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First Years Aug 18, 2019
5 Minutes

Are specific Probiotics the answer for colic and ‘sicky’ babies?!

Colic is an unpleasant reality for many parents and new babies. As usual there are varying degrees and often no simple clear ‘fix’. However, alongside this, our knowledge of the gut and the power of the microorganisms within it has exploded in recent years and continues to evolve. One interesting emergence is the potential to use very specific strains of probiotic to help treat and even potentially prevent both colic and regurgitation. In this article, we take a look at the science and whether or not there is something to this:

The term ‘paradigm shift’ (ie. a breakthrough in thinking) is used a lot, however, when it comes to the research behind the power of gut microorganisms and our health, it is looking increasingly valid. The science in this area has exploded in the last decade, and our knowledge continues to evolve in a really exciting way.

We have written extensively about some of the latest research relating to how as a mother, or mother-to-be, your gut health matters to the development of your baby’s gut and his/her future immunity and even brain development. Click here for much more and also here for more as to how the latest research understands how a baby’s own gut microbiome comes together. That being said, our knowledge continues to evolve rapidly….

As a result: the question we often get asked is: does this mean we should all be taking probiotics? 

Unfortunately (as always!) the answer isn’t quite so simple and here’s why (and what we do know/we can do):

Firstly: our understanding of what constitutes a ‘healthy’ microbiome is still evolving and everyone seems to be different. At this stage, we do know is that having a major imbalance or a low number of species inside our gut microbiome is not healthy:

According to one of the leading medical research Journals The Lancet: ‘A balanced microbiome is associated with health, whereas an unbalanced microbiome or dysbiosis is related to a lot of health problems, both within and outside the gastrointestinal tract.’ 

Secondly: the trouble with many probiotics that you can buy from a store is ultimately it is a bit like taking a multivitamin ie. you don’t know what you have too much of or what you have too little of, so its a bit like throwing mud at a wall – you’re not quite sure what is needed and what is going to stick…. Click here for more on this and why you have to be careful with supplements on the whole.

So, what is the answer?

For now, the science is just not quite there yet in terms of a consensus as to what the most effective way to use probiotics, however, there are some interesting things emerging: mainly using very specific types of microbes for specific things:

‘this review strongly believes in strain or product specificity.’

Dermatitis and Allergy Prevention?

Once again, to be very clear, the science is not yet conclusive, however, there are interesting things emerging, enough in fact for the World Allergy Association to suggest that ‘using probiotics in pregnant women at an increased risk from having an allergic child’ could positively reduce the odds of a child developing these allergies, however: once again and related to this, a review in The Lancet makes the point that you have to be specific:

Analysis of the role of probiotics in the prevention of atopic dermatitis show that a positive effect might be related to the type of probiotics strain, method of administration, dose and duration.’ 

Translation: the type of probiotic, how you take it, the dose you take all matter.

So where do we have data on specific strains that can potentially (and practically) help us? 

The good news is that we do have some emerging research around specific types showing benefit for specific issues which increasingly looks like the best way to approach this:

Many parents really struggle with either Colic in their babies or regurgitation (ie. a sicky baby). In fact colic can be particularly tough for a new parent (and the baby of course), the good news however is that the data on specific probiotic strains for treatment of colic is looking quite interesting:

L Reuteri: 

This particular strain is getting a bit of attention as being potentially effective for both Colic and regurgitation which are common issues in new babies. For the full details (and a good geek-out) check out the full review in The Lancet here – however here are the key points:

  • The majority of published articles on infant colic and probiotics as a therapeutic tool have shown that L reuteri was effective in reducing colic mainly in breastfed infants.

  • There isn’t a huge amount of research on its use in the prevention of colic, however two studies have shown some positive data with one showing that daily use from day 3 for 90 days ‘significantly reduced crying time’.

  • It was even demonstrated in one study to be safe for preterm babies and also to have a significant reduction in feeding intolerance.

As always, if your baby has colic, the number one thing to do before trying probiotics (or any supplement for that matter) is to consult your doctor (feel free to show them this research – they love it when patients do that – haha!)  However, the research shows that this may be worth at least a discussion.

Regurgitation: some babies just really struggle to keep milk down. If it is at the more extreme end of the spectrum in terms of amount and frequency you should speak to your doctor to rule out allergies. However, many babies can struggle in the early days keeping milk down and can have regular bouts of small amounts of ‘spit up’. My son was one of these babies. However, once again this review showed some data supporting the use of L Reuteri in helping reduce episodes of regurgitation showing some prevention during the first month (in exclusively breastfed babies) and prophylactic use (ie. using to try and prevent) from birth to three months reducing the number of episodes of regurgitation per day from 4.6 on average to 2.9.

So once again, this hot area of science is evolving very quickly and we do not yet know everything (important to remember this), but pockets of interesting and supportive data are emerging – mainly around using it in an individual and strain specific, supervised way. This research does suggest that if you do have a baby with colic or a baby that is struggling to keep milk down it could be worth a discussion with your doctor (once again – always have a conversation first) and giving it a try.

For the full report click here: 

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This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.

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