Frequently Asked Questions about Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

Is IBS a psychological or a physical problem?

Our bodies and minds are interconnected in amazing and complex ways. Over time psychological or emotional stress can change the way the brain processes signals from the digestive tract as well as how the digestive track functions..  Chapter 2 explains the complexities of the mind-body, brain-gut, and genetics-environment relationships in more detail.

What is the cause of IBS?

It is likely a combination of genetic factors predisposing a child to be prone to IBS along with environmental factors that the brain-gut axis finds stressful. This combination can lead to physiological changes such as visceral (inside organ) hypersensitivity resulting and a decreased capacity of the digestive tract to accommodate food and gas, resulting in IBS. .

Who gets IBS?

While most people experience some digestive discomfort during some period of their lives, between 10% and 20% of school-aged children and adults develop IBS. This means their digestive problems continue for more than 3 months and commonly for years. More females than males suffer from IBS.&nbsp.

Should we keep going to see the doctor for IBS?

Repeated doctor visits may seem like the right answer, but they do not help more than briefly reducing fear about symptoms. More medical visits lead to a higher likelihood of unnecessary tests, incidental findings, and unnecessary surgeries. Too many people end up having healthy organs removed in the hopes that it will help reduce abdominal pain, but it does not.

Should my child take probiotics?

Probiotics can help in some circumstances. Chapter 4 reviews treatments: The Good, The Bad, The Failed.

Will my child always have IBS?

Approximately 75% of sufferers continue to have symptoms on and off throughout their lives; however, the understanding the nature of IBS and how to manage it can reduce flare-ups, reduce missed activities, and improve quality of life. 

Should my child stay home from school because of stomach pain or other IBS symptoms?

This is a complex issue and every child has different needs; however, missing school for IBS overall increases anxiety about school, about IBS, and children often experience more pain instead of less. Chapter 5 explains more about the role of stress and how we can help children cope better. It is important they feel supported and equipped to cope with daily tasks.

How do you know it isn’t cancer or something else more horrible?

Life-threatening diagnoses tend to surface early. It is extremely uncommon to mistake another disease for IBS. In fact, no children who have attended SEEDS have been found to have been misdiagnosed. This brings comfort to concerned parents that something has been missed..  Chapter 3 described the exam and tests needed to properly identify IBS and rule out related disorders.

Should my child be exercising?

Movement is essential. Chapter 7 describes specific exercises for children with abdominal pain, however, having fun doing anything active can help. Playing outside of a regular basis is a great start.

OK, I know what we should be doing, but how do I get my child to do these things?

Set up your environment to support a regular routine of eating, sleeping, exercise, socializing, and relaxation. Since children copy their parents’ health care behaviors, be a good role model of health. If something needs changing, make gradual and realistic goals that have the natural reward of feeling better long term.

I think I get it, but my spouse and I are not on the same page. What do we do?

The marked improvement in IBS symptoms will support the diagnosis and path you should take. Sometimes one parent is overly coddling of the child with IBS, while the other parent suspects the child is manipulating the situation. Good communication with the other parent is extremely important. Chapter 6 can assist you as parents to find common ground.

What else can I do as a parent of a child with IBS?

Be supportive, calm, and confident as you model how to manage daily hassles as well as big stressors. Listen to your child and spend quality face-to-face time together doing fun activities.