in my life experienced painful gas the way soy milk gave me…OUCH! very consistent all day and night sulferic smelling gas…EW!
Anyways….Lima bean, olive oil and fresh spinach……viola!.. I promise you this!

Hi Lori. I have been going through something very similar with my daughter. She has just turned three. She is a picky eater too. She had been diagnosed with milk allergy (non iga) since she was a few weeks old. Doctor then told us she would outgrow it by 1-2 years old and that we should not be cutting out dairy completely (which I recently found out is not true). So I have been giving her some dairy on and off throughout these 3 years of her life hoping that she outgrew the allergy. But she still did not.

I have also recently found out that milk allergy can actually slow down a child’s growth. My daughter is tiny. So after her 3 year old check up I decided to totally eliminate dairy from her diet. And surprisingly, in just 3 weeks, she has gained 1 pound whereas she had not gained ANY weight for a year. Plus her constipation is gone. She actually poos 3!!! times a day AND her appetite is great now. Today she ate 5 veggie/meatballs compared to her regular one or two. I know what you are going through. If you like I can give you some tips and suggestions about feedings and recipes. Take care!

Lori, what a trying experience for you and your daughter!

As you’ve discovered, milk allergies can indeed lead to constipation. Among the milk alternatives, people often overlook hemp milk as an option, even though it can have more protein than rice or coconut milk and less sugar as well. Hemp milk can have much more protein than almond milk too.

Milks are convenient – but 3-year-olds don’t need a milk or milk alternative to thrive. They do need a good source of protein, fat, calcium and vitamin D. Consulting with a nutritionist can help make sure these needs are met, while avoiding allergens that could be contributing to the constipation.

Whether or not constipation is first triggered by a milk, kids can get into something I call the DDD cycle (http://www.drgreene.com/qa-articles/learning-poop-potty/), which leads to a packed-bowel condition called encopresis.

Sometimes high doses of laxatives are needed to clean out the bowels and allow them to shrink back to normal diameter. A pediatric gastroenterologist can be very helpful for helping to navigate through this process – especially if increasing up to 3x the normal starting dose hasn’t done the trick.

I hope your daughter gets relief soon!

If a mom drinks a lot of milk, and if the child has a small case of intolerance, can this lead to constipation if mom still breastfeeds? Thank you for an answer ;)

Yes, I’m encountering that right now. I have to give up dairy due to apparent intolerance (constipation) in my still bf 15 month old. We stopped all dairy a week ago and switched to soy but I suspect we may have to stop soy too as after an immediate change and elimination over four days it seems the constipation is back. Not as bad as before but 3 days and no bowel movement makes me think there is an issue with soy protein too.