IBS and Teens Identify Your Triggers
Last updated: January 2023
While adolescence may smell like teen spirit, it's also a s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e. Hormones are fluctuating. Bodies are changing (including the digestive tract). Stress is increasing. In fact, teens currently report worse mental health and higher levels of anxiety or depression than all other age groups.1 It's no coincidence that health providers are seeing more teen patients present with IBS. Check out these tips on how to balance being a teen who struggles to get their gut going.
You are not alone
Although it may not feel like it, IBS among teens is more common than you think. Epidemiological studies from western countries estimate that approximately 22 to 35.5 percent of teens experience symptoms of IBS.2 In other words, regular pooping is hard for lots of people!
The importance of identifying your triggers
While food is a common culprit of IBS, other factors may contribute to these unwanted symptoms. Can you relate to any of the following?
Getting enough sleep
Your parents aren't wrong. You really do need a good night's sleep. The combination of academic demands, extracurricular activities, household chores, and social gatherings can leave less than optimal hours for sleep. But, getting enough zzz's is one of the most critical culprits in stress, anxiety, and depression in younger Americans.3 Not to mention, lack of sleep and its cascade of consequences may be a major contributor to gastrointestinal distress. Needless to say, it's time to hit the hay.
For those who struggle to improve their headspace for a restful night's sleep, experiment with different lifestyle apps. Research has shown that stress-relieving programs can help reduce symptoms associated with IBS.4 Calm the mind (and the body) for better gut health.
Overscheduling and FOMO
Teens are busy! It’s easy to get overscheduled with a combination of activities such as student council, school committees, sports practices, play rehearsal, or just too much academic stress. But don't let FOMO (fear of missing out) lead to a jam-packed schedule that may be triggering unwanted gastrointestinal symptoms. Instead, trust your gut and take a step back. Prioritize the activities you enjoy, and don't overextend your schedule to a level that is overly stress-inducing. The last thing you want is for unwanted symptoms to interfere with your favorite school activities.
Could the trigger be food?
Although some clients can get triggered by academic anxiety or winning the big game, others may find that food is the predominant trigger. Teenagers often consume foods or beverages that inadvertently contribute to IBS symptoms, such as sodas and snacks high in high fructose corn syrup. But, when trying to identify triggers, it's critical to first rule out food allergies and identify food intolerances. Then, work with a dietitian for a FODMAP trial. While this diet may seem restrictive, it's only temporary. The goal is to distinguish which foods keep your gut happy or make it angry. While the process may take time, being able to avoid gastrointestinal distress is worth the commitment.
IBS does not define you
Don't get stressed out by the strain; flare-ups happen. But, with the proper plan of action, you can minimize their frequency and improve symptom management. Take action so that you can enjoy all of your favorite activities yet stomach all of life’s curveballs. You are much more than a teen with IBS. Work with a dietitian and use technology to your benefit to live your best symptom-free life!
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?