Irritable Bowel Syndrome | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome?

One of the first signs of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is often a change in the frequency of a child's bowel movements: the child needs to pass stool more or less often than usual for no apparent reason. It's not unusual for a child to have normal bowel movements on some days and diarrhea or constipation on another day.

Other symptoms include:

  • abdominal discomfort or pain that may feel better after a bowel movement
  • diarrhea, constipation or both
  • a feeling of still needing to go after bowel movement
  • bloating
  • mucus in the stool

Girls with IBS often have more symptoms during their monthly menstrual cycle.

What causes IBS?

Researchers don't fully understand what causes IBS and believe that different factors contribute to it in different people. In some cases, the condition appears to run in families, though environmental factors often seem to play a role as well.

The following issues are more common in people who have IBS and may play a part in causing the condition:

  • early childhood trauma
  • depression or anxiety
  • bacterial infection in the digestive tract
  • food intolerance or sensitivity

Because it is so difficult to identify an underlying cause, IBS was once classified as an emotional or mental disorder. Clinicians now believe that even though stress can make IBS symptoms severe, on its own, stress does not cause the disorder.