Milk can cause Tummy Troubles in Autistic Kids

Why Milk Might Make Tummy Troubles Worse for Autistic Kids: A Digestible Guide

Why Milk Might Make Tummy Troubles Worse for Autistic Kids: A Digestible Guide

When it comes to caring for children with autism, parents and caregivers often face unique challenges. One of these challenges involves dealing with gut issues, which are surprisingly common in autistic children. And here’s the twist – milk, the beloved beverage in many households, might be making those tummy troubles even worse. In this blog, we’ll explore why milk can exacerbate constipation in autistic kids with gut issues and what parents can do to help.

Understanding Autism and Gut Issues

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that affects social interaction, communication, and behaviour. Interestingly, many children with autism also experience gastrointestinal (GI) problems. These can include constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and other discomforts.

Milk: A Potential Culprit

Milk is a staple in many diets, known for its calcium and nutrients. However, for some children with autism, especially those with gut issues, milk can be a double-edged sword.

1. Lactose Intolerance:

Many autistic children have a higher prevalence of lactose intolerance compared to neurotypical children. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body can’t fully digest lactose, the sugar in milk. Undigested lactose can cause gas, bloating, and constipation. So, when a child already prone to gut issues consumes milk, it can worsen their tummy discomfort. We can produce only some lactase enzyme which helps digest lactose.

Heating milk, especially at high temperatures, can affect the lactase enzyme in milk by denaturing it or reducing its activity. However, pasteurization, the common heating process used for milk, typically doesn’t fully destroy lactase activity, allowing most people to digest lactose in pasteurized milk without experiencing significant issues.

When we heat milk multiple times, prolonged or intense heat exposure can lead to a significant loss of lactase activity. This means that the enzyme becomes less capable of breaking down lactose into its constituent sugar, glucose, and galactose.

2. Casein Sensitivity:

Casein is a protein found in milk, and some autistic children may have sensitivities to it. This sensitivity can manifest as gastrointestinal symptoms, including constipation. When these Autistic kids drink milk, their body’s reaction to casein can lead to digestive woes. With confusion about A1 or A2 milk, trying different products of milk can worsen your child’s tummy issues.

3. Low Fiber Content:

Milk is devoid of dietary fibre, which is crucial for maintaining regular bowel movements. If an autistic child’s diet is heavily reliant on milk and lacks fibre-rich foods, it can contribute to constipation and painful stools. Eliminating milk, especially when constipated, can help ease symptoms.

What Can Parents Do?

Now that we’ve shed light on why milk might worsen constipation in autistic children with gut issues, let’s talk about some practical steps parents can take:

1. Try Lactose-Free or Dairy Alternatives:

If you suspect lactose intolerance, consider switching to dairy alternatives like almond, pea, or oat milk. If you choose to make almond milk, then you just need to soak the almond, grind it well with water and strain it well. It can be stored for 2-3 days if you refrigerate immediately after preparation.

2. Monitor Dairy Consumption:

Keep an eye on how much dairy your child consumes. Too much of anything can be problematic, so moderate their milk intake if your child can tolerate half a glass of milk. It means that your child is producing enough lactase to digest the lactose in the amount of milk consumed. That is the tolerance of milk for that child per day. If that child consumes more, it can show symptoms of intolerance like constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and other discomforts.

3. Increase Fiber Intake:

Ensure your child’s diet includes fibre-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Fibre helps keep things moving in the digestive tract.

4. Consult a Pediatrician:

If your child’s gut issues persist, it’s crucial to consult a pediatrician who specializes in autism, and can treat with medications in severe cases.

5. Consult a Dietitian:

Consult a Dietitian who specialises in autism. They can provide tailored advice and may recommend dietary changes or other interventions. They can also provide alternatives to meet the nutritional demands of the child to prevent nutritional deficiencies.


For autistic children with gut issues, managing their diet can be a puzzle. Milk, a common staple, might be making constipation worse due to factors like lactose intolerance, casein sensitivity, and its low fibre content. But fear not, parents and caregivers can navigate these challenges by exploring dairy alternatives, monitoring dairy consumption, increasing fibre intake, and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals. By taking a proactive approach to your child’s diet, you can help them find relief from tummy troubles and make mealtime a little less challenging.

I am looking to get in touch with a dietitian who is aware of diet in autism. Contact the admin to book a consultation.

Suhana Shriyan
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  • Julie

    My grandson was bottle fed with the S26 lactogen milk from birth until he was 2 years 6 months.and l am worried because he is almost 4 years but he is not speaking like kids his age .He is really picky about what he eats and is really active . Does that mean that he is autistic

    • Suhana Shriyan

      All children are picky at some point. Parents notice signs early on or even later in life. Causes of picky eating include early feeding difficulties, late introduction of lumpy foods at weaning, pressure to eat and early choosiness. I have helped many children with increasing variety of foods in their diet. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with others, communicate, learn, and behave. So unless you notice any sign of delay in development like you noticed language delay, it should be brought up to your grandson’s pediatrician. You can also get in touch with a speech language therapist at 1SpecialPlace for a consultation to understand whether therapy is required for him. There are many free tests in 1SpecialPlace website.

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