Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a troublesome gastrointestinal disorder that can have a significant impact on children and their families. A child with IBS often feels unwell and may experience a wide array of bothersome symptoms, such as gas, bloating, and frequent need to go to the bathroom.
Children with IBS feel embarrassed by flatulence, sudden urges to defecate, and audible rumbling sounds from their digestive system. While most children can be expected to continue to grow and develop normally, IBS can and impact your child’s quality of life.
IBS is an intestinal disorder that affects the colon, also called the large intestine. The exact cause of IBS remains unclear. Children with IBS seem to have a colon that reacts strongly to foods that don’t cause problems in other people. The nerves that play a key role in controlling the digestive tract may be overly sensitive.
Children are often aware of the digestive discomfort and may complain of stomach pain or mention rumbles in their intestines. This can impact how well your child functions in school and how comfortable they feel in social situations.
Triggers that may prompt symptoms in children with IBS include:
- Large meals
- Fatty foods
- Too much fiber
Fructose (fruit sugar) and sorbitol (a sugar alcohol used as a sweetener) may also cause IBS symptoms.
IBS symptoms to look for in your child
Children affected by IBS tend to have abdominal discomfort and pain. Common symptoms include:
- Chronic abdominal pain that persists for 12 weeks or more
- An alternating pattern of diarrhea and constipation
- Loss of appetite
- Bowel noises
Because other conditions share the same symptoms, a comprehensive evaluation by a gastroenterology specialist is necessary to confirm a diagnosis of IBS.
Diagnosing IBS in children
The expert pediatric gastroenterologists at the Center for Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition have extensive experience diagnosing IBS and other digestive disorders in children. When you bring your child for an evaluation with one of our gastroenterologists, your child’s provider takes a thorough medical history and conducts a physical exam.
Some tests that your child’s provider may order include:
- Blood tests
- Lactose breath hydrogen test
- Abdominal ultrasound
They may also request a stool sample for testing.
Treating IBS in children
The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and improve your child’s quality of life so that they can reach their potential and lead a normal life. Your child’s provider creates an individualized treatment plan aimed at achieving these goals.
Factors that influence your child’s care plan include:
- Their age
- Severity of symptoms
- Frequency of symptoms
- Their tolerance of medications
There is no cure for IBS. Changes to your child’s diet, strategies to minimize triggers, and modifications to your child’s habits can manage symptoms. Medication may be necessary if symptoms are severe.
If you suspect that your child has digestive issues, we’re one phone call away. Reach out to one of our team members by calling 708-581-4911 to schedule a consultation or request an appointment online. We have offices throughout the Greater Chicago area in Evergreen Park, Naperville, Elmhurst, Joliet, Munster, Bourbonnais, and Hazel Crest, Illinois.