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April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Your intestines (also called bowels) can have something called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It causes cramps, bloating (puffiness in your belly area), constipation (when you can't poop), and diarrhea (when you poop too much). If you have irritable bowel syndrome, there are ways to deal with or prevent these symptoms.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of IBS?

Besides belly pain, cramps, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, kids with IBS also could have:

Kids with IBS may sometimes feel like they can't quite finish going to the bathroom. If they have gas, instead of passing it, it may feel trapped inside.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a problem with the way the large intestine (say: in-TES-tin), or colon, works. The large intestine absorbs water and nutrients from the partially digested food that enters it from the small intestine. Anything not absorbed slowly moves on a pathway out of your body. These undigested and unabsorbed food particles are also known as stool, a bowel movement, or poop.

Here's why an intestine gets "irritable." To have a bowel movement, the muscles in the colon and the rest of the body have to work together. If they don't, what's in the colon can't move along as well as it should. It sort of stops and starts, doesn't move, or sometimes moves too fast. This can hurt and make a kid feel bad. Doctors also believe that people with IBS may have more sensitive bowels. So, what might be a little uncomfortable in one person causes serious pain for someone with IBS. It's irritating, but it can be managed, and kids can do whatever activities they like in spite of it.

Why Do Kids Get IBS?

No one really knows what causes IBS, but it tends to run in families. Stress can affect kids with IBS too. Stress can speed up your colon and slow your stomach down. Stressful feelings also can be a trigger for IBS. Let's say a kid has a big test at school the next day and really worries about it, that's stress. If a kid's parents argue a lot, that's stress too. A kid in this situation can learn to handle stress in other ways, so IBS symptoms will go away or at least be less severe.

What kids eat can also be a trigger. This can be different for each kid. For example:

  • A high-fat diet may bother some kids.

  • Sugary drinks may cause diarrhea in other kids.

  • For other kids, eating big meals and spicy foods might cause problems.

Each person's food triggers may be a little different. But some common ones are:

  • big meals

  • spicy foods

  • high-fat foods

  • chocolate

  • some dairy products like ice cream or cheese

What Will the Doctor Do?

Most kids get a stomachache, constipation, or diarrhea now and then. This doesn't mean a kid has IBS. There is no test to diagnose IBS. Doctors often diagnose the problem just by listening to a person describe the symptoms. That's why it's really important for kids to talk with their parents and their doctor about their symptoms, even if it seems embarrassing.

To access the full article on Irritable Bowel Syndrome in kids, click here.