Infantile colic: understanding and soothing the crying
“The sound of a wailing infant is about the most disturbing, demanding, shattering noise we can hear1”, according to many parents who are unable to sooth their baby’s unexplained crying, and that frequently find themselves worried and helpless at their pediatrician’s office. However, in other cases, this symptom is often the result of a discomfort related to simple and not severe colic. What if this racket was caused by the gut microbiota?
Is there a link between colic and microbiota?
Colic has been attributed to a wide variety of causes (lactose intolerance, parental stress2 …) and has been long diagnosed exclusively based on the “rule of 33 ”. But it was recently discovered that the gut microbiota of colicky infants was different from that of other babies:
- it has a lower content in beneficial bacteria (bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in particular)
- and it is less diversified (species that compose the microbiota are less diverse)
It comes as no surprise: the entire organism of babies is under construction (immune system, flora …). This unbalance, called “dysbiosis”, seems to promote the onset of inflammations (and thus colic) and could influence the behavior of the infant through the gut-brain axis4
How to help babies… and parents?
Medical consultation remains the very first way to reassure parents, to help them get through this though stage and to suggest simple daily practices5 … The probiotic avenue is promising too: the intake of “good” bacteria (from the Lactobacillus reuteri and Bifidobacterium breve species, among others) could reduce by half the daily duration of crying after three months6. This constitutes hope for all exhausted parents who have a colicky child, i.e. 20 to 25% of infants between the age of 1 and 4 months in developed countries.
2- Rhoads JM, Collins J, Fatheree NY et al. Infant colic represents gut inflammation and dysbiosis. J Pediatr. 2018 Dec;203:55-61.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.07.04
3- Wessel MA, Cobb JC, Jackson EB et al. Paroxysmal fussing in infancy, sometimes called "colic". Pediatrics. 1954 ; 14 : 421-43
4- Indrio F, Dargenio VN, Giordano P et al. Preventing and treating colic. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2019;1125:49-56. doi: 10.1007/5584_2018_31
6- Giglione E, Prodam F, Bellone S et al. The Association of Bifidobacterium breve BR03 and B632 is Effective to Prevent Colics in Bottle-fed Infants: A Pilot, Controlled, Randomized, and Double-Blind Study. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2016 Nov/Dec;50 Suppl 2, Proceedings from the 8th Probiotics, Prebiotics & New Foods for Microbiota and Human Health meeting held in Rome, Italy on September 13-15, 2015:S164-S167