Irritable Bowel Syndrome in children
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a common and troublesome condition that affects the functioning of the bowel. IBS is often reported as one of the most common functional gastrointestinal disorders in children. A diagnosis of IBS can present itself with symptoms similar to those seen in adults; pain and/or cramping in the tummy or abdomen, bloating, excessive wind, constipation, straining, diarrhoea and soiling. There is somewhat limited data regarding the prevalence of IBS in children; it’s estimated to be anywhere between 2.8% – 22.6% worldwide. These figures take into account factors including age, race, ethnicity and country of residence. Many studies have reported higher prevalence of IBS in children aged between 8 – 12 years old.
The role of a low FODMAP diet in managing IBS symptoms
The low FODMAP diet is one treatment option that’s proven to be effective in reducing symptoms of IBS in children that have been medically diagnosed with the condition. However, it may not always be appropriate for a child to undergo a low FODMAP diet, particularly if they have very selective or disordered eating habits, or are underweight.
A diet low in FODMAPs is restrictive in nature, for the purpose of identifying which FODMAPS may be contributing to gastrointestinal discomfort. For this reason, it can be particularly tricky to adjust to and follow. It’s likely to be even trickier for kids. Children may be fussy eaters, or not respond well to unfamiliar foods and changes to their diet. Depending on their age, they might also lack the understanding required to grasp what a low FODMAP diet is, and why it’s needed. While it’s not necessary for an entire family household to adopt a low FODMAP diet, it can be helpful to tweak family meals that are eaten together, so kids don’t feel excluded. When eating outside of the home, particularly in learning and social environments such as daycare, school, and kids birthday parties, further challenges may present themselves to both parents and children. An experienced Dietitian can help to identify specific frequently consumed high FODMAP foods, and provide low FODMAP alternatives based on food preferences.
High FODMAP foods that kids commonly enjoy, and low FODMAP alternatives
The importance of challenging FODMAPS
It’s extremely important to ensure that kids following a low FODMAP diet are still able to enjoy a wide range of nutritious foods, and further down the track, aren’t unnecessarily restricting FODMAPS that they aren’t intolerant to. If following a low FODMAP diet results in a reduction of IBS symptoms, then it’s time to start thinking about slowly reintroducing high FODMAP foods and food groups to try and determine IBS triggers. It’s recommended that challenges are completed in a relaxing environment, most likely at home. Again, an experienced Dietitian can help guide you through this process by managing expectations, and providing appropriate challenge foods and portion sizes. It’s worth noting here that the gut microbiome changes over time. As children grow into adolescents, and eventually adults, their gut flora is expected to change, and hopefully grow in richness and diversity. For this reason, re-challenging foods that trigger IBS symptoms is recommended every year or two, to check in on levels of tolerance of that food.
Kid-friendly low FODMAP foods
Porridge made with rolled oats, lactose-free milk and water, topped with sliced firm banana and a light drizzle of maple syrup. An egg omelette with diced tomato and a small handful of grated cheddar cheese. A Tropical Smoothie, or Peanut Butter Breakfast Smoothie. For a special occasion, these .
- LunchA sandwich made with low FODMAP bread, incorporating sliced chicken breast or plain tuna, sliced tomato, cucumber, grated carrot, avocado and swiss cheese (if you’re feeling inspired, make your own low FODMAP bread!). Or for something plain and simple, a peanut butter sandwich! A slice of cold frittata, made with eggs, roasted pumpkin, baby spinach and goat’s cheese. These Savoury Pumpkin Muffins or Zucchini and Ricotta Fritters for something a little bit fancier.
- DinnerFamily-friendly dinner ideas include low FODMAP Spaghetti Bolognese, steamed lemon and fresh herb fish parcels, served with baked Zucchini Fries and mashed potato, or a vegetarian fried rice made with basmati rice, firm tofu, sliced capsicum, broccoli, tinned baby corn and egg. Seafood Paella, Pulled Pork Ragu, or old-fashioned roast chicken, with roasted pumpkin, fennel and sweet potato, and steamed green beans (leftover chicken can be shredded and turned into a chicken and konjac noodle soup!).
- Snacks & Sweet TreatsSliced firm banana and smooth peanut butter, thickly sliced cucumber rounds or rice crackers dipped in mashed avocado. Cheddar cheese and wheat-free crackers, or Greek yoghurt with sliced strawberries or blueberries. Whip up some Peanut Butter Bliss Balls, Lemon Shortbread, Sweet Potato Brownies, or a Blueberry Crumble.
FODMAP Friendly certified snacks for kids
Australia – The Good Crisp Company Potato Crisps in three flavours, Piranha Popcorn in 9 flavours, Original Flavoured Potato Crisps, Munchy Muesli Cookies in four flavours, Youfoodz Tangy Salsa Chipz in two flavours, Simply Wize BBQ Corn Crunch, Simply Wize Deli Wafer range, Orgran Crispibread range, Kez’s Free and Naked Choc Orange Bar, Golden Days Original Sesame Snap, Food For Health Fruit Free Bars with Almond and Chia, Fodbods Mini Protein
USA – Go Macro Balanced Goodness Granola and Coconut Macrobar, Laiki Black or Red Rice Crackers, Enjoy Life Breakfast Oval, Grain and Seed, and Mini Cookies range, Casa de Sante Vegan Chocolate Bar, Epicured Energy Bars in three flavours
New Zealand – The Good Crisp Company Potato Crisps in three flavours
United Kingdom – Vedge Bars in five flavours, Fodilicious Ginger Crunch Cookie Buttons
Written by: Lauren Sedger (Nutritionist)
Reviewed by: Charmaine Duong (Dietitian)