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is hemp milk good for ibs

The Best Milks for Your Belly

Emmy Ludwig, MD, is board-certified in gastroenterology and hepatology. She practices at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Although a mother’s milk is the ideal food for infants, and most of us were raised with tall glasses of milk alongside our meals and snacks, milk is not always a friend to our digestive systems. Many people have an intolerance to lactose, which results in symptoms of abdominal pain, diarrhea, and excessive intestinal gas.

What makes a milk friendly for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is that it is low in lactose and doesn’t contain any other ingredients that are associated with digestive distress.

With gratitude toward the researchers at Monash University, we can use their work on FODMAPs (carbohydrates that exacerbate symptoms in people who have IBS) to gain some clarity as to which milks are easiest for our bellies to digest.​

Lactose-Free Milk

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Lactose-free milk is typically cow’s milk that has had lactose removed. This allows people who have lactose-intolerance, meaning that they lack sufficient amounts of the enzyme lactase needed to digest lactose, to enjoy milk without experiencing unwanted digestive symptoms. Lactose-free milk is allowed on a low-FODMAP diet.  

Proponent’s of cow’s milk consumption point to milk’s nutritional makeup—including protein, vitamins, and (most notably) calcium. Milk has certainly had a long-held reputation for being essential for bone health.

Other researchers question whether humans should be drinking milk at all, stating that research does not support the claim that milk reduces fracture risk.   Milk consumption could also bring about other health risks.

For the purposes of this article, lactose-free milk is a good choice if you have IBS and/or lactose intolerance and want to avoid stomach cramping and excessive intestinal gas. But knowing about the possible risks of cow’s milk can help you to feel better about using non-dairy milk for the sake of your stomach.  

Almond Milk

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Almond milk used to be considered to be a high-FODMAP food. Luckily, almond milk has been recently tested by the researchers at Monash University and found to be low in FODMAPs   at the level of a 1 cup serving.  

Almond milk contains a whole host of vitamins and minerals, most notably vitamin D, vitamin E, and calcium.

Store-bought almond milk may contain added sweeteners, and often contains carrageenan, a somewhat controversial thickening agent.

Hemp Milk

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Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds. Are you thinking, “Isn’t hemp marijuana?” It is true that they both classified within the same family but actually are very different plants.

Hemp milk is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and contains a wide variety of other vitamins and minerals. Hemp milk is a good source of plant-based protein and thus can be beneficial for vegetarians.

The good news is that hemp milk has been found to be low in FODMAPs by the Monash researchers at a 1-cup serving size.

Coconut Milk

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Coconut milk is extracted from the meat of coconuts. Coconut milk is a good source of fiber and is filled with a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Although coconut milk is high in saturated fats, it is believed by many that its lauric acid levels and medium-chain triglycerides are actually health-promoting.  

If you have IBS, you will need to be attentive to portion size for coconut milk. According to the Monash University app, serving size should be limited to 1/2 cup.

Many commercial coconut milks have guar gum added. Guar gum is not a FODMAP, per se, but may have a laxative effect. It is unclear if the coconut milk tested at Monash University contained guar gum.

Like almond and hemp milk, coconut milk is easier to make at home than you would think. With a homemade version, you do not have to have any concern about other added ingredients.

Kefir

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Kefir is a fermented milk drink typically made from the milk of cows, sheep, or goats, but can also be cultivated from coconut milk, and the not-so-IBS-friendly soy and rice milk. As a fermented food, kefir is filled with multiple strains of beneficial probiotic bacteria and yeast.

Kefir is thicker than regular milk but much thinner than its related counterpart, yogurt. It has a pleasant, tangy flavor.

Kefir stands apart from the other milk on this list because it holds the potential for doing more than just not causing digestive symptoms, but rather may actually improve the health of your digestive system.

Unfortunately, kefir has not yet been tested at Monash University for its FODMAP count. However, it is believed that the fermentation process results in a low-lactose food, therefore an educated guess is that it is likely that it will be well-tolerated by most people who have IBS.  

Find out which milks, including dairy-free options, are best to drink to help to prevent your IBS from acting up.

UK Vegan Low FODMAP Milk Brands

A while ago I wrote a post about the different types of vegan milk and which ones meet low FODMAP standards (you can find that here). And while it is helpful to know what type of milks you can try, it is also to helpful to see what the best brands are in the UK you can be trying. When you go to the supermarket it can be overwhelming, with whole aisles dedicated to dairy free milks! Hopefully this list will help you whittle down your choices and make shopping a little easier.

So without further ado, my list of low FODMAP vegan milk brands.

I’ve separated each vegan milk option into high price tag and low price tag options. I have also included if the milk is fortified or unfortified. If you are completely vegan, a fortified milk can provide you with essential nutrients such as B12 and calcium.

In the UK, a soy milk that is actually low FODMAP is very hard to find, in fact after a long search through the internet, I couldn’t find a single UK soy milk made with soy protein! If you are able too find one please let me know and comment below!

Most, such as alpro, are made with hulled or whole soya bean which isn’t low FODMAP. Very frustrating but definitely not the end of the world. I promise there are delicious alternatives out there.

However, if you happen to be passing through Australia or New Zealand, you’ll be in better luck. A lot of soy milk brands use soy protein. When I was in New Zealand, my go to was the reasonably priced option from Sanitarium So Good Soy Milk.

Almond Milk:

While hemp milk is available in the UK, the only one I could find that was in a wider range of shops was, Good Hemp Seed Drink. None of the shops I scanned through had an own brand version. However, this product is reasonably priced for a milk that isn’t so common, coming in at £2.00 a bottle. If you are looking for something a bit different, this is worth a try.

*Oat milk is low FODMAP at 30ml and FODMAPs increase the more you drink, however I love oat milk and find it is delicious if you want just a splash in your coffee – oatly froths really nicely to make a flat white! Go all out and get the Barista edition if you want a coffee that tastes like it was made at your fave cafe.

There isn’t much in the price of these drinks, it’s more dependant on where you buy from. I don’t believe any large supermarket does an own brand version.

Coconut Milk:

*UHT coconut milk is low FODMAP up to 125ml. If it is not UHT, a half cup serving is considered high FODMAP

A lot of the cheaper options are the shops own brand milk. After trying many different vegan milks from many different shops, almost all of the own brand options and even some of the branded options, taste very similar. The difference lies in the type of milk you prefer. At the moment I am doing all of my shopping at Asda and so use exclusively asda’s own brand of oat milk. It’s tasty and has a low price to go with it. Price is also dependant on where you shop, e.g Asda and Waitrose stock the same milks but Asda tends to be a bit cheaper.

I hope this helps when doing your FODMAP appropriate shopping. Remember, while a milk may not be fully low FODMAP, you don’t have to eliminate FODMAPS completely. See what works for you. I drink oat milk and find no issues, but I only use small amounts in my coffee and porridge. If you want to learn more about vegan milk and the FODMAP diet check out my Which Milk? post.

What is your favourite brand of vegan FODMAP friendly milk?

A while ago I wrote a post about the different types of vegan milk and which ones meet low FODMAP standards (you can find that here). And while it is helpful to know what type of milks you can try, it is also to helpful to see what the best brands are in the UK… ]]>