A probiotic supplement may help parents trying to soothe a colicky baby, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of Turin, Italy, found that a few daily drops of lactobacillus reuteri, a bacterium that can help improve digestion, significantly reduced crying among infants with colic.
Recent research suggests that colic may be linked to an immature immune system struggling with bacterial imbalances in the gastrointestinal tract, and that high levels of E. coli bacteria in particular may contribute to colic symptoms.
Researchers compared 25 healthy infants who were randomly assigned to receive drops of Lactobacillus reuteri to 21 healthy infants who were assigned to receive placebo drops. All the infants were diagnosed with colic, born full-term at a healthy gestational weight, had no history of gastrointestinal disorders, were breastfed, and did not receive any other probiotic supplements during the week prior to the study. The infant's mothers were also advised to avoid cow milk in their own diets during the study period.
After a 3-week period, crying was reduced in both groups, but the Lactobacillus reuteri infants showed the greater reduction. From a mean of 370 minutes of crying per day at the start of the study to 35 minutes. The placebo group's mean crying time dropped from a mean of 300 minutes per day to 90 minutes. Stool analysis also showed a significant reduction in the presence of E. coli among infants who received the Lactobacillus reuteri drops.
Researchers speculate that infants in the placebo group may have experienced an improvement because of reduced cow's milk in the mother's diet.
Overall, the findings support the belief that Lactobacillus reuteri may help reduce colic symptoms by improving gut motility and function, which could reduce gas in the gastrointestinal tract and abdominal pain and cramping. It also appears to reduce levels of harmful E. coli.