How are the Symptoms of IBS and Lactose Intolerance Related?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and lactose intolerance are two totally different conditions. Both IBS and lactose intolerance produce similar symptoms such as an upset stomach, yet they affect the body in different ways.

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a digestive disorder that makes it difficult to digest milk sugars that are contained in milk products. Such milk products contain a natural sugar known as lactose, which is digested by a enzyme known as lactase. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body produces low levels of lactase or none at all. This condition is caused by several factors such as intestinal injury, genetics, the natural aging process and digestive disorders.

The symptoms associated with this condition vary from mild to severe, depending on how much lactase your body can produce or the amount of the offending food that you eat. Such symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, gas, and diarrhea, according to the National Health Service.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

IBS is a common gut condition that occurs when the intestines fail to work appropriately making the digested food move along either too slowly or too fast through the intestinal tract. This condition tends to affect women more than men. The exact cause of IBS isn't yet known though some medical researchers suspect it’s the obstruction of the normal flow of nerve signals back and forth between the gut and the brain.

IBS patients are often advised to undertake a lactose elimination diet so that they can monitor the results of removing lactose from their diet. Researchers have found that most IBS sufferers who avoid lactose or take lactase enzymes supplements report that the IBS symptoms have somehow eased, blurring the thin line between IBS and lactose intolerance. The symptoms associated with bowel syndrome include nausea, diarrhea, heartburn, belching, abdominal pains and poor appetite.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms of IBS and lactose intolerance tend to be similar when you eat foods that contain lactose. These symptoms include bloating, nausea, abdominal pains, gas and diarrhea. With lactose intolerance, these signs are triggered by deficiency of enzyme lactase that makes it hard to digest milk. On the other hand, the symptoms of IBS are triggered by various factors such as wrong diet.


A physician can identify IBS by evaluating your medical history. He may also decide to conduct stool and blood tests. On the other hand, a doctor may have to instruct you to take a drink with lactose in it so that he or she can be able to diagnose lactose intolerance by examining the hydrogen levels in your breath.


A medical doctor may recommend a healthier lifestyle with a modified diet that excludes milk and other offending foods so as to treat the symptoms of IBS and lactose intolerance. For example, ingesting soy-based products that contain enzyme lactase may help manage lactose intolerance and IBS. Taking lactase enzyme supplements is another simple remedy that only requires a visit to the nearest pharmacy.

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