Your baby has been crying non-stop for four hours and nothing you do consoles him. You are told he will eventually grow out of it. But that doesn’t help when you’re in the throes of another episode with no end in sight.
What if there was a way to calm those colicky cries. Well, probiotics might be the answer.
“One of the few things that has been found to help kids with colic is to start them on a probiotic called BioGaia,” said Scott & White pediatric gastroenterologist Ashis V. Barad, MD. “It’s just five drops a day and they are tasteless.”
If this probiotic can help soothe a colicky baby, then what other benefits could probiotics have for children?
Dr. Barad said probitoics (which literally means “good bacteria”) can do a number of things to help your child and even you live a healthier life.
What are probiotics?
We have billions of bacteria living with us in our small bowel, small intestine and large intestine. They play a major role in breaking down foods that we can’t break down.
“I kind of describe it like a garden. You can’t let one part of the garden take over,” Dr. Barad said. “The more aggressive bacteria are continually trying to take over. And it’s the job of the good bacteria (probiotics) that we normally have in our intestines to police everything and make sure that everything lives peacefully.”
When there is absence of the good bacteria, like after an infection or a dose of antibiotics, the bad bacteria can overgrow and cause symptoms like diarrhea and other stomach ailments.
It is the job of probiotic medication to go in and replenish the good bacteria when there’s a problem with the natural balance.
Are there any risks in taking probiotics?
“The biggest risk is truly side effects. If you take too many, you can get stomach cramps, diarrhea, upset stomach or nausea,” Dr. Barad said. “That is why we tell patients to start slowly with a smaller dose and then move up.”
Even though probiotics are often over-the-counter, the pediatric gastroenterologist said it is a good idea to talk to your physician before beginning a probiotics regimen. Probiotics are not regulated by the FDA, so manufacturers can make claims about their medications that are not true.
Doctors and pharmacists will know which probiotic manufacturers have been studied and proven to be effective.
And if your child was born preamaturely, has undergone a transplant, is receiving chemotherapy treatments or has a compromised immune system for any other reason, it may not be a good idea to start a probiotics regimen.
What are the most effective probiotic manufacturers?
Florastor has been proven to be effective in reducing the symptoms of Rotavirus (inflammation of stomach and intestines), Dr. Barad said.
“So, if you’ve had a Rotavirus infection, it will actually decrease the number of days that you have symptoms by one,” he said. “You’re going to get better faster if you start taking them at the onset of symptoms.”
Culturelle has also been studied and seems to be successful in getting you back on track after an illness, the doctor said.
“Both of those brands contain dead bacteria,” Dr. Barad said. “It’s the protein in the bacteria that are doing the good stuff.”
Some argue that ingesting living bacteria is more effective because the bacteria can live inside the intestines and work like the bacteria that are already there. That is why you will see some probiotics that need to be refrigerated. Those contain living bacteria.
The problem with these products is that they are usually double or triple the price and harder to find than the room temperature probitoics that come in pill form.
How can probiotics benefit my child?
If your child has just finished a dose of antibiotics, or is in the process of taking them, and you notice they are complaining of stomach upset or other related ailments, it may be a good idea to give them probiotics.
“When you’re taking antibiotics, you’re not just killing the bad bacteria,” Dr. Barad said. “They wipe out all of the bacteria. Some of them grow back and most people do just fine. But for those who have GI complaints, their symptoms have been shown to be reduced by taking probiotics at the same time.”
Chronic Stomach Ailments
Several studies have shown that patients with chronic stomach issues, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chron’s Disease and ulcerative colitis have seen significant reduction in symptoms after taking probiotics.
Most of these studies suggest that patients who take probiotics daily for the rest of their lives could have relief from symptoms.
Reduction of Asthma, Allergies and Eczema
“Women who took probiotics during pregnancy, continued to take it for six months after the baby was born if they were breastfeeding and gave the baby probiotics (in drop form) for the first six months, showed a decreased risk of developing allergies, asthma and eczema.”
Dr. Barad said that giving your child probiotics is a safe and effective way to keep their digestive and health balanced.
“My son was on it and I use it,” he said. “And I’ve had a lot of parents say that their kids have really responded well to it.”
For more information about probiotics, consult your child’s pediatrician or a trusted pharmacist.
Has your child ever tried probiotics? Did you see a difference in reduction of illness symptoms or an improvement in digestive health?