Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a painful digestive disorder that affects the large intestine. It is characterized by cramping and abdominal pain. IBS symptoms include changes in bowel movements such as diarrhea or constipation, bloating and gas. People with IBS have very sensitive intestines that have muscle spasms in response to food, gas, and sometimes stress. In many cases, you can control IBS by making simple changes to your diet, lifestyle and stress.

Many people on the autism spectrum have IBS. This can be caused for several reasons. It’s important to check for food allergies, which can look like IBS, such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance. Often ASD people have a limited diet due to behavioral or sensory issues. Restricted diets may cause them not to get enough fiber or too much fat which can trigger IBS. Some children can start to lose weight because they eat less to avoid feeling pain.

To treat IBS in children a doctor will usually recommend dietary changes. They may encourage eliminating certain foods from the diet. They may recommend dietary changes such as adding more fiber to the diet or reducing fat intake. Bowel training may also be recommended. The goal of this training is to teach the child to empty the bowels at regular, specific times during the day.

Many people with autism struggle with anxiety which can trigger IBS symptoms. In this case, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help manage anxiety can also be helpful.