We know that Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is not exactly a disease; it is referred to as a functional disorder. This means that the bowel is not functioning as it should. This syndrome, can afflict people of all ages, unfortunately also children.
What are the symptoms of IBS in children?
Verifying IBS in children is even more difficult than in adults, but it is still possible. Before it can be diagnosed, parents have to look for the following recurring symptoms:
- Stomach aches
- Irregularity in the bowel movements; this can include diarrhea, constipation or alternate diarrhea and constipation etc.
- Excessive gas and bloating
- Vomiting isn’t a common symptom, but can occur sometimes
How common is IBS in children?
Studies performed on IBS are few and far between, studies on children suffering for IBS are even rarer. There have been some studies which suggest that about 20% of children suffer from recurrent abdominal pain, the cause of which can be IBS. Another study suggested that about 14% of adolescents suffer from IBS.
What Causes IBS in children?
There hasn’t been much research into what exactly causes IBS, but experts believe that the following factors can be the possible causes of IBS in children:
- Brain-gut signal problem: a problem with the nerves that send signals between the brain and the gut (small and large intestine), which causes various types of discomfort in the stomach.
- Abnormal bowel movement.
- Hypersensitivity: children with a more sensitive stomach or rectal area have a greater chance of developing IBS.
- Psychological or mental health issues, like anxiety, stress or even depression in children, have been linked to IBS.
- Bacterial Infection: a bacterial infection known as gastroenteritis, can be the cause of IBS. But, this cause is more common in adults than in children.
How can IBS in children be diagnosed?
A gastroenterologist, a medical professional who specializes in digestive illnesses, will perform any one or a combination of the following tests to diagnose IBS in children:
- Blood tests to check if the child has gluten intolerance
- Hydrogen Breath Test for fructose and lactose intolerance (very small children get a stool acidity test instead)
- Breath test for bacterial growth in the small intestine
- Tests on stool samples may be conducted to look for parasites and the presence of blood cells.
- An ultrasound can be used to detect problems in the GI tract or other symptoms of IBS.
- In some cases, a colonoscopy may also be used to detect IBS in children.
- The doctor may also order abdominal x-rays and liver function tests in rare cases.
What are the best treatments for children suffering from IBS?
There are different options available, when you are looking to treat IBS in your kids.
The first option you should try when deciding on an Irritable Bowel Syndrome treatment is to consult a registered dietitian, who could look into your child’s diet and see what changes need to be made. If the dietitian is not informed on the low FODMAP diet (best diet for IBS sufferers), try to find one who knows about it.
Probiotics are ‘friendly’ bacteria that have been proven to be safe and effective in treating IBS.
Some natural or medication free ways to treat IBS in children are:
- Herbal therapy: one or multiple herbs can be used to treat IBS, like peppermint oil is popularly used to treat IBS.
- Hypnotherapy: hypnosis can be successfully administered to soothe and relax the child, which can be beneficial for kids suffering from IBS.
- Talk therapy: talking to someone may reduce the stress children have and help to improve irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
Children with moderate or severe cases of IBS may be prescribed certain medications by their GP, but for me this would be the last choice, if my child suffered from IBS:
- Fiber supplements and laxatives to relive constipation.
- Antidiarrheals and antispasmodics to relieve stomach aches and to reduce the symptoms of diarrhea.
- In some rare cases, antidepressants, in low doses, are also given to the kids to relieve stress.
I hope you have found this information helpful, if your child suffers from IBS and remember to visit your GP and follow the advice of a dietitian.
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Until next time, take good care.