Monday, January 16, 2012

colic and probiotics

crying newborn | photo: Melimama
Recently I wrote a post about gut health and allergies.  In that post I mentioned a study that was done in Sweden which seems to highlight the benefits of having a diverse bacterial eco-system in the gut to help protect against future allergies and conditions, including eczema.

Strong and diverse health does more than protect against allergies.  It is also important for babies when it comes to colic.  Colic is believed to affect as many as 1/3 of all babies.  There does not appear to be a difference between those babies that are breast fed and those which are bottle fed.  There are many different theories as to the cause of colic and it's important to note that no one knows for certain.  Given that we are bio-individual creatures it's likely that there are multiple reasons.  Dietarily there appears to be some success for a large number of babies when lactose (milk sugar) is removed from their diet.  These babies have what is referred to as lactose overload, or functional lactase insufficiency.  In plain English, they are not producing enough lactase (the enzyme which breaks down the lactose) and this causes gastric distress.  This is not lactose intolerance, but rather the undeveloped digestive system not having enough lactase; this situation does correct itself over time.

Over the past few years the health of the intestinal eco-system has come under scrutiny as a possible reason for colic.  Back in 2009 researchers at the Texas Health Science Center (THSC) in Houston found a connection between gut health and colic.  The study seemed to indicate a correlation between bacterial balance and colic.  Although the initial study was a small one, all the colicky infants tested positive for Klebsiella, a bacteria which is often found in the mouth and intestines of adults.  The study concluded, "Infants with colic, a condition previously believed to be nonorganic in nature, have evidence of intestinal neutrophilic infiltration and a less diverse fecal microflora." (the less diverse microflora theory was shown to be true in the Sweden study mentioned above.)

Now another, study published in the journal BMC Microbiology in June 2011, appears to show positive results for inoculating with beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacillus. In this study two strains of lactobacillus had positive, antimicrobial effects. Studies are continuing to see which strains are best; I assume the studies will also look at how to best deliver probiotics to the infant without overwhelming their system.

I know many mothers add higher levels of probiotic foods to their diet in order to help their own immune systems be as strong as possible.  I also know some mothers who have used liquid probiotics and put it on their nipples just before breast feeding in order to help the infant get some beneficial effect.  If you feel it would be beneficial to add probiotics to the diet of your infant child it's important to let your health care professional know. If you are working with a lactation specialist let them know as well.

One thing that neither of these studies addresses is the gut health of the mother.  As I've mentioned before, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride points out that most gut disturbances tend to be generational disorders.  It is highly beneficial for the mother to have a strong bacterial eco-system, this is what gets passed along to the infant and what helps to inoculate them during a natural birthing process.  For all of us, having a strong, diverse, healthy gut is important to health.  Now it looks like it's even more important to support the health of future generations.

Klebsiella study:
Lactobacillus study:


Midnight Agenda said...

This is a good thing to research, I have never heard anyone else mention this regarding colicky infants and I read a lot of baby blogs.

Karen Langston said...

Hey Mira, look into Dr. Nigel Plummer, Ph.D. in the UK just did an awesome study on microflora, allergies and human strain probiotics.. I just love the guy!

Karen Langston said...

Here is the link talking about the study...I am such a groupie! LOL