Managing irritable bowel syndrome — Tips from AboutKidsHealth

To mark Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month, AboutKidsHealth is sharing tips for improving IBS symptoms and overall gut health.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is not a disease, but a functional disorder affecting the bowel. This means that the digestive system looks normal, but is not working as it should. The cause of IBS is unknown, but stomach infections, stress, some foods and medicines can trigger symptoms. Symptoms of IBS include:

  • diarrhea

  • bloating

  • stomach pain and cramping

  • changes in bowel movement routine

There is no cure for IBS, but symptoms can be managed through lifestyle and dietary changes. These changes vary from child to child, and you may have to try different things to find out what works for your child. Creating a diary to help identify foods and behaviours that cause symptoms can be very helpful.

Learn more about IBS and how it’s different from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the AboutKidsHealth article, “What is the difference between IBD and IBS?


Prebiotics and probiotics

Increasing good bacteria in the digestive system may improve symptoms of IBS and other digestive issues. Prebiotics support the growth of good bacteria already living in your gut (these make up part of your gut flora—the trillions of microorganisms that live in the human digestive system—along with bad bacteria, viruses and fungi). Good food sources of prebiotics include:

  • asparagus

  • artichokes

  • bananas

  • berries

Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be taken as a dietary supplement in the form of capsules, tablets, powder or liquids to increase good bacteria in the gut. Check out “Prebiotics and probiotics” to learn more.

AboutKidsHealth is SickKids' health education website, which offers more than 3,500 articles, illustrations and videos on a range of paediatric health topics. For more information on gut flora and the digestive system and other health topics, visit