Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits, such as constipation, diarrhea, or both. Bloating and gas may also accompany IBS. Before giving a diagnosis, your child’s health care practitioner will rule out other potential causes for his or her symptoms, such as inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease. Researchers aren’t clear about what causes IBS, but diet and altered gut flora seem to play a role.
Recently, there have been a lot of studies about the role of fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAPs) in IBS. FODMAPs are small, poorly absorbed carbohydrates (sugars) that are fermented by intestinal bacteria, producing gas and causing an increase in intestinal fluids. They are found in a variety of foods, especially those high in fructose and lactose. Research suggests a diet low in FODMAPs can help relieve symptoms of IBS.
The elimination of common food intolerances such as dairy products, wheat, eggs, citrus fruits, caffeinated beverages, yeast, and potatoes can also improve IBS symptoms, especially bloating and gas. Probiotics, which help restore natural gut flora, may decrease abdominal pain, bloating, and gas associated with IBS.
Stress has also been linked to an increase in IBS symptoms, especially in school-aged children. To help reduce stress and anxiety, explore deep breathing, yoga, exercise, and other relaxing techniques with your child.
When to see a health care practitioner:
If your child experiences any of the following symptoms, further medical attention may be needed:
- recurrent vomiting and/or diarrhea with fever
- blood in stool or vomit
- severe abdominal pain
- failure to gain weight
Supplements to soothe digestive complaints:
The following supplements are natural and safe for children with upset stomachs. For recommendations that are specific to your child, check with a health care practitioner.
Probiotics can help replenish healthy gut flora and enhance the immune system to protect against infections in the digestive tract.
Herbal teas that may help soothe the stomach include camomile, fennel, and lemon balm.
Omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil target inflammatory pathways, which may decrease the gut inflammation associated with many digestive complaints.