Here is the surprising part: it affects kids, too. There is limited information about the number of children with IBS, although older studies reported up to 20 percent of them experience recurrent abdominal pain. The bottom line is they can get it, too – and it can be stressful and challenging for you as a parent.
In case your child has IBS, relax, take a deep breath, and go through this post, because we will share 15 techniques to help your child deal with this condition.
1. Understanding the How, What and Why of IBS
Before you go through the different techniques to make IBS more manageable for your child, you need to understand what IBS in children is.
Irritable bowel syndrome among kids is the same with adults – frequent bathroom visits from abdominal cramps and bloating, and episodes of diarrhea, constipation or both. Aside from the discomfort, IBS can be a cause of stress for kids when growing up, which is why your role is crucial.
Keep in mind that IBS and tummy trouble are different. Common symptoms of IBS, which happened once a week for at least two months, include:
1. Changes in stool appearance.
2. Pain or abdominal discomfort that is relieved by bowel movements.
3. Changes in the bowel movement.
If you are wondering why your child has IBS, it may be because someone in the family has it. Unhealthy food routines affecting the gut could also be another factor. Aside from this, experts are looking into stress, antibiotic use, or gastroenteritis disrupting the gastrointestinal system.
Now that you know what IBS, you should likewise know that you can do something to help your child, which you will find out below.
2. Making the Trip to the Doctor for a Diagnosis Easier for Your Child
Here is something you should know about IBS for kids: it is more than just an abdominal discomfort. In fact, there is a feeling of shame, which is why it can be embarrassing for your child or teenager to talk about their trips to the bathroom.
This is where the problem lies. Most of the time, you are the last person to know about IBS since your child may not want to talk about bathroom topics.
Can you do something about it? The answer is yes. It’s all about paying attention to your child when they are at home. If you notice your child is taking frequent trips to the bathroom, especially after meals, then don’t hesitate to ask questions. If they say they are feeling such things like stomach pain, then listen and don’t take it for granted.
If you don’t pay attention, then there is a higher possibility that the condition may become less manageable – and you don’t want that. As soon as your child opens up about her condition, make the trip to the doctor for check-up and further diagnosis, which you will know more about in the next section.
3. Diagnosing IBS in Kids: Tests and Procedures Your Little One Must Go Through
Diagnosing IBS is crucial at this stage. Most of the time, kids won’t open up about what they experience due to embarrassment. However, it is important that your child speaks up, and then goes through a series of tests to determine whether the condition is IBS or any other medical issue.
Here are diagnostic tests and procedures your child should take to determine the existence of IBS:
Stool Test – This is the analysis of stool, wherein the medical technician checks for the presence of blood or parasites.
Ultrasound – This procedure checks the gastrointestinal tract using a device called transducer.
Colonoscopy – This checks the rectum and the entire colon for any inflammation, tumors, colon polyps and bleeding.
Flexible Sigmoidoscopy –This checks the rectum and the lower colon only.
Light anesthesia and pain medication can help your child relax while the doctor inserts a flexible tube into the rectum. Aside from these exams, your doctor may require the following depending on the need:
i. Abdominal X-rays
iii. Liver Function Test
iv. Blood Count
v. Breath Test
4. Your Child is Not Alone: Kids With IBS
You read earlier that there is limited information about the exact number of children with IBS. Still, this doesn’t mean it is an uncommon condition among kids. In fact, your child is not alone – and they need to know that.
One study looked into the number of children with IBS in North America. The said study revealed that six percent of middle school students and 14 percent of high school students have irritable bowel syndrome. In the United States alone, an estimated seven percent of elementary kids and 14 percent of high school kids have IBS.
This shows that IBS is not a rare condition and could affect your child, even without a history of IBS in the family.
5. Mom 24/7: Understanding Your Role in Helping Your Child With IBS
Now that you have an idea of what irritable bowel syndrome is about, it is now time to understand what your role is to help your child deal with IBS.
Here’s the truth about IBS: It is a lifelong condition. This means there is no available cure for this condition up to this date. However, you will play an important role when it comes to managing the symptoms of IBS and providing comfort to your child. At the same time, you need to look into the bigger picture of what IBS is all about.
Some factors you need to look into are:
1. Eating Routines
2. Lifestyle Habits
3. IBS Triggers
4. Other Possible Diseases
Aside from these factors, make sure that your child’s overall health is the main priority. The following sections will provide you with tips and techniques to manage the symptoms of IBS and ease any pain or discomfort.
6. The Power of Water: Why Drinking Water is Crucial for Kids with IBS
You probably have to remind your child to drink eight to 10 glasses of water every day, regardless if they have IBS or not. This is because water comes with tons of health benefits like flushing out the toxins and boosting your child’s immune system.
