There is an ancient wisdom that cheese can constipate. Does it really affect bowel regularity? Is this really true? An analysis!
The ancient wisdom on cheese
Cheese is a food that comes from the coagulation of the milk protein casein. Thus, it is a dairy product and has high levels of protein and fats. It is of many types and comes in different flavors and textures.
The milk of cow, buffalo, goat or sheep goes into the making of cheese. The process involved is of acidification or use of enzyme rennet or use of certain bacterial enzymes. All of these three cause coagulation of the milk. The solid part or curd is separated out from the liquid whey. And it is pressed to produce cheese. The cheese is aged for different duration. The long aged ones have an aromatic rind of molds on the outer layer.
Vinegar or lemon juice is employed for the acidification process. And in some cases, the bacteria act on the milk sugars and convert them into lactic acid. Once this happens, adding rennet completes the process. Cheese is also rich in calcium and phosphorus.
There is an ancient wisdom in many countries of the world that eating cheese tends to constipate the person. Is this true? Are there any studies on it to confirm it?
Science and concept
It is difficult to carry out research on food related topics since one cannot control all that the person eats in a day. One can consider studies on subjects who are on a controlled diet already. Retirement homes are an excellent place for such studies. Scandinavian scientists did a study in one such home and the article is published in the Scandinavian journal of Gastroenterology in 1994.
The researchers gave cheese rich diet and cheese free diet to two groups of people. They compared the bowel movements in the two groups and checked whether cheese addition made any difference to the bowel regularity in the cheese given group. They found no significant difference in the two groups as regards the bowel movements. That implies that cheese does not cause constipation.
Causes and remedy for constipation
The causes of constipation are many. The bowel movements slow down with age. Any medical condition that causes slow progression of food in the gut can also lead to constipation. Additionally, iron supplements and antacids can lead to constipation. Other drugs that can notoriously cause constipation are diuretics, calcium channel blockers, narcotics, anti spasmodics, anti convulsants, and anti depressants.
Lack of physical activity and low dietary fiber in daily diet also causes bowels to slow down. High meat eaters are also often constipated.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend an intake of around 25 to 30 g of dietary fiber per day. Cheese has high protein and fats but no dietary fiber. Hence along with cheese, one should consume a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes for good bowel regularity.
Read here: 9 foods to treat and prevent constipation!
If you get frequently constipated, deleting cheese from diet will not benefit. Instead continue it and add more roughage. But along with fiber, one should also consume a lot of water because fiber mops up the water. Fiber with less water can constipate.