A Bit of Bacteria for the Gut

Probiotic for colic and reflux appeared possibly helpful for young babies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Among the most common conditions new babies suffer are gastrointestinal issues, but it's possible that use of a probiotic may help some of these problems.

A recent study found that the daily use of probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri might help reduce several gastrointestinal conditions. A probiotic is a bacterial supplement (microorganisms) that appears to have health benefits.

This particular probiotic appeared to reduce babies' colic, gastroesophageal reflux and constipation.

"Discuss probiotic use with your pediatrician."

The study, led by Flavia Indrio, MD, of the Department of Pediatrics at Aldo Moro University of Bari in Italy, looked at the use of a probiotic to reduce certain gastrointestinal illnesses in babies' first three months.

The researchers randomly divided 589 babies into two groups — one received L. reuteri daily for three months, and the other received a placebo (fake medicine).

The researchers did find a reduction in all three conditions among the babies who received the probiotic.

The babies who received L. reuteri cried for an average 38 minutes a day while those receiving the placebo cried for an average 71 minutes a day.

In terms of gas reflux, those receiving the probiotic had an average 2.9 regurgitations a day compared to an average 4.6 per day in the placebo group.

Finally, the group receiving the L. reuteri had an average 4.2 bowel movements per day compared to 3.6 among those who received the placebo.

The researchers also calculated the cost savings to families whose children received the probiotic. They estimated that those families saved an average of $118.71 (an average $140.30 for the community), based on costs in Italy.

The savings took into account pediatrician visits, changes in feeding patterns, the anxiety of the parents and the loss of parents' work time.

"A prophylactic approach using L. reuteri can save money for both family and society and provide a helpful psychologic effect on the parents," the researchers wrote.

However, the researchers also said that additional studies needed to confirm their results.

Thomas Seman, MD, a pediatrician at North Shore Pediatrics in Danvers, Mass. who was not involved with this study, noted that probiotics can be a great supplement for kids.

"Our whole being is a balance of different forces and organisms," he said. "Probiotics help establish a pool of beneficial bacteria in our intestines that help the body process food and decrease the amount of bad byproducts such as gas and acid that can be an irritant to the intestines."

Dr. Seman said that stabilizing the body's natural bacterial groups can improve function of the gut.

"It can decrease irritation, leaving us with a happier and healthier child," he said. "Some rew formulas are already including probiotics in their formulations and BioGaia AB obviously provided the L. reuteri because they make several formulations for children of all ages."

In addition, the company funding this study, BioGaia AB, Sweden, was also the company that provided the L. reuteri supplements and the placebos given to the babies.

The study was published January 13 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. The article did not report possible conflicts of interest or disclosures beyond the study's funding.

Review Date: 
January 14, 2014
Last Updated:
January 27, 2014