Did you know that drinking water could help your child manage IBS symptoms? When your child gets enough water, it will:
1. Keep your child’s digestive tract functioning properly.
2. Get rid of toxins and other unwanted materials in the gastrointestinal tract.
3. Maintain your child’s gastrointestinal muscle tone.
4. Ensure balance of the intestinal flora.
5. Minimize irritation to the colon, which in turn minimizes the symptoms of IBS.
What’s the bottom line? Make sure that your child is getting enough fluids. You can increase water intake by:
A. Offering water-based foods, such as watermelon, cucumber, celery, grapes, oranges and strawberries
B. Encouraging your child to drink more fluids.
C. Leading by example and showing that you drink water, too.
D. Ensuring that water is easily accessible to them at all times.
E. Adding water-based foods like cucumbers, limes, lemons or oranges in their water for added flavoring.
7. Make a List and Check It Twice to Discover Your Child’s IBS Triggers
IBS may run in the family, but in many cases, the diet is to blame, as well. This means that whatever you are serving your child might trigger their constipation or diarrhea, whichever comes first.
Therefore, watch out for IBS triggers. Keep a food diary to keep track of everything your child eats during the day and take note of any symptoms. If you are unsure what to avoid serving to your child, here are common IBS triggers you need to remember:
ii. Foods high in fat like ice cream and greasy burgers.
iii. Drinks with caffeine, such as soda and chocolate.
iv. Drinks with artificial sweeteners, like diet soda.
v. Gas-causing foods, including broccoli, cabbage and beans.
vi. Fried foods, such as potato chips and fries.
vii. Carbonated drinks, including seltzer and soda.
viii. Spicy foods, like jalapeno peppers and hot mustard.
Every child is different and their food triggers may differ. Make sure to keep track of your child’s triggers to make it easier for you to prepare meals, which you will find more about, below.
8. The IBS Food Diary: Choosing the Right Kind of Fiber
Balanced diet is important if your child has IBS. When it comes to diet, it is vital that you include fiber in their daily meals.
1. Dietary fiber lessens your child’s constipation, but it will not lower their pain.
2. Fiber helps move the stool smoothly through the colon, while keeping your child’s stool soft.
3. Fiber reduces the risk of bloating and gas.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, you can calculate the recommended fiber consumption for your child by adding your child’s age to five grams of fiber. This means if your child is eight years old, they should get 13 grams of fiber daily.
The question now is what type of high-fiber foods you should feed your child. They include:
A. Whole Grain Cereal
B. Whole Grain Bread
C. Fresh Fruit
D. Vegetables Like Spinach and Broccoli
E. Fiber-Enriched Snacks Like Cereals and Pasta
Important: Slowly increase the fiber content in your child’s diet by a maximum of three grams per day. This reduces the risk of bloating and gas. Observe any changes in bowel movements and trips to the bathroom.
In case food is not enough to provide an ample supply of fiber in your diet, consider fiber supplements. Talk to your doctor about it so they can prescribe the appropriate supplement for your child.
9. Encourage and Practice Good Eating Habits to Help Manage Your Child’s IBS
What your child eats is crucial in the presence of IBS symptoms. This is why it is important that you pay attention, particularly on food triggers to make sure that your child is comfortable with their surroundings.
When it comes to paying attention, this includes encouraging and practicing good eating habits.
Keep reading to find out eating habits your child – and everyone else in the house – should practice to manage IBS symptoms more effectively:
1. Eat smaller but more frequent meals to minimize cramping and diarrhea.
2. Stick to three small meals and three snacks everyday.
3. Encourage your child to eat breakfast.
4. Go for low fat, but high carbohydrates, such as whole grain bread.
5. Chew your food slowly and completely.
6. Avoid foods that trigger IBS symptoms.
7. Eat your meals at specific time everyday to train your child’s stomach.
8. Remind your child to rest and allow their body to absorb nutrients before playing and moving around.
Make sure that you encourage your child to follow these eating habits. Your child may have a difficult time adjusting, but by sticking to these rules and assuring them of the benefits, it will be easier for your child to learn how to manage their IBS.
10. Your Shopping List: Dietary Recommendations for Children with IBS
IBS triggers are a big no-no, and big meals are also out of the question. The next issue you need to solve is what to feed your child. After all, your child’s diet plays a crucial role in managing their IBS symptoms.
Aside from fiber, here are other foods you can incorporate into your child’s diet:
ii. Soy milk
viii. Leafy Greens
There are many foods your child can eat, sans the IBS triggers. This is why it is important to keep a food diary to determine what works for your child.
On the other hand, it is advisable that you work with a dietician and a gastroenterologist to determine the right diet for your child that will likewise minimize the triggers. At the same time, this ensures your child gets the right amount of nutrients needed for their growth and development.
