For Families and Carers : Gastrointestinal problems

The gastrointestinal tract comprises the parts of the body involved in taking in food, processing it to make use of the nutrients and disposing of the solid waste. It includes the mouth, the oesophagus, stomach, small intestines or bowel (duodenum, jejunum, ileum), the large intestines (colon, rectum) and the anus.

The liver and pancreas are attached to the gastrointestinal tract and produce enzymes which help with the digestion of food. Problems with the gastrointestinal tract can either be due to abnormal structure i.e. the organs are formed differently from usual, or may be because part of the tract is not functioning properly. These problems can be present at birth or they can develop slowly as a person gets older.

There are some gastrointestinal conditions that are probably more common in people with Down’s syndrome. Some will have obvious symptoms such as diarrhoea that suggest a problem with the gastrointesinal tract. Others may have more subtle symptoms that can easily be missed and perhaps put down to behavioural or even psychological problems. As with any medical condition that occurs, parents/supporters should never allow symptoms to be explained away by the fact that person has Down’s syndrome.

If a person with Down’s syndrome seems to have a problem relating to the gastrointestinal tract, it is important that they are checked out thoroughly by their GP.

DSA Resources 


‘Gastrointestinal problems in children’ can be downloaded here

Information for GPs about gastrointestinal problems can be downloaded here

DSA Journal (No. 128 Autum/Winter 2013) article by June Rogers MBE  ‘Developing appropriate resources for children born with Down’s syndrome and ano-rectal malformations (ARM’s)’ can be downloaded here

Resources developed by  PromoCon with the support of the DSA


Understanding Hirschprung’s Disease – A guide for parents and carers

Understanding bowel training for children with Hirschsprung’s Disease and other Ano-Rectal Malformations

Understanding bowel problems in schools – Information regarding Ano-Rectal Malformations (ARMs) and Hirschprung’s Disease

Understanding Ano-Rectal Malformations (ARM’s) – A guide for carers

These resources can be downloaded here