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This is how the beloved buttermilk can help cancer patients

Buttermilk is a staple in many Indian households. This drink can even help cancer patients to manage their symptoms and post-treatment side effects.
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Add the curry leaf flavour to your glass of buttermilk! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Anam Golandaz Published: 11 Sep 2021, 16:00 pm IST
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Buttermilk or ’chaas’ is the go-to-drink in many households, as it is quick to make and easy to flavour. Originally, buttermilk referred to the liquid leftover from churning butter from cultured or fermented cream. Traditionally, before cream could be skimmed from whole milk, the milk was left to sit for a period of time, allowing the cream and milk to separate. During this time, naturally occurring lactic acid-producing bacteria in the milk ferments it.

Buttermilk was traditionally referred to as ‘grandma’s probiotic’, as it is full of microbes that feed one’s gut with a variety of healthy bacteria. Buttermilk is used to maintain health and manage various ailments.

Buttermilk is an excellent probiotic! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Health benefits of buttermilk

Buttermilk is easy to digest and has astringent properties. It improves digestion and alleviates the feeling of puffiness. It works naturally against swelling, irritation, digestive disorders, and gastrointestinal ailments. Consuming buttermilk can also help with spleen maladies, anaemia, and lack of appetite, as it contains many essential macronutrients and micronutrients.

Buttermilk is a complete wholesome food. It is nutritive and contains all the elements necessary for a balanced diet. It has proteins, carbohydrates, minimal lipids, vitamins, and essential enzymes, which makes for a complete meal.

It could be consumed daily, and enjoyed guilt-free, as about 90 per cent of buttermilk is water. Its consumption helps to maintain the water balance of the body and is absorbed slowly from the intestines, as its contents are mostly combined with proteins. It is better to drink buttermilk than any other flavoured drink, or just plain water. Fermented buttermilk is sour tasting but biologically is very nutritive for the human body and tissues.

Drinking buttermilk can improve your health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
How can cancer patients benefit from buttermilk?

A well-balanced diet plays an important role for cancer patients, both during and after treatment. Cancer treatment makes a person weak and often leaves them incapable to perform day-to-day activities.

This is how buttermilk can help cancer patients:


Cancer treatment and medicines can cause diarrhoea and make the patients’ stools lose. Uncontrolled diarrhoea may lead to fluid loss (dehydration), loss of appetite and weakness. Buttermilk is an excellent option, as its acid content fights germs, and helps clear the stomach. Butter eases the discomfort, and settles the digestive tract, as it is loaded with good bacteria.


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Dehydration is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy and radiation treatment can cause dehydration. This happens due to side effects such as fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, or excessive urination. These treatments can increase the need for IV hydration due to the increased fluid requirement.

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A glass of buttermilk can combat dehydration caused by cancer treatment. Image courtesy: Unsplash

Buttermilk is an excellent drink to prevent dehydration, as it is packed with electrolytes, particularly potassium, and water which forms over 90 per cent of the drink. Drinking buttermilk can help fight the heat, and maintain water balance in the body.

Sensory stimulation and nutrition

Certain types of cancer and their treatments can change your sense of taste and smell. Common causes include brain and neck tumours. These factors can make a patient experience a lack of flavour or taste while eating or may find the food to be too sweet, salty, or metallic.

Usually, these changes are temporary and will improve with time. However, buttermilk may be useful to nourish the taste buds. Buttermilk is usually prepared with salt, roasted cumin powder, and crushed ajwain seeds, making the patients experience the taste and flavours. It also contains a variety of minerals and vitamins, such as potassium, and vitamin B. It is also a good source of proteins and other nutrients, and hence, good for balancing vitamin deficiency in the body, commonly seen in cancer patients.

For cancer patients, it is best to stick with a balanced diet with lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, to meet the daily nutritional requirements. So, in case you are struggling with cancer or going through the post-treatment phase, supplement your diet with buttermilk, to improve your recuperation.

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About the Author

Anam Golandaz, M.Sc.(Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics) and CDE (Certified Diabetes Educator), is a Clinical Dietician at the Masina Hospital. ...Read More

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