Digestion, Infant and Children | December 31, 2016 | Author: Naturopath
A newborn baby that cries for prolonged periods of time can be distressing for everyone involved. Colic is a common reason for this reaction in babies under the age of 3 months and affects roughly one in five children. Natural therapies aim to support healthy bacteria balance in the infants gut while providing herbal medicines that assist in expelling gas. Food intolerances and allergies may also be implicated in babies that are breastfed and formula fed.
Notoriously hard to define, colic is described as crying and restlessness that can occur any time of day that is different from normal crying and fussing. It is more likely to occur after feeding and the infant often finds relief from passing wind or having a bowel motion. It is often diagnosed by the rule of three: crying that lasts for 3 or more hours a week, for a minimum of 3 days over 3 weeks. Colic usually resolves by 3 months of age.
A common theory for colic in infants is dysbiosis in the gastrointestinal tract. A study showed that breastfed infants with colic had fewer Lactobacillus (good bacteria) than breastfed babies without colic. An abnormal range of bacteria in the intestines causes the production of gas which pushes on the intestinal walls causing pain and discomfort. Allergy and intolerance, particularly to cow’s milk has also been implicated.
To help ensure the balance of good bacteria in the infants gut supplementation with probiotics can be very effective. Specific strains suitable for babies must only be used and include the following:
At the dose of 10 billion CFU’s daily Lactobacillus reuteri was shown to reduce colic in 95% of infants. Another study found that the combination of Chamomile, Lemonbalm, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus reuteri was significantly more effective than simethicone in improving colic symptoms. The researchers noted that the use of herbal supplements may represent a new therapeutic strategy in the treatment of colicky infants.
Many of the herbs used in the treatment of colic are familiar culinary herbs belonging to the same plant family. They act to reduce spasm in the digestive tract due to their high essential oil content.
Specific herbal medicines include:
These herbs can be administered internally as an infusion or topically as part of a massage oil. To make an infusion add 1 teaspoon of dried herb (any combination of herbs listed above) in a plunger or tea pot and add half a cup of boiling water. Allow the herbs to steep for 5-10 minutes, pour into a mug and allow to cool. Up to 10mls can be given before or after each feed or 20mls three times daily. The herbal tea can be put on a teaspoon or using a dropper put into the mouth. It can also be added to a bottle of formula or expressed breastmilk. A breastfeeding mum can also drink the same herbal tea throughout the day.
Massage by adding 2 drops of essential oil to 2 tablespoons of a suitable base oil such as coconut, olive or almond oil. This oil blend can be massaged onto the abdomen, legs and feet, once or twice daily. Before use be sure to do a patch test on the skin and wait 24hrs to check for any reaction before applying in larger amounts.
Caution is advised when using essential oils with babies.
The diet of the breastfeeding mum has been shown to have an impact on colic in an infant. The removal of allergens in the diet (cow’s dairy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, soy, eggs and wheat) was associated with a reduction in colic in one Australian study. If no improvement has been made from utilizing herbs and probiotics, elimination of the above allergens may be required.
Many formulas are based on cow’s milk which may lead to digestive disturbances if there are allergies or sensitivities. Soy based formulas may also not be suitable as soy is also a common allergen. Hydrolysed or amino acid based formulas are hypoallergenic and have been shown to be effective in reducing the duration of crying in colicky infants.
Following the guidelines set out by the World Health Organisation, introducing solids should begin at 6 months.
Introduction any earlier than this can result in digestive problems due to the immaturity of the infant’s gut.
The first foods to introduce include pureed vegetables and fruit as well as rice cereal.
Before attempting any of the above recommendations it is important to seek the advice of a healthcare professional – your paediatrician, G.P, pharmacist or naturopath. They will help give recommendations that are appropriate and unique to your baby’s needs.
Colic is a common condition that causes prolonged crying and unsettle, usually in infants under the age of 3 months. Herbal medicines aim to reduce the spasm that is responsible for the pain and probiotics support healthy digestive function. Allergies and intolerances, especially to cow’s dairy may be implicated and as such it may warrant a change in the mother’s diet in a breastfed infant or trialling an alternative formula.
Hechtman L (2014). Clinical Naturopathic Medicine. Churchill Livingstone, Australia
Kumral A, et al. Circadian genes – Mystery underlying the physiopathology of infantile colic. Med Hypotheses 2009;72(1):103-4
Savino F, et al. Bacterial counts of intestinal Lactobacillus species in infants with colic. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2005;16:72-5
PP-12 efficacy of a standardized extract of matricariae chamomilla L., Melissa officinalis L. and tyndallized Lactobacillus acidophilus (H122) compared with Lactobacillus reuteri (DSM 17938) and with simethicone for the treatment of infantile colic. J Pediatr Gastroenteril Nutr. 2015 Oct;61(4):525
Arikan D, et al. Effectiveness of massage, sucrose solution, herbal tea or hydrolysed formula in the treatment of infantile colic. J Clin Nurs. 2008 Jul;17(13):1754-61
Hill DJ, et al. Effect of a low-allergen maternal diet on colic among breastfed infants: a randomized, controlled trial. Pediatrics 2005;116:E709-15