Colic Improved by Probiotics?

More science is needed to confirm whether this is a good way to relieve colic, but it is clear that probiotics may improve colic in some babies.

The long crying spasms of colic can be exhausting for parents and babies alike. Because babies with colic have been shown in some studies to have fewer species of beneficial bacteria in their intestines, researchers in Turin, Italy wondered whether giving babies probiotics (beneficial bacteria) might help solve the colic. Ninety breast-fed colicky babies were randomly assigned to get either the probiotic L. reuteri (0.8 billion cfu per day) or another colic remedy, simethicone (60 mg per day). The breastfeeding moms avoided cow’s milk in their own diets to reduce complicating factors. They recorded the total minutes of crying each day.

At the start, the babies in both groups averaged a parent-exasperating 197 minutes a day of crying spasms. They were rechecked 7, 14, 21, and 28 days after starting their remedy. By day 7, those who were getting the probiotics were crying and average of 38 minutes less than they were before, about twice the improvement seen with the other remedy. At each check-up, those given the probiotics fared better. The colic had resolved for 95 percent of those receiving probiotics and for only 7 percent of those receiving simethicone.

The results are consistent with what you might expect based on the The Colic Bacteria I discussed yesterday. But other studies showing benefit from probiotics for other conditions, a dose of 5 billion to 10 billion cfu is often used in young children. Perhaps the relatively low dose used in this study is a reason that the benefit was small at first and slow to take hold.

More science in this area is needed to confirm whether this is a good way to relieve colic, and if so, what is the best strain of probiotics and the best dose. But it is clear that the health of the ecosystem in our gut is intimately linked to our own health, in ways we are just beginning to understand.

Savino F, Pelle E, Palumeri E, Oggero R, and Miniero R. “Lactobacillus reuteri (American Type Culture Collection Strain 55730) Versus Simethicone in the Treatment of Infantile Colic: A Prospective Randomized Study” Pediatrics 2007;119;e124-e130.

Published on: August 21, 2009
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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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