Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome in Children

How do doctors treat IBS in children?

Doctors may treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in children by recommending changes in what a child eats, mental health therapies, probiotics, and medicines. A child may have to try a few treatments to see what works best. Your child’s doctor can help find the right treatment plan.

If a child has pain in the abdomen and constipation, the doctor may recommend treatments for constipation  first. If abdominal pain goes away when the constipation has been treated, the child may have a functional GI disorder called functional constipation instead of IBS.

Changes in what a child eats

Your child’s doctor or dietitian can help plan a well-balanced diet. Read more about eating, diet, and nutrition for IBS.

Mental health therapies

Mental health therapies may improve IBS symptoms, help children cope with symptoms, and prevent symptoms from interfering with school and other activities. Therapies doctors may recommend for children with IBS include

  • cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on helping change thought and behavior patterns
  • gut-directed hypnotherapy, in which a therapist uses hypnosis, a trance-like state in which the child is relaxed or focused
Child talking with a therapist.
Mental health therapies may improve IBS symptoms and help children cope with symptoms.

Probiotics

Your child’s doctor may recommend probiotics to help treat IBS symptoms. Probiotics are live microorganisms, most often bacteria, that may be similar to microorganisms that are normally in the digestive tract. Researchers are still studying the use of probiotics to treat IBS.

To be safe, talk with your child’s doctor before using probiotics or any other complementary or alternative medicines or practices. If your child’s doctor recommends probiotics, talk with the doctor about how much probiotics your child should take and for how long.

Medicines

In some cases, doctors may recommend medicines to help relieve your child’s IBS symptoms. Don’t give your child medicines to treat IBS unless told to do so by your child’s doctor. The type of medicine the doctor recommends will depend on your child’s symptoms. Recommended medicines might include

November 2019
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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.