Gut Bacteria May Be Colic Treatment
First Study Shows Promise in Study of Colicky Breastfed Babies
WebMD News Archive
Jan. 3, 2007-- A type of gut-friendly bacterium may help treat colic
in breastfed babies, Italian researchers report.
Colicky babies cry inconsolably for no apparent reason. About 20% of all
infants have colic, which, though distressing, is benign and usually ends by
the time the child is 4 months old.
The cause of colic is unknown. Experts attribute the problem to any number
of things, including an infant's immature digestive system, allergies, hormones in
breast milk, and overfeeding.
The Italian study, conducted by doctors at the University of Turin, included
83 colicky babies who were exclusively breastfed.
Francesco Savino, MD, and colleagues randomly gave daily Lactobacillus
reuteri (L. reuteri) supplements to half the babies for 28 days.
The other babies took simethicone, which helps eliminate excess gas, daily
for 28 days.
L. reuteri is one of the many probiotic ("good") bacteria
found in the human intestines. Savino's team tested the theory that boosting
L. reuteri would cut down on colicky crying.
Curbing Colicky Crying
The babies' parents kept diaries of how long their babies cried. At the
study's start, the babies cried, on average, three hours and 17 minutes a
After a week's treatment, average daily crying dropped to two hours and 39
minutes for babies taking L. reuteri, compared with nearly three hours
for those taking simethicone.
At the study's end, average daily crying time was 51 minutes for babies
taking L. reuteri vs. two hours and 25 minutes for babies taking
Since all the babies in this study were breastfed, it's not clear if the
results apply to formula-fed babies, the researchers note.
Also, Savino's team asked the babies' mothers to avoid cow's milk --
including milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter -- during the experiment. However,
that dietary change, by itself, didn't seem to curb colic, the study shows.
Since this study was the first to test L. reuteri as a colic
treatment, Savino and colleagues call for more research to confirm their