Changing Colic Culture

What if giving probiotics to babies would reduce the symptoms of colic? What if the crying and distress of colic were related to bacteria in babies' guts?

How about a fresh approach? What if simply giving probiotics to babies would dramatically reduce the vexing symptoms of colic? What if the crying and distress of colic were related to the mix of bacteria in babies’ guts?

Researchers at Regina Margherita Children Hospital in Turin, Italy decided to find out. They recruited 90 healthy, breastfed babies who had been crying for more than 3 hours a day for more than 3 days a week. Half of the babies were given 5 drops a day of beneficial gut bacteria (the probiotic L. reuteri) for 28 days; the other half got 15 drops twice a day of simethicone, one of the most commonly used colic treatments. All of the moms were asked to follow a cow’s milk free diet.

The dramatic results appear in the January 2007 Pediatrics. An impressive 95 percent of the probiotic babies responded, compared to only 7 percent of the simethicone babies. By the end of the first week of the study, average daily crying time had decreased 38 minutes for the probiotic group and 20 minutes for the simethicone group. By 28 days, the average daily crying had decreased by 2 hours and 26 minutes in the probiotic group and by only 52 minutes in the simethicone group.

Clearly, more research is needed into this approach to colic treatment, but the preliminary research is already very exciting. It seems wise to me to nurture healthy bacteria in babies. Simple steps include, where possible, probiotics for Mom, vaginal birth, immediate close contact with the mother, exclusive breastfeeding, and avoiding things that can kill the beneficial bacteria (such as unnecessary antibiotics or chlorine).

Published on: January 11, 2007
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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