Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

Probably not!

One can find more than enough of informative pages dedicated to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), its symptoms, causes, treatments etc. etc. Hence there is no need for repeating all this, but there is one important issue that is rarely discussed. This will be talked about here.

If you have been told you have IBS and there is no hope for it, and probably you have been given a long list of foods to avoid there is a strong chance they got it wrong. It is suggested that the symptoms of IBS may be attributed to lactose intolerance.

Nearly all searches conducted conclude that a lactose free diet or a diet supplemented with lactase enzyme resulted in subsided symptoms for more than half of the of IBS subjects! That is right, if you have been on a strict and regimental diet for years carry on reading, because this could be your lucky day.

Misdiagnosis of IBS

Irritable Bowels cause great discomfort

The first web site I published back in January 2000 concentrated mainly on lactose intolerance. However, I included a page with some information about (IBS) because they both have similar symptoms and there is a possibility of a misdiagnosis.

Three months after the publication I received an email from Bahrain. The reader was misdiagnosed with IBS but after coming across my web site he realised that he was 'simply' lactose intolerant rather than suffering from IBS. For 15 years he stood by a stringent diet excluding a long list of foods. He now just follows a lactose free diet and enjoys the rest of foods he omitted for all those years. Nowadays you can go a step further and supplement your diet with commercially available lactase enzymes that break down the lactose in milk and dairy. So not only you can go back on the other foods but also enjoy some cheese and biscuits. If you have been diagnosed with IBS, there is nothing to loose, just omit lactose from your diet and introduce foods, one by one you have not had for a long time. Make sure you keep a diary and write everything on it. Allow at least a week or two before you introduce another food as long as your symptoms have not returned.

IBS is a multi- symptom gastrointestinal motility disorder that have a wide clinical spectrum and is associated with symptoms of gastrointestinal dysmotility and visceral hypersensitivity. Symptoms of IBS overlap other gastrointestinal conditions including coeliac (celiac) disease and lactose intolerance. Many medical reviews and researches demonstrate that a significant number of patients with IBS experience improvement with symptoms if either avoiding lactose foods or take lactase enzyme supplements (Tolliver et al. J Clin Gastroenterology 1996 Jul;23(1):15-7).

Various studies

In a study in Italy, similar results were achieved. Vernia et al. report that 157 (68%) of the 240 diagnosed with IBS had lactose intolerance. They were asked to follow a lactose free diet and 110 of them did, while the rest did not. 48 of the 110 persons who followed a lactose free diet had their symptoms subside, 43 had their symptoms reduced significantly and only the remaining 19 showed no improvement (Ital J Gastroenterology 1995 Apr;27(3):117-21).

Further studies published in the Lancet by Jones et al. (Lancet. 1982 Nov 20;2(8308):1115-7.) find that IBS in some individuals is provoked by food intolerances such as carbohydrate intolerance including fructose and sorbitol (Goldstrein et al. Isr Med Assoc J. 2000 Aug;2(8):583-7). For more details on food intolerance and how to treat it visit the Food Intolerance section. Finally, several researches published in medical gazettes concluded that more than half of the people diagnosed with IBS are lactose mal-absorbers and simply by following a lactose free diet, or supplementing it with lactase enzyme they can function a normal life avoiding huge costs for both themselves and the health-care systems.

Lactose Intolerance Symptoms

The table below lists the symptoms of Lactose Intolerance. You may notice similar if not identical symptoms to IBS.

Cause not enough enzymes to breakdown the sugars, such as lactose consumed in foods.
Age starts later in childhood but most common in adults, may be temporarily present in the form of colic in babies.

affect the digestive system only:
abdominal bloating
gas and wind
stomach cramps.

Some may experience vomiting. The magnitude of the above symptoms are inversely related to the amount of enzyme produced. Some people can produce less than others.

Find out more about:

Food & Lactose Intolerance

Food intolerance is the inability to completely break down food resulting in cramps, bloating, wind, diarrhoea etc. Lactose Intolerance (milk) is the most common form and affects half the world population. Food Allergy is not Lactose Intolerance. A guide is provided.

Food & Milk Allergy

Food allergy is caused when the immune system mistakenly responds to food proteins thinking they are harmful substances. Symptoms include vomiting, itching, rash, and hives. Allergies in children are very common, but treatment with digestive enzymes may prove very helpful.

Coeliac or simply Wheat Sensitive?

In Coeliac Disease, gluten causes damage to the small intestines, however, more people are wheat sensitive. This shows negative in blood tests. Read how to diagnose and avoid false negative screening results.

Carbohydrate Intolerance and Obesity

The inability to break down starch and other sugars leads to bloating, wind, cramps, diarrhoea, etc. Now there is evidence that obesity may be related to carbohydrate intolerance. There is some good news with the help of digestive enzymes

Fructose Intolerance vs. Malabsorption

Fructose Intolerance is a rare genetical disorder and leads to severe symptoms and may prove dangerous.

Fructose Malabsorption has symptoms similar to Lactose Intolerance and avoidance of fruits helps.

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