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Could Your Baby's Gut Be to Blame for Colic?

New research shows a surprising link between colic and infant gut biomes

Published on: January 12, 2018

crying-baby

Nobody wants a colicky baby, but that doesn't mean that you won't wind up with a little one that fits the bill. And once your baby starts down that path, there's probably not a more helpless feeling you'll experience as a parent. There have been many tips and tricks parents have used to try solve the baby colic puzzle, but they don't always work for everyone. This means parents and babies simply have to continue to suffer while they wait for the colic to run its course.

Colic is defined as prolonged, excessive crying in an otherwise healthy newborn that often takes place in the evening — and parents, to their distress, usually have no idea what's causing it and subsequently can't fix it. However, a new study may help shed light on how infantile colic may actually relate to the balance of the gut microbiome (the bacterial landscape that resides inside everyone's intestines, including your newborn baby's).

Research conducted by the UC Davis Medical Center suggests that an imbalance in that gut microbiome may indeed play a role in an infant's daily wails. The gut has both good bacteria as well as bacteria that isn't so good, and if the balance tips in favor of the bad germs, those potentially harmful bacteria can take hold and thrive. "Studies have shown that dysbiosis [too much 'bad' bacteria and not enough 'good'] of your baby’s gut microbiome can result in colic," says Dr. Tracy Shafizadeh from Evivo, the company behind the probiotics used in the study. This can lead to intestinal distress and gut inflammation, which hurts, and babies tell their parents they're in pain by the only way they can — by crying.

Babies tell their parents they're in pain by the only way they can — by crying.

The study showed that supplementing with probiotics helped restore bacterial balance in a baby's gut, which in turn, may have a positive effect on infantile colic. For this study, researchers recruited moms who intended to breastfed and provided them lactation support, and separated them into two groups. One group fed their babies a probiotic (Bifidobacterium longum subsp. Infantis, a.k.a.B. infantis EVC001) from their seventh day of life until their 28th day of life, and the other group did no probiotic supplementation.

Throughout the course of the study, and for around 30 days after, fecal samples were obtained from babies in both groups to check out the bacteria populations the babies expelled to determine what they could about their intestinal makeup. The results were definitely better for babies in the B. infantis group — they had lower fecal pH, less abundant numbers of potentially harmful bacterias, and four times lower endotoxin levels than the babies in the non-probiotic group. In other words, "When ‘good’ bacteria like bifidobacteria dominate the baby’s gut, it pushes out the bad bacteria, and risk of colic decreases," explains Dr. Shafizadeh.

Additionally, the results showed that babies' GI systems not only enjoyed the benefits of the probiotics for the three weeks they were administered, but they retained the bacteria as the dominant species for at least 30 days after supplementation.

Of course, the study notes that further research is needed to see whether these effects maintain over the long term, but for those whose babies may be one of those affected by regular bouts of screaming, help may be on the horizon.

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