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What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

What Causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children
Writer and expert18 days ago
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What causes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in kids?

IBS can be an unpleasant condition that is hard enough to manage at any age but it can be especially difficult to manage in children.

It is therefore important to understand what IBS is and the best ways to support a child who has it. This can involve understanding the triggers for it, the best ways to manage it, and how to create a healthy gut to help ease the symptoms of IBS. Here, we take a look at what IBS can mean for a child, and what you can do as their parent or care giver.

What is IBS?

IBS is a condition affecting the bowel which can cause a range of intermittent symptoms, which may last anything from a few days to many months at a time. In many cases, it is possible to control the painful symptoms of IBS by managing diet, lifestyle and stress levels but this can be more difficult to do when it comes to looking after a child with IBS.

It is not yet known what exactly causes IBS, and it may well be the result of a combination of issues. The reasons why someone may have IBS can also vary from person to person, however, it can be linked to the way in which the gut and brain interact with one another, as this can change the speed at which food moves through the digestive tract causing a change in bowel movements.

IBS may also be triggered by altered bacteria in the gut, both in terms of the types bacteria as well as the amount. In addition to this, stress in childhood has been known to lead to IBS

What are the symptoms of IBS?

Whilst IBS may be a lifelong condition, the symptoms themselves can change over time. The most common symptoms include abdominal pains and cramps (which are often relieved by a bowel movement) and a change in your bowel movements, whether that means going more or less frequently.

In addition to this, IBS sufferers may feel the need to pass wind more often, and sometimes even pass mucus from their bottom too. IBS can lead to a feeling of lethargy, nausea and even backache on occasions. If you suspect that you or your child may be suffering from IBS, it is important to talk to your GP about it. Your GP will be able to make a full assessment of your symptoms and explain a diagnosis

Abdominal pain is one of the main IBS symptoms in children. They may also experience the following: diarrhoea, constipation cramping the need for an urgent bowel movementWhat age can a child get IBS?

IBS is a condition which most commonly affects those under the age of 45, and this can include children. Whilst it can be more common in teenagers, it can still affect younger children and is more likely if there is a family history of the condition.

What triggers IBS in kids?

There are a variety of factors which can trigger IBS symptoms in children, but many of these are most commonly linked to the foods that they have eaten. Foods such as milk and chocolate are known to trigger IBS symptoms, as are gassy or fatty foods which can causes bloating. Drinks containing caffeine can also be a factor. In some cases, large quantities of food or spicy food can also be responsible for triggering IBS symptoms.

As well as diet, IBS can also be affected by stress, anxiety and emotional upsets, due to the fact that the nerves in the colon are linked to the brain. This means that stressful or upsetting times can have an impact on the way in which the colon works.

It can be a good idea to keep a food diary, in order to find a pattern between what your child eats or what happens in their lives, and when they start to experience IBS symptoms, in order to identify some of the triggers.

Children with IBS: how best to help them

Whilst IBS symptoms are not continuous, they can be painful and troublesome when they do surface, so it is important to find ways to support your child. This can mean helping to identify the most obvious triggers of the symptoms in order to avoid them or prepare for them if they are unavoidable. It could also involve looking at different coping strategies if stressful situations such as family break ups, exams or moving house are proving to be a factor.

What to do if your child has IBS

If you believe that your child has IBS, then it is important to see a medical professional for a proper diagnosis. Once you are sure that IBS is the problem, then there are ways that you can help to care for them.

One important task is to learn what the IBS triggers are for your child and help them to understand them too in order to help them make good choices for themselves. Start by looking at what foods they eat, and whether any of them could be a problem, but also look at whether there are any important foods that are missing from their diets. Fruits, vegetables and fibre as well as plenty of water are all known to help support the health of the gut and can therefore be beneficial when dealing with IBS.

What can you give a child with IBS?

When a child is diagnosed with IBS, they may be given medication to help, but this is not always the case. For example, doctors may also prescribe laxatives as a way to relieve constipation, depending on how severe the symptoms of your child are.

When it comes to diet, it is important not to load them up with large meals, so eating smaller amounts can be helpful. Foods which fall under the FODMAP category (which stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) are also sometimes found to be hard to digest for children with IBS. This is because the good bacteria in the gut ferment certain carbohydrates instead of breaking them down, so it can be beneficial to avoid foods with fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans and polyols and replace them with diary substitutes such as almond milk, fruits such as bananas, vegetables like bamboo shoots, lettuce and parsnips, protein from meat, fish and eggs, nuts, seeds and grain.

There is now also increased evidence that probiotics containing Bifidobacterium infantis, breve and longum can have a positive effect on children with IBS, although it is important that you check they are suitable for your child’s age.

Probiotics and IBS in children

It is now believed that probiotics can play a significant role in treating IBS in children. These live microorganisms and bacteria resemble those found in the digestive tract, and so when taken, they can help to support the health of the gut. Probiotics can help to metabolise food, and so aid digestion, as well as helping to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that can make symptoms worse.

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