11. Getting to Know Probiotics and Their Role in IBS Management
If there is one thing your child can’t live without, at least in managing IBS, it is probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria or microorganisms, which are similar to the microorganisms found in the gastrointestinal tract. Some studies say that probiotics improve the symptoms of IBS, especially when a person takes them in large amounts. However, this area requires further testing.
There are various ways your child can take probiotics, such as in the form of:
Before giving your child a probiotic supplement, make sure to consult your doctor first to determine the safety and efficacy. Your health care provider can supply you with right kind and right amount of probiotics in order to improve your child’s symptoms of IBS.
12. Get Up and Move: The Importance of Exercise in Dealing with IBS
Another fact: one of the most effective ways to manage IBS is by adopting a healthy lifestyle, and this includes exercise.
You might be wondering if your child can partake in physical activity and how exercise helps in managing irritable bowel syndrome.
Here’s the truth: your child needs exercise now more than ever to manage IBS symptoms. This is because exercise helps your child cope with the physical and emotional triggers of IBS. It also minimizes stress your child might experience, which has a positive effect on her digestive system.
You can try the following to encourage your child to get up and move:
A. Bike riding and roller or ice skating.
B. Walking or jogging around the park or neighborhood.
C. Playing games that requires mobility, like hide and seek, or tag.
D. Following simple workout routines for children on various websites and TV.
E. Playing in a playground with other children.
Schedule a specific time everyday where you and your child can just run around. Don’t forget to explain to your child the importance of exercise so they will understand. After all, exercise helps improve your child’s overall well-being.
You know what the best part is? You get to exercise and maintain your weight, too. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
13. Sleep: A Simple Technique to Keep IBS Symptoms in Check
How much sleep is your child getting every night? If they rarely get enough shut eye or end up tossing and turning in bed all night long, then they could have issues managing their IBS symptoms, as well.
Here’s the truth: sleep difficulties are common among IBS patients. As a result, your child may experience daytime fatigue and feel less energetic to be active each day. This is due to abdominal pain or the pain from other sources that cause difficulty in sleeping. Your child may also experience sleep fragmentation, or interruptions of sleep.
Can you help your child visit dreamland and stay there? The answer is yes.
You can ask your doctor to prescribe pain medications for relief. However, pain medication will only relieve pain temporarily and surely, your doctor won’t advise you to use it on your child on a long-term basis.
The best thing you can do is to establish a sleep routine, which signals your body that it is time to sleep. Some of the things you can incorporate in your child’s sleep routine are the following:
1. Have a period of relaxation before your child goes to bed.
2. Read a bedtime story.
3. Get rid of television, tablets, video games and other electronic devices two hours before their scheduled sleeping time.
4. Keep the room cozy and comfortable.
5. Do not feed your child with big meals a few hours before bedtime.
6. Encourage your child to sleep the traditional way, which encourages her to sleep on her own, too.
You can also try a reward system to encourage your child to sleep. Every time your child goes to bed on time and stays on their room all night, give them a star. For every three or five stars, they will get a prize.
Apparently, your role as a parent doesn’t end with feeding your child the right food to minimize the symptoms of IBS. Keep reading to understand other ways you can help your child in dealing with this condition.
14. Comforting Your Child and Helping Them Cope
When it comes to comprehending what irritable bowel syndrome is all about, adults are more capable of understanding what the condition is. Your child may experience confusion, embarrassment, and even worry because she feels they are not normal compared to everyone else. There might also be episodes of withdrawal, stress and depression, which you need to address as soon as possible.
The question is, how? The answer is one word: assurance. Make sure your child knows, despite IBS being a lifelong condition, they can still do something to ease the symptoms. Assure your child that you are there for them, guiding them all throughout. Make your child feel and understand that they can still go on with their normal activities, and that there is nothing to be ashamed of.
15. Living with an IBS Child: Advocating the Condition for Your Child’s Cause
There is no treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, but you can surely do something to help your child manage it and ease the symptoms. However, your role does not end inside the home. You have the responsibility to educate the people around your child so they would understand what she is going through.
What does this mean?
As a parent living with an IBS child, make sure that your relatives, your child’s teachers, their classmates, neighbors, babysitters and everyone around them understands. By making other people understand, it will be easier for your child to open up and feel less embarrassed about IBS. At the same time, it encourages your child to confide with friends and easily get support, rather than hide their symptoms.
The bottom line is, being an advocate of IBS reassures your child – and other children with IBS, too – that they are not alone. There will be people willing to help and there is nothing to be ashamed of, and with the right management steps, they can live a normal life.
The Bottom Line
Here’s the bottom line: you are your child’s partner when dealing and managing their symptoms of IBS. Take note of these 15 pointers to make your child’s life more comfortable. More importantly, provide love, care and assurance to let them know that everything will be fine.