Infant Probiotic Use Decreases Risk of Gastrointestinal Disorders

Cultured Milk DrinkInfant probiotic use during the first three months of life may reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disorders including infant colic, acid reflux, and constipation, says a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help maintain the natural balance of organisms in the intestines. The gut of a normal, healthy person contains approximately 400 types of probiotic bacteria that promote a healthy digestive system by reducing the growth of harmful bacteria. Foods such as such as yogurt, aged cheeses, miso, and some soy beverages contain natural probiotic bacteria. Probiotics are also available in supplement form.

In the present study, researchers from the Aldo Moro University of Baro in Italy led by Dr. Flavia Indrio investigated whether infant probiotic use could reduce the occurrence of common gastrointestinal disorders in young children.

Previous studies have concluded that probiotic use may reduce the risk of diarrhea in individuals taking antibiotics. A recent study discovered a strong link between gut bacteria and a reduced risk of asthma.

For the present study, the researchers analyzed data from 554 newborn children who were born at nine different neonatal units in Italy between September 2010 and October 2012 and who were less than one week old. In a randomized study, the infants received either a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 bacteria or a placebo supplement daily for 90 days. The researchers followed the babies for three months while parents kept journals about vomiting, bowel movements, inconsolable crying, and doctor visits.

At the end of three months, the researchers discovered that babies given probiotics emptied their bowels more often each day and had a lower average vomiting and crying rate daily than the babies who received the placebo.

In addition to reducing gastrointestinal disorders, infant probiotic use also saved an average saving of $119 per patient in each family. Giving infants probiotics could significantly reduce health care costs.

Commenting on the findings of the study, the researchers state:

“Driving a change of colonization during the first weeks of life through giving lactobacilli may promote an improvement in intestinal permeability; visceral sensitivity and mast cell density and probiotic administration may represent a new strategy for preventing these conditions, at least in predisposed children.”

Infant probiotic use in the study did not cause any adverse effects in any of the babies. However, more studies need to be conducted on the safety of infant probiotic use. In a comment linked to the study, Dr. Bruno P. Chumpitazi and Dr. Robert Shulman of the Baylor College of Medicine at Texas Children’s Hospital note:

“Given the potential role of the gut microbiome in a number of disorders (eg, obesity) and its ability to influence brain function as already outlined, their clinical use should be guided by well-done clinical studies. Ideally, participants should be re-examined several years after treatment to assess for potential long-term health consequences.”

The results of this study may help prevent gastrointestinal disorders including infant colic, acid reflux, and constipation in infants as well as reduce overall health care costs.


Infant Probiotic Use ‘Reduces Risk of Gastrointestinal Disorders’:
Probiotics May Slash Infant Colic, Reduce Risk Of GastroIntestinal Disorders:
Prophylactic Use of a Probiotic in the Prevention of Colic, Regurgitation, and Functional Constipation: A Randomized Clinical Trial:

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