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All About Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in Children

Updated on March 5, 2008
Photo:  Freerange
Photo: Freerange

Fiber Foods Help IBS

If you have been advised to add fiber to your child's diet, here are some sources of soluble fiber:

  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Currants
  • Dried beans
  • Figs
  • French bread
  • Fresh peas
  • Methylcellulose (Citrucel)
  • Oat Bran
  • Oatmeal
  • Pasta
  • Prunes
  • Psyllium husks (Metamucil)
  • Raisins
  • Rice
  • Sourdough bread
  • Soy

Common IBS Trigger Foods

  • While food does not cause IBS, certain foods can trigger symptoms:
  • Alcohol
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Artificial fat (Olestra)
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Coconut milk
  • Coffee (even decaffeinated)
  • Dairy
  • Egg yolks
  • Fried Foods
  • Oils
  • Poultry skin and dark meat
  • Red meat
  • Shortening
  • Solid chocolate


Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional digestive disorder causing one or a combination of the following: abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. It affects people of all ages, including children. IBS is caused by overly sensitive intestines that have muscle spasms in response to food, gas, and stress. If your child has complained of stomach problems for some time or seems unable to control the passing of gas, you may be dealing with IBS.

What Is IBS?

IBS is sometimes hard to distinguish from your run-of-the-mill tummy ache, but there are specific indicators. In children and adolescents, IBS may have the predominant symptom of diarrhea or constipation, or it may show up as a variable stool pattern. It affects girls and boys equally.

Children with IBS may also suffer headache, nausea, or mucus in the stool. Some children try to eat less to try to avoid pain and so a marked weight loss is a reason to find out if your child has IBS. Symptoms may start after a stressful event like teething, flu, or problems at school or at home. Although stress doesn't cause IBS, it can trigger symptoms.

How is IBS Diagnosed?

IBS can cause recurring abdominal pain in children. Your child may be diagnosed with IBS if she suffers from abdominal pain plus any two of the following:

  • Bowel movement relieves the pain.
  • Onset of pain is associated with a change in stool frequency.
  • Onset of pain is associated with a change in consistency of stool.

Symptoms present for at least 12 weeks of the preceding 12 months are considered indicative of IBS. Additionally, doctors will rule out any diseases that might cause the same symptoms.

To make a diagnosis of IBS, the doctor asks questions about symptoms and examines the child to rule out more serious problems or diseases. IBS is not a disease, but a syndrome, which just means a group of symptoms that occur together. It doesn't damage the intestine, and in children IBS is treated mainly through changes in diet.

Treatment For IBS

Children diagnosed with IBS will need to add more fiber into their diets. Eating more fiber and less fat helps prevent intestinal spasms. Bowel training teaches the child to empty the bowels at regular, specific times during the day. Rarely, laxatives are prescribed, but these are not generally advised for children because they are susceptible to laxative addiction. Stress management techniques are helpful for some children.

For More Information visit the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) Inc.


Submit a Comment

  • Peter Geekie profile image

    Peter Geekie 5 years ago from Sittingbourne

    Excellent article, well researched and informative about a problem often talked about in hushed tones.

    Thank you - voted up and useful

    Kind regards Peter

  • profile image

    Fosamax Lawyer 6 years ago

    My son was diagnose with IBS and the doctor recommend us a milk inrich with Colostrum. This can help for anyone who is suffering from auto-immune disorders.



  • profile image

    John 8 years ago

  • profile image

    davidsjames 9 years ago

    thats awful children suffering from IBS. very informative


  • tjmum profile image

    tjmum 9 years ago from Isle of Wight

    I was not diagnosed with IBS until I was 18 but had suffered with the embarassing and distressing symptoms for years. It was only investigated because my mum had ulcerative colitis. Too often we put aside children's problems as justa stage when it can be something more. Great hub and good information.

  • Eileen Hughes profile image

    Eileen Hughes 9 years ago from Northam Western Australia

    It sure is a worry all the things that our children are being affected by. So many different ailments. Good article

  • MrMarmalade profile image

    MrMarmalade 9 years ago from Sydney

    I respect all those points in our ladies. I do not belive us mere males could handle them at all

    Great hub