Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder of the large intestine affecting people of all age groups including children. Now it is one of the common causes of chronic abdominal pain and it can be associated with some dysfunction in the intestinal motility resulting in alteration of the frequency and the consistency of the stools.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a functional disorder with no structural abnormalities and there is no known organic underlying cause for this condition. Now some of the factors known to trigger but not cause this irritable bowel syndrome include certain food intolerances, there can be stress like new school, peer conflicts, exams, death or illness in the family, pressure to overachieve, etc. Certain illnesses like a severe gastrointestinal infection can exacerbate the irritable bowel syndrome.
The symptoms of IBS can include recurrent cramping abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea. The child may feel like they have not emptied their bowels completely. There can be nausea and a sense of feeling sick. There can be some bloating and gas.
Your doctor will suspect irritable bowel syndrome based on your child’s symptoms and will refer you to a paediatric gastroenterologist. Now the paediatric gastroenterologist after a good clinical exam may conduct a couple of blood tests, stool tests, an abdominal ultrasound or other imaging studies to rule out other causes for these symptoms.
In terms of management, there is no cure for irritable bowel syndrome but it can be well controlled if you recognise the trigger factors and learn how to cope with them. It is a good idea to keep a food diary which you can review with your doctor in about two weeks to see what foods can be causing these symptoms. Some doctors may advice to stay away from lactose containing products as lactose intolerance may sometimes contribute to the symptoms seen in this condition. Children with constipation should be advised a high fibre diet and use of laxatives may be recommended for a short duration. Antispasmodic medication may be prescribed for severe abdominal cramping. Stress and anxiety needs to be addressed by talking with your children and discussing how to deal with it. Regular physical activity or exercise helps the body combat stress and in certain cases, counselling with cognitive behaviour therapy should help.

Team Ovum Hospitals