Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS or spastic colon, is a group of chronic symptoms that are caused by a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract. IBS is not a disease, but a functional disorder, where the bowel is not able to function correctly. In most cases, IBS can be treated effectively and does not cause permanent damage to the colon like other intestinal disorders. There is no cure for the chronic disorder, but simple treatment methods are often effective in relieving symptoms. IBS can affect children and adults of any age, and is common among adolescents.

Causes of IBS

The causes of IBS are unknown. It is believed that the nerves and muscles in the bowels of people affected with IBS are sensitive causing it to either contract or relax, resulting in cramping or pain. These muscles may force food to pass quickly through the intestines resulting in gas, bloating and diarrhea. It is thought that these muscles may be reacting to certain stimulants which may include food, stress factors, hormones or other illnesses and medications.

Symptoms of IBS

Children with IBS may experience the following symptoms:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Bloating or distention of the abdomen
  • Gas
  • Alternating episodes of diarrhea or constipation
  • Mucus in the stool

These common symptoms can also be symptoms of other conditions, and many people experience mild variations of these symptoms on a regular basis. It is important to talk to a physician to determine if the symptoms experienced are a result of irritable bowel syndrome or a more serious condition.

Treatment of IBS

Once IBS has been diagnosed, it can usually be treated with simple lifestyle changes. Since the cause of IBS is unknown and there is no cure, treatment usually focuses on relieving the symptoms of IBS. Mild symptoms can often be treated by managing stress and making dietary changes. Different foods may act as triggers for different people, but cutting back on fatty foods, milk products, chocolate, alcohol and caffeine is recommended. Symptoms of IBS may be treated with medication such as laxatives, antispasmodics, antibiotics, fiber supplements and antidepressants.

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