Written by Slawomir (“Swavak”) Gromadzki, MPH
The microbiota is truly a fascinating feature of the human body including also infants and children. It influences their immune system, digestion and absorption. There are also some very complex interactions between nutrition, digestion and our microbiota that will influence the brain development, the immune system, and optimal growth of infants and children.
For the baby, gut is also the first line of defence in terms of immunity. Without a well-functioning gastro-intestinal tract, infants and children can’t get the proper nourishment to grow or to defend themselves against pathogens. Therefore, developing and maintaining a healthy and loaded with beneficial strains of bacteria colon is crucial to their overall health.
The proper ratio of good to bad bacteria is a critical measure in determining overall health and well-being. It is true not only with regards to adults but also infants and children. It is believed that healthy human organism should contain more than 85% of beneficial bacteria and less than 15% of pathogenic (“bad”) bacteria. Unfortunately, due to refined diet (consumption of foods deprived of fibre), stress, toxins, stimulants, and