Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder in which your large intestine does not always work normally. The large intestine is also called the colon or large bowel. Although IBS can cause much distress, it does not damage your intestines and does not lead to life-threatening illness.
IBS is not the same as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, which cause swelling, redness, sores, or holes in the wall of the intestine.
Your child may have flare-ups of symptoms throughout her life. Although a cure hasn't been found yet, the disorder can usually be controlled.
The exact cause of IBS is not known. It may be related to changes in the way nerves and muscles in the intestines work together. For example, the nerves in your child’s intestines sometimes may make the muscles squeeze too much when your child eats. This can make food move too fast through her intestines, causing gas, bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. Other times, the muscles may not squeeze enough, which slows the passage of food and causes cramps and constipation.
Your child may be at greater risk for IBS if someone in your family has the disorder. Some foods may trigger attacks. Other possible triggers of attacks are hormonal changes, stress, and an illness such as stomach flu. Some risk factors are depression, anxiety, personality disorder, and for girls, a history of childhood sexual abuse or domestic violence.
Although the symptoms of IBS are different from person to person, you may find that your child's symptoms follow a predictable pattern. The most common symptoms include:
Children who often have diarrhea may not want to go to school or be around other children. Children with IBS can become depressed or anxious.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. There is no specific test for IBS. The diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms. Your child may have tests or scans to check for other possible causes of symptoms.
To find foods that may be causing symptoms, your healthcare provider may tell you to record:
If your child’s symptoms are not severe, your provider may suggest that you try to find which foods cause symptoms by not letting your child eat certain foods for a while. For example, she might stop eating milk and dairy products or wheat products for a time. Then you can carefully try adding these foods again, one at a time, to see if your child’s symptoms come back. Ask your provider which foods your child should avoid at first.
There is no cure for IBS. However, controlling the diet and managing stress usually helps relieve the symptoms. Sometimes, medicines may also help.
Ask your provider about the benefits of talking to a dietitian to learn what your child needs in a healthy diet. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about whether your child should eat more or less high-fiber food. Your child can try eating smaller meals more often each day rather than just 2 or 3 larger meals. She may need to avoid certain foods such as foods high in fat, some milk products, drinks with alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and raw fruit. Other foods that may cause symptoms include:
Help your child identify things that cause stress and suggest ways to help control them. Talk therapy, relaxation, or biofeedback techniques may help your child manage stress. Talk with your child's teacher about ways the school can help.
Examples of medicines your provider may prescribe are:
Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. Ask your healthcare provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.