Commentary by: Matthew Baral, ND
Reference: Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 in Infantile Colic: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial Pediatrics 2010;126;e526-e533
Francesco Savino, Lisa Cordisco, Valentina Tarasco, Elisabetta Palumeri, Roberto Calabrese, Roberto Oggero, Stefan Roos and Diego Matteuzzi
Design: Randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study.
Participants: 50 exclusively breastfed colicky infants.
Study Medication and Dosage: Infants were randomly assigned to receive either L. reuteri DSM 17938 [10(8) CFU] or placebo daily for 3 weeks. Parental questionnaires monitored daily crying time and adverse effects. Stool samples were collected for microbiologic analysis.
Key Findings: There was a significant decrease in daily crying time in those taking L. reuteri. Stool microbiology revealed an increase in lactobacilli and decrease in Escherichia coli in the treatment group. L. reuteri was well tolerated and no adverse effects were noted.
Practice Implications: It is well known in the naturopathic field that probiotics address gastrointestinal conditions effectively, even as a monotherapy. The same authors conducted a similar study in 2007, which showed that a related probiotic strain, L reuteri ATCC 77530, resulted in 95% of the treatment group showing a decrease in colic symptoms vs. 7% in the control group. Critics of that study point out that it was unblinded, and controls were treated with simethicone. Therefore, blinding both groups in this study and removing interfering medications adds strength and significance here. The mechanisms behind probiotics’ benefits are not fully understood. However, there are some clues in the literature: Savino and colleagues state that probiotics may improve gut motility and function and decrease visceral pain. Additionally, other research has shown that altered fecal microflora is found in infants with colic, and those children are found to have elevated levels of calprotectin in their stools. Interestingly calprotectin is a marker of intestinal inflammation and possibly increased intestinal permeability, and can serve as a predictor of irritable bowel disease later in life. Therefore, it is easy to understand the implications; Breastfeeding may serve as an equally powerful treatment, since it improves the microbial milieu of the gut. This explains why a review of 79 articles shows a decreased risk of irritable bowel disease development later in life. At this time, there is no general consensus on the most effective probiotic strains for the treatment of colic. Additional strains have also been shown to improve colic such as Bifidobacterium lactis and Streptococcus Thermophilus. It is most likely that other strains also have benefit, warranting further research in this area.
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