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Functional gastrointestinal (GI) and motility disorders in kids and teens include a variety of digestive disorders that occur in children from birth to 18-years-old. The disorders may interfere with daily functioning and include symptoms such as pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, problems in the passage of food or feces, or a combination of symptoms.

Some of these disorders are rare and others quite common. Functional GI disorders may constitute at least 40–50% of visits to a pediatric gastroenterologist, with the majority of disorders associated with abdominal pain.[1]

For example, in the U.S. about 200 new cases of intestinal psuedo-obstruction are diagnosed in children each year. Hirschsprung's disease occurs in about 1 out of every 5,000 live births.

On the other hand, some GI disorders are relatively common. Constipation and/or encopresis account for approximately 10–25% of children who are referred to a pediatric gastroenterologist.

The occurrence of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) in children is similar to the rate in adults. Symptoms sufficient for a diagnosis of IBS were noted in 17% of high school students and 8% of middle school students.[2]

Three common functional GI disorders—infant regurgitation, functional fecal retention, and functional dyspepsia (recurrent abdominal pain)—each affect about 10% of the pediatric population.

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Both genetics and early life experiences influence an individual's susceptibility to adult functional gastrointestinal disorders. The developing brain and nervous system are influenced by early life experiences. Early effective interventions in children have the potential to prevent or reduce the incidence and/or severity of later functional GI disorders in adults.

However, much remains to be learned about these disorders. There is an urgent need to study these disorders in children.

More Information

For more information about digestive health in Kids and Teens, we invite you to visit this IFFGD Kids GI weebsite.

Visit aboutkidsgi.org


  1. Caplan A, Rasquin A. What's New in Pediatric Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. IFFGD publication #824.
  2. Hyams JS, Burke G, Davis PM, Rzepski B, Andrulonis PA. Abdominal pain and irritable bowel syndrome in adolescents: a community-based study. J Pediatr. 1996 Aug;129(2):220-226.


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Successful relationships with healthcare providers are an important part of managing life with a long-term digestive disorder.

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