Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a condition that affects the large intestines. It causes abdominal pain, gassiness, bloating, diarrhea or constipation. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), IBS causes the muscles of the colon to overreact to stimuli, causing spasms; the peristaltic nerves are over-sensitized. IBS is very uncomfortable, but not life threatening and does not cause damage to the colon. IBS is incurable, but it is treatable. In addition to medication and stress management, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) explains that diet can help manage the symptoms of IBS in children.
The AAP suggests children add roughage to their diets to help control IBS symptoms. Added fiber may eliminate abdominal cramping, soften stools and lessen diarrhea. Fiber also helps keep the colon mildly distended, which limits spasticity. High fiber foods that will help children with IBS include apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, cherries, pears, prunes, raisins, broccoli, brussel sprouts, potatoes, spinach, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, whole grain cereal, popcorn, rice and beans, humus and pita, legumes and nuts.
Eliminate Trigger Foods
According to the NIDDK, some foods can cause IBS flare-ups, including fatty foods, caffeine, spicy foods, carbonated beverages and dairy products, which should be avoided to limit symptoms. Caffeine and foods high in fat can exacerbate diarrhea in children with IBS. Many children with IBS may experience abdominal pain and diarrhea after drinking milk, and these children may be lactose intolerant. For children to meet calcium needs without milk, try yogurt, fortified soy milk, fortified rice milk, or lactaid milk.
Eat Smaller Meals
The NIDDK advises that eating several small meals a day can lessen symptoms of IBS. Large meals can lead to abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Children with IBS should eat three small meals and three snacks daily. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center suggests resting after meals to slow down the rate of digestion, and not skipping meals.