Suffering from IBS as a Teenager
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) doesn’t spare anyone and unfortunately also teenagers can suffer from this dreadful disorder. In fact, it is estimated that 10%-15% of older children and adolescents suffer from IBS.1
When IBS affects teenagers, the problematic aspects common to the disease multiply
Teenagers are often very emotional and introverts; they communicate very little with their parents and even if they do, talking about their digestive discomforts, is definitely not cool and not the sort of thing they may want to share with their family.
That’s such a difficult period, considering that they are already undergoing the metamorphosis of growth from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. A very fast and delicate phase of life, where their physical bodies are stressed and where the psychological identity is in the making.
How to help your teens
Parents who are able to notice any changes within their children, both in their behavior and their physical appearance, they should try as soon as possible to open a dialogue with them, to understand what is happening and how to help them.
Some teens may ignore the offer of help from the parents, and may underestimate their condition, blaming the symptoms to a temporary disturbance, due to various reasons. We know that stress is a big culprit of IBS symptoms and between their bodies changing, the hormones going crazy, school work, exams, friends’ dispute or even bullying, there is certainly a lot that teens can possibly stress about.
Seek medical support
Parents should always be vigilant, without being intrusive or obsessive and keep an eye on their children and if nothing has changed after a few weeks, they should suggest to visit a doctor, who will go through their past medical history and even check if there has been a recent gastrointestinal infection, as this may be related with onset of IBS symptoms. Usually the doctor will also run some tests to exclude other pathologies.
If the doctor announce that it is indeed IBS, parents should comfort their teens, as they may find it hard to cope with this and not have the instruments to be able to deal with this diagnosis.
Changes needed to improve symptoms
Teenagers should know that these days there are many ways to prevent or at least improve symptoms. Many IBS sufferers are successful by making some changes in their lifestyle, like adopting new strategies to reduce stress.
Students finishing the last years of high school, may feel stressed because of their school workload and exams. In this case parents can certainly help them, by having empathy and understanding the pressure they feel. They can also assist them to get the balance right with their school workload, get help with a tutor, encourage them to do some light exercise in the open air to clear their minds, and generally chat to them openly, just to see what else the family can do, to help them through the stressful times.
Another thing that can really help their symptoms, is modifying their diet. With the guidance of a specialized dietician they could eliminate those foods that are known to cause IBS symptoms and they may be recommended to follow the low FODMAP diet, which has been proven successful for the majority of IBS sufferers, who have tried it. In some cases IBS specific probiotics may also be beneficial.
Look up and never give up
The main thing that teens should understand is that IBS is not a life sentence, and that thankfully there is no serious underlying disease associated with it. Fortunately, most people are able to live normal lives even when suffering from this condition. They also shouldn’t feel embarrassed as there are millions of people who are affected by it, just like them. In fact, they should consider themselves lucky that they have received a diagnosis for those horrible symptoms and there are things that they can do to improve how they feel.
Do you think there is enough awareness of IBS?