Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) In Children


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in children is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, which is a problem with the way the large intestine or colon works. IBS is not a disease, but rather consists of symptoms that occur simultaneously. The most common symptom of IBS is functional abdominal pain (pain that cannot be explained by any detectable abnormality) coupled with diarrhea, constipation, or both.

Studies show that 5-20% of children report symptoms of IBS, with boys and girls being equally affected. A child who is growing normally, and has no known injury or disease, may be diagnosed with IBS if he is experiencing abdominal discomfort at least once a week for 2 months, especially in conjunction with changes in bowel movement frequency or consistency.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and the GI Tract

The gastrointestinal (GI) tract is made up of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestines (bowel), and anus. The colon is the part of the large intestine that absorbs liquid and nutrients that are not digested in the small intestine. Anything not absorbed by the colon is changed into solid matter called stool. The muscles in the colon work together to pass the stool into the rectum, which stores it until a bowel movement occurs.

Any interruption in this process can cause pain or discomfort. If the colon moves too fast or too slow, or stops and starts abruptly, it may produce gas, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, or constipation.

Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

pediatric gastrointestinal (GI) disease

While every child is different, other common symptoms of IBS include:

Causes of Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

The cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not certain, however, researchers believe that a combination of both physical and mental factors can contribute to IBS. Some possible triggers include:

Diagnosing Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

A diagnosis of IBS can usually be made by performing a thorough physical examination and evaluating your child’s medical history, including:

Your doctor may recommend additional diagnostic tests to check for inflammation, infection, or other intestinal problems. Procedures may include:

Treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

Treatment of irritable bowel syndrome involves alleviating symptoms to restore normal daily function. Your child’s treatment may vary depending on:

Diet and nutrition play an important role in managing IBS. Eating smaller, more frequent meals and keeping a diary of bothersome foods can help lessen symptoms and identify triggers.  Foods that are commonly reported to contribute to IBS include:

The low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-saccharides, DI-saccharides, Mono-saccharides, and Polyols) diet is a new approach to treating irritable bowel syndrome. FODMAPs are short-chain carbohydrates that produce gas due to poor absorption in the small intestine. When limited (not eliminated) in the diet, a majority of patients reported improvements in their IBS symptoms.

High FODMAP foods include:

Other treatments for alleviating symptoms of IBS include:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in Children Resources

North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition 
Phone: 215–233–0808 
Email: naspghan@naspghan.org 

American Academy of Pediatrics National Headquarters 
Phone: 847–434–4000 

American Neurogastroenterology and Motility Society
Phone: 734–699–1130 
Email: admin@motilitysociety.org 

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders
Phone: 1–888–964–2001 or 414–964–1799 
Email: iffgd@iffgd.org 

Rome Foundation
Phone: 919–345–3927 
Email: mpickard@theromefoundation.org 

If you would like more information about gastrointestinal (GI) digestive disorders and nutrition in children, please contact Dr. Mona Dave’s Frisco Office.