Pediatric HealthSource

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Q: Recently, my 6-year-old has consistently complained of stomach pain and bloating after eating. He has also occasionally had constipation. I'm wondering if it's something specific I've been feeding him, or something more serious. What else could it be?

A: If you have noticed that your son gets an upset stomach consistently after eating a specific food, then this could be the culprit. However, it is also possible that it is something more serious.

The symptoms you mentioned are just a few that are attributed to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Other symptoms include cramps, gas and diarrhea. Certain foods, stress, infections and physical trauma can all trigger IBS. Children with IBS have had pain for at least 8 weeks in the last 12 months and pain is usually relieved with a bowel movement.

The exact cause of IBS isn't known and there is no specific test to diagnose IBS. You should consult your primary care physician about this issue. If you make an appointment, the physician will likely take your child's full medical history and conduct a physical exam. He or she may also order blood and stool tests to rule out other intestinal problems.

Though there is no treatment for IBS, some children find relief in avoiding caffeine, fatty or spicy foods, getting regular exercise and reducing stress in other aspects of their life. Laxatives may be prescribed to relieve constipation.

IBS does not cause serious health problems, but it can affect your child's quality of life. Be sure to talk to your child's primary care physician about treatment options.

-Dr. Carlo Di Lorenzois Chief of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Nationwide Children's Hospital and Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.