Lactose Intolerance Or IBS: What Is The Difference?


The human body is a wonderful yet strange thing. The smallest food can trigger an onslaught of painful symptoms that can affect how you live your life. This could be stomach pain, diarrhoea, unpredictable bowel movements, or even fatigue - the list is endless.

IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) is a gastrointestinal issue that frequently can be overlooked, and another stomach/ digestive problem will take its place. This is usually the case between IBS and lactose intolerance.

But how do you know if you have lactose intolerance or IBS? At Deliciously Different Foods, we want people to be able to enjoy their food without stress or anxiety about the effect it could have on their bodies. In this article, we will see what the difference is between IBS vs lactose intolerance and how the symptoms may vary.


What Are Lactose Intolerance Symptoms?

Lactose intolerance is when your body simply cannot digest any lactose. This is a sugar that is found in dairy, such as milk, butter etc. The main reason you may be suffering from an intolerance is because you may have a deficiency of an enzyme called lactase.

Lactose intolerance symptoms are brought on after consuming certain foods and drinks that have lactose in them. These are some of the foods that can cause flare-ups:

  • Milk
  • Ice cream
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Cream sauces
  • Yoghurt
  •  Whipped cream
  •  Certain puddings/ desserts
  • Custards

Some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance are:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea and/ or sickness
  • Bloating
  • Gas


 What Are IBS Symptoms?

Irritable bowel syndrome is almost the same as having an allergic reaction to certain foods. There are a number of reasons and causes why someone may suffer from IBS and have flare-ups. However, food plays a major part in triggering it. Some of the foods are:

  • Onions
  • Fatty foods
  • Chocolate
  • Dairy products
  • High FODMAP fruits
  • High FODMAP vegetables 

Living with IBS can be confusing because sometimes you could not have any issues or any symptoms ranging anything from a few days to months without having a flare-up and then suddenly something will trigger it and you can be in pain.

Some of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome are:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • The sudden urgency to go to the toilet
  • Lack of energy
  • Back pain
  • Bladder problems


The Differences Between IBS And Lactose Intolerance

IBS and lactose intolerance both concern the stomach but what causes these issues and what makes them different?

The cause of IBS is not fully understood, years ago stress was thought to be the main factor.  But now it is thought to be triggered by foods as well as having  some sort of disturbance in the way the brain and stomach interact.

The gastrointestinal tract is a complex system and the colon reacts to the information the brain gives it by either contracting or relaxing muscles. Certain foods can trigger a flare-up as well as stress, certain medications and even hormones. This can lead to spasms in the colon that can cause you to have diarrhoea and make the faeces move at an increased pace in some cases can work in the opposite way and lead to constipation.

The main difference between IBS vs lactose intolerance is that there is a better understanding of what triggers and causes lactose intolerance. It is simply brought on by eating or drinking something that contains lactose. This is because when any food or drink can’t be properly broken down and digested from a lack of lactase in the small intestines, this causes unabsorbed lactose to make its way through the stomach, into the colon, where fatty acids and gas are produced.

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