While the underlying cause of IBS isn’t known, the symptoms may come from muscle spasms in the colon. These muscles normally move food waste through the colon toward the rectum. In children with IBS, painful spasms in these muscles can be triggered by stress, distention from gas, certain foods or simply eating.  Symptoms may also come from nerves in the gastrointestinal tract that may have increased sensitivity or increased signaling.

Doctors suspect IBS when kids have the following symptoms at least once a week for two months or more:

  • Crampy abdominal pain that improves with a bowel movement
  • Diarrhea or constipation, sometimes alternating
  • Urgent need to move the bowels
  • Gas or bloating
  • Mucus with a bowel movement

Certain foods may be more likely to cause spasms. These foods include:

  • Chocolate
  • Drinks with caffeine
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Gassy foods such as beans
  • Fried foods
  • Fatty foods such as milk, cheese and some meats.