Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a digestive disorder that causes abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation—or some combination of these problems. IBS affects people of all ages, including children… & see

IBS is classified as a functional disorder because it is caused by a problem in how the intestines, or bowels, work. People with IBS tend to have overly sensitive intestines that have muscle spasms in response to food, gas, and sometimes stress. These spasms may cause pain, diarrhea, and constipation.

IBS may be a cause of recurring abdominal pain in children. The diagnosis of IBS is based on having abdominal pain or discomfort plus any two of the following:

  • The pain is relieved by having a bowel movement.
  • The onset of pain is associated with a change in the frequency of stools.
  • The onset of pain is associated with a change in stool consistency.

The symptoms must be present for at least 12 weeks in the preceding 12 months, and there should be no diseases that might cause the symptoms.

In children and adolescents, IBS affects girls and boys equally and may be diarrhea-predominant, constipation-predominant, or have a variable stool pattern.

Children with IBS may also have headache, nausea, or mucus in the stool. Weight loss may occur if a child eats less to try to avoid pain. Some children first develop symptoms after a stressful event, such as teething, a bout with the flu, or problems at school or at home. Stress does not cause IBS, but it can trigger symptoms.

To diagnose IBS, the doctor will ask questions about symptoms and examine the child to rule out more serious problems or diseases. IBS is not a disease—it is a syndrome, or group of symptoms that occur together. It does not damage the intestine, so if the physical exam and other tests show no sign of disease or damage, the doctor may diagnose IBS.

In children, IBS is treated mainly through changes in diet—eating more fiber and less fat to help prevent spasms—and through bowel training to teach the child to empty the bowels at regular, specific times during the day. Medications like laxatives are rarely prescribed because children are more susceptible to addiction than adults. When laxatives are necessary, parents must follow the doctor’s instructions carefully. Learning stress management techniques may also help some children.

For More Information

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) Inc.
P.O. Box 170864
Milwaukee, WI 53217–8076
Phone: 1–888–964–2001 or 414–964–1799
Fax: 414–964–7176

Additional Information on Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse collects resource information on digestive diseases for National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Reference Collection. This database provides titles, abstracts, and availability information for health information and health education resources. The NIDDK Reference Collection is a service of the National Institutes of Health.

To provide you with the most up-to-date resources, information specialists at the clearinghouse created an automatic search of the NIDDK Reference Collection. To obtain this information, you may view the results of the automatic search on Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

If you wish to perform your own search of the database, you may access and search the NIDDK Reference Collection database online.

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National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse:
2 Information Way
Bethesda, MD 20892–3570
Phone: 1–800–891–5389
Fax: 703–738–4929

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The NIDDK is part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Established in 1980, the Clearinghouse provides information about digestive diseases to people with digestive disorders and to their families, health care professionals, and the public. The NDDIC answers inquiries, develops and distributes publications, and works closely with professional and patient organizations and Government agencies to coordinate resources about digestive diseases.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.


3 thoughts on “Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

  1. Pingback: Massage Therapy Talk » Blog Archive » Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

  2. Pingback: Stress Management » Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

  3. doc

    Recent studies show that if usual treatments don’t work for chronic abdominal pain or IBS in kids, gut directed hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy may be helpful.


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