NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Treatment with the probiotic organism Lactobacillus reuteri may improve colicky symptoms in infants, new research suggests.
Probiotics are micro-organisms that help maintain the natural balance of healthy organisms, the “good” bacteria, in the digestive tract. This balance can be upset by certain antibiotic drugs and other factors, which can result in gastrointestinal disturbances. Infant colic is defined as excessive crying in otherwise healthy, well-fed infants. Although the cause of colic is unknown, it is thought to be associated with painful stomach gas.
The study, described in the journal Pediatrics, involved 90 exclusively breastfed colicky infants of similar age, birth weight, gender and times spent crying. They were randomly assigned to treatment with the anti-gas agent simethicone or with L. reuteri.
Forty-one probiotic-treated and 42 simethicone-treated infants completed the 28-day trial, report Dr. Francesco Savino and colleagues from Regina Margherita Children’s Hospital in Turin, Italy.
Within 7 days of treatment, L reuteri improved colicky symptoms significantly, compared with simethicone. The investigators found that 95 percent of infants had a therapeutic response to L reuteri compared with only 7 percent of the infants in the simethicone group.
L. reuteri therapy was associated with a marked drop in crying times. Parent-reported crying times in the probiotic and simethicone groups were 51 and 145 minutes per day, respectively, on day 28.
“The safety profile of probiotics makes them a favorable alternative to all other therapeutic options for breastfed infants with colic,” Savino and colleagues note in their report.
Exactly how L. reuteri works is not fully understood, the authors note. “It’s possible that L. reuteri promotes an anti-inflammatory tone in the intestines,” which has beneficial effects on the immune response and movement of the gut.
The researchers also point out that the mothers in the study maintained a low-allergen diet, which also may have contributed to the reduction in colic symptoms.
Further studies may be warranted to determine the best probiotic organism for treating infantile colic.
SOURCE: Pediatrics, January 2007.
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