IBS isn’t something only adults experience. Children and adolescents can also develop IBS. However, it is currently unknown how common IBS is in children within Australia. One American study suggests that 20% of school students in North America have IBS, affecting both boys and girls equally. (1) Symptoms can be difficult to manage for school-age children. This is because they may need frequent, urgent toilet breaks which may lead to time off school. So, talking with your child about their toilet habits and investigating any unusual changes allows for quicker symptom management.
Talking to your child about their toilet habits may be difficult for them or yourself. There is no need to be embarrassed by poo talk. Everyone poops! It’s important they share any changes to their toilet habits with you so that you can assist your child asap. It’s a funny subject! So sometimes approaching the subject with a bit of humour can help your child feel a bit more comfortable sharing.
What should I look out for?
When talking with your child lookout for the following:
- Diarrhoea 3 times or more a day paired with a feeling of urgency. This includes any loose movement.
- Constipation passing 2 or fewer stools a week which are firm, hard to pass and might require straining to pass.
- Any bloating and or abdominal discomfort
IBS diagnosis in children
The diagnosis of IBS in children is the same as it is in adults. Firstly, tests are completed to rule out other possible gastrointestinal concerns. IBS is diagnosed using the Rome IV criteria(2):
- Recurrent abdominal pain, on average, at least one day per week in the last three months associated with two or more of the following criteria which lasts three months with symptom onset at least six months before diagnosis.
- Related to defecation
- Associated with a change in the frequency of stool
- Associated with a change in the form (appearance) of stool
Can my child follow a low FODMAP diet?
There is an abundance of evidence supporting a low FODMAP in adults with IBS. However, there are few studies investigating the effect of a low FODMAP diet in children with IBS. One U.S. study compared a typical childhood American diet with a low FODMAP diet in children aged 7-17 years. The results found a decrease in abdominal pain in those following the low FODMAP diet. (3) The low FODMAP diet is restrictive and designed to be followed short term. Before starting your child on a low FODMAP diet it is advised to seek guidance from a qualified paediatric dietitian.
1. Chumpitazi BP, Cope JL, Hollister EB et al. Randomised clinical trial: gut microbiome biomarkers are associated with clinical response to a low FODMAP diet in children with irritable bowel syndrome. Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 2015. DOI: 10.1111/apt.13286:1-10.
2. Drossman DA. Functional gastrointestinal disorders: history, pathophysiology, clinical features and Rome IV. Gastroenterology 2016;150:1262-79e2.
3.Hyams JS, Burke G, Davis PM, Rzepski B, Adrulonis PA. Abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome in adolescents: a community-based study. The Journal of Pediatrics. 1996;129(2):220–226.
Image sourced from Unsplash.
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