Ask the Expert: How can Probiotics help alleviate Infant Colic?

NEW SCIENCE 04/07/2019

2min read

Talking Nutrition Editors

Reducing infant colic in breastfed babies

  • Infant colic affects one in five infants during the first few months of life and is characterized by inconsolable crying with no obvious cause. Despite the benign nature of the condition, it is a significant cause of maternal anxiety and depression.
  • DSM was recently involved in a study to understand the impact probiotics could have on reducing colic in exclusively breastfed infants.
  • The study was carried out by BioCare, a specialist in white-label probiotic supplements, that was acquired by DSM in 2017. 

As part of our Ask the Expert series, Hans Holm, Innovation Manager, Human Nutrition and Health at DSM, speaks to Talking Nutrition about the impact that the results of the study could have on the management of infant colic: 

Interview with Hans Holm, Innovation Manager

For more information on the study and the role of probiotic dietary supplements in alleviating infant colic, watch our interview with Hans Holm.

The power of probiotics

Infant colic is a common condition that is characterized by episodes of excessive and uncontrollable crying in an otherwise healthy baby, that lasts at least three hours a day, for three days a week, over a period of three weeks.

Affecting one in five infants during the first few months of life, the condition can cause frustration and distress for parents and caregivers as they try to soothe their baby.1

Despite lots of research, there is no known underlying cause of colic which makes it very hard to treat. To better understand the impact probiotics could have on decreasing infant cry time and fuss, a study was carried out using two strains of BioCare’s probiotics on breastfed babies.

The babies involved in the study were exclusively breastfed. DSM supports the WHO recommendation that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, and then breastfed alongside complementary food for up to the age of two years or beyond, to achieve optimal growth, development and long-term health.

Why is infant colic so difficult to manage?

Having a child is undoubtedly a wonderful thing, but most parents would agree that it isn’t always smooth sailing. Welcoming a baby into a family causes a shift in both the family dynamic and behavior. When an infant cries it can be very distressing for both the caregiver and the child, especially if the infant cannot be soothed. These episodes of crying can decrease the amount of sleep that a parent gets even further, increasing the risk of maternal anxiety and depression. Although there are some treatments available on the market and recommended steps that parents can take to soothe babies with colic, such as a warm bath or gently rocking the baby, there is no guaranteed cure for the condition which is why this study was so important.

What was the main aim of the study and what was DSM’s involvement?

The aim of the study was to understand the role probiotics could play in reducing infant colic. DSM’s involvement came about through its 2017 acquisition of BioCare, a specialist in white-label probiotic supplements.

Published in Nutrients, the study was funded by BioCare and used two of its probiotic strains - Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri– on children aged four to twelve weeks for a period of 28 days. Taking place in the Ukraine, the study measured the mean cry and fuss time as well as infant sleep duration. Any changes in rates of maternal depression were also assessed using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS).   

What were the main findings of the study and why are the results so important?

The study found that the probiotic supplementation decreases both cry and fuss time for exclusively breastfed infants. After 28 days, the mean cry and fuss time reduced by 163 minutes for the treatment group and only 116 minutes for the infants in the control group who just received a daily dose of vitamin D – showing the significant impact the probiotic had on cry and fuss time, as well as the number of infants affected by colic. There was no change in sleep duration during the study and marginal changes on the EPDS were recorded.

While the causes of infant colic are not fully understood, it is thought to be linked to gas forming bacteria. These results are promising as they suggest we are closer to finding a solution by using probiotics to reduce levels of unwanted bacteria.

Many parents and caregivers who feel frustrated by not being able to find a remedy to soothe their colicky baby often turn to healthcare professionals for support. Infant colic is one of the main causes of new parents seeking medical advice but in many cases, practitioners are not able to provide a solution, placing additional strain on the healthcare system and further distress for the parents. Colic has also been linked to poor sleep and mental health in children of school age, just another reason why it’s so important that we continue to work to find a solution for this disruptive condition.

How could the results of the study impact how infant colic is managed?

The study indicated that dietary probiotics have the potential to soothe an exclusively breastfed infant with colic. Daily probiotic supplementation could therefore provide great relief for parents and caregivers alike when looking after a breastfed child, as they no longer will feel completely helpless should their baby develop colic. 

What benefits do probiotics deliver for infant colic as a probiotic dietary supplement?

DSM is offering the probiotics in two different finished good forms, meaning that it is possible to tailor the supplement that the infant receives to their specific needs. One of the available formats is delivered in an oil suspension with some prebiotic Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) which serves as a food for the probiotic.

The other solution contains vitamin D which supports the recommendation that exclusively breastfed babies receive additional vitamin D supplementation.2 The product provides 200 IU vitamin D with the added benefit of alleviating colic – empowering parents and caregivers to reduce the occurrence of the condition.  

How will customers benefit from DSM’s acquisition of BioCare?

The acquisition of BioCare has strengthened DSM’s offering in gut health ingredients and probiotics. In addition to its extensive portfolio in probiotics and dietary supplements, BioCare also had distribution agreements with leading companies across the world, and had already launched products in over 40 countries. Through the acquisition, DSM and BioCare have become well-placed to address the emerging gut health market with new probiotic supplements that provide proven health benefits for brain and heart health, as well as our metabolism. By expanding the probiotics portfolio and strengthening worldwide distribution networks, customers can receive high-quality products from trusted industry experts. 

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References
  1. World Health Organization (WHO). Global Health Observatory (GHO) Data, Life Expectancy. Available online: http://www.who.int/gho/mortality_burden_disease/life_tables/situation_trends/en/(accessed on 20 September 2018). 
  2. World Health Organization (WHO). Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013–2020. 2018. Available online: https://www.who.int/nmh/publications/ncd-action-plan/en/ (accessed on 3 January 2019)
Tags: NEW SCIENCEEARLY LIFEINNOVATIONARTICLER&DESSENTIALS FOR EARLY LIFE

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