IBS in Children: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in Children

As a parent, you try everything to get your child to eat healthy food, but it is not an easy task, is it now? There are so many options available out there, that kids don’t enjoy eating home cooked food these days. They love eating pizzas, burgers, noodles, and other street foods. Indulging in these foods once a while is fine, but if your child is eating outside food every other day then it may lead to stomach problems. Stomach problems generally arise when children eat too much of outside food. If your child is feeling immense discomfort in the stomach, then it may not be related to any allergy as such. A simple check from the doctor may reveal it to be the presence of an irritable bowel syndrome.

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?

As the name suggests, this syndrome is related to a disorder of the bowels or the gastrointestinal portion. This is usually a result of the improper functioning of the intestinal system. However, it does not cause any physical damage to the intestine as it is not a disease as such. The disorder of the intestinal tract is termed to be IBS or the irritable bowel syndrome only if a bunch of symptoms tend to occur. These are usually a pain in the abdomen, diarrhoea, constipation, and a few others.

How Common Is IBS in Kids?

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is common in very common today. There has not been any specific study to put together a good statistical understanding of IBS cases in children. However, around 15 percent of kids suffer from this.

What Causes IBS in Children?

Irritable bowel syndrome may be caused in children due to the following reasons.

1. Hereditary Reasons

Genetics play a key role in the development of any disorders in children. The chances of your child suffering from IBS is substantially higher if you or your partner had the same problem.

2. Bacterial Overgrowth

Our gut contains numerous bacteria, most of which are the good ones that help keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy. However, if these bacteria grow beyond a healthy threshold, it can result in an effect similar to IBS in the child.

3. A Stressful Life

A stressful environment at home or even at school, combined with numerous factors that result in sadness and anxiety in the child, may not cause IBS, but can surely aggravate it.

4. Presence of Gastroenteritis

Even though your child eats healthy foods, there are chances that these foods may have various bacteria present in them. One of the key ones is salmonella, which is known to cause immense discomfort in a child, once it enters the intestinal tract.

5. Neural Signals

This isn’t exactly a neurological disorder but there sure is a dependency on the brain. The intestines function appropriately based on the signals received from the brain. If there is any discrepancy in these signals, the functionality of the entire GI tract could be affected, leading to the emergence of IBS.

6. Highly Sensitive Abdomen

Some children do tend to have a comparatively sensitive stomach or intestine, which reacts to the slightest presence of an allergen or a different food item. Such children tend to face symptoms of IBS at a much higher frequency, causing recurring stomach aches and diarrhoea.

7. Motor Issues of the Tract

Apart from external factors, one primary reason for IBS to occur in a child is the erratic functioning of the motor within the GI tract. Too much motility results in diarrhoea whereas too little results in constipation.

Signs and Symptoms of IBS in a Child

Diagnosing IBS takes a while because the signs and symptoms of it are quite similar to other stomach disorders. If the symptoms persist for long, then it can indicate the presence of the irritable bowel syndrome. Some of the evident symptoms of IBS in a child are:

  • Bloating in abdomen
  • Spotting of mucus in the stools after pooping
  • Constipation, which keeps getting worse, and the stools passed are quite hard
  • Uncontrollable pooping
  • Presence of diarrhoea causing him to pass watery stools multiple times in a day
  • Different texture of the stool as compared to the usual days
  • Recurrent complains of pain in the stomach, lasting for more than a couple of weeksA boy with diarrohea

Why is IBS a Concern?

Any discomfort that lasts for extended periods of time is a cause for concern. Continuous stomach ache or frequent usage of the toilet could affect your kid’s social engagement, leading him to invent lies than facing humiliation from his friends. IBS is a syndrome and not a disease. Therefore, your child might attempt to handle it differently, which could lead to him eating less to avoid a stomach ache. The growth of your kid could also be affected.

How Is IBS Diagnosed in Kids?

The presence of IBS in a child is usually diagnosed by combining a few medical tests with a bunch of physical checkups. These tests and checkups are done to take a look at the internal organs of the body. Here is how the diagnosis may be done:

  • A blood test is usually conducted at first. It helps in finding out the presence of any infections or issues that might be causing the problems.
  • A urine sample is collected and tests are conducted on it to look for the presence of any bacterial infection within the urinary tract.
  • Along with this, a stool sample plays a vital role in the medical analysis. This not only checks for any parasites present within the body but looks for the presence of any occult blood, which could indicate an inflamed intestine.
  • Many times, stomach ache and diarrhoea could be a result of an undetected lactose intolerance. So, the same is checked for using a lactose breath hydrogen test.
  • To get a better idea of how the organs are placed, an x-ray of the abdomen is generated.
  • Along with the x-ray, most doctors choose to conduct an ultrasound that gives an even better picture of the presence of any biological anomalies.
  • To get closer to the solution, your child’s doctor may conduct an endoscopy. This involves inserting a tube via mouth in the stomach, and observe it carefully while procuring samples.

How is IBS Treated in Children?

There doesn’t exist any cure for IBS since it is not a disease. However, its symptoms can be reduced and treated in a number of ways, based on what might be the source of the problem.

1. Medications

To help a child with his condition, the first step is to make sure the discomfort and pain of the child are reduced, so as to help him return back to normalcy. Certain medications might be required if the stomach ache is severe or when diarrhoea needs to be controlled. Medicines are generally used in various forms for the following:

  • Mood regulating medication that can act as painkillers as well as reduce the effect of stress to regulate the intestinal activity.
  • Medicines may be suggested to control the water and nutrient loss by putting an end to diarrhoea.
  • For increasing the amount of fibre within the body with supplements, while stimulating bowel movements with laxatives.

2. Change in Diet

IBS diet for children is usually the standard one for everyone in general. A child who has IBS should not consume dairy products, artificial drinks, fatty foods, and other gas causing items. Meal portions should be kept small, and the intake of fibre should be encouraged but kept within reason.

3. Using Probiotics

At times, the intestinal health needs a little boost to help it return to normal functioning. This can be attained via probiotics, which help in bringing back the levels of healthy bacteria within the gut to normal levels, consequently helping the functionality to be streamlined.

4. Therapies

Combating stress and anxiety within a child is highly necessary for any other treatment methods to be effective. Cognitive therapy is generally undertaken to teach the child to deal with the problem on his own. In certain cases, a child might be subjected to hypnotherapy in order to relax his body and relieve the colon muscles from stress as well.

A doctor examines a child's stomach

How Can Irritable Bowel Syndrome Be Prevented?

Since IBS is a result of numerous conditions coming together, you must prevent those conditions from occurring in the first place. This can be done by:

  • Undertaking yoga
  • Consuming meals at the fixed time
  • Drinking enough water
  • Avoiding varying food temperatures
  • Opting for small meal portions
  • Staying away from carbonated beverages
  • Avoiding dairy products
  • Reducing consumption of fatty foods
  • Reducing the intake of whole-grain foods
  • Keeping polyol rich foods to a minimum

Effective Home Remedies for IBS in Children

Taking care of IBS at home is possible if it not too severe. Most of them work towards reducing its irritation and providing relief to your child. Not exactly home remedies, these are mainly foods that you can give to your child to combat the symptoms of IBS in children:

1. Chamomile Tea

Give chamomile tea to your child as the presence of various tannins in it can help reduce the frequency of diarrhoea and stomach ache and thus provide him relief.

2. Carrots

As carrots contain pectin, a fibre, which can solve stomach problems. Hence, giving your child puree made from boiled carrots can help reduce IBS.

Carrot puree

3. Bananas

If your child has gas problems or bloating in the stomach, a banana can help. A small piece of banana can help counter diarrhoea and gas related problems effectively.

4. Cabbage Juice

Raw cabbage juice acts as a laxative and provides relief from constipation associated with IBS.

5. Flax Seeds

Flax seeds are known to boost immunity. Flax seeds can be given to your child in the ground form. You can also add flax seeds to water and let it sit for 3-4 hours. Give these seeds to your child before he goes to bed. This will ease bowel movements.

6. Using Fennel Seeds

Drinking boiled fennel seeds water is an effective remedy to reduce intestinal inflammation and remove excess fat present within the tract.

7. Ginger Tea

Drinking ginger tea or eating ginger with some honey can cure gas problems in the stomach.

Ginger tea

8. Oats

Oats are rich in fibre and provide relief from constipation. So, make it a point to add oats to your child’s diet.

9. Using Peppermint

Eating peppermint candies or supplementary capsules provides a soothing effect to the muscles of the intestine.

10. Eating Yoghurt

A natural probiotic, yoghurt helps in providing the good bacteria which remove bad bacteria from the gut and protect the internal lining from inflammation.

IBS can quite easily ruin your child’s best years and instil embarrassment within him. But by taking a few precautions and administering IBS medication, you can treat the root cause of the problem and make sure your child stays healthy.

Also Read: Reye’s Syndrome in Children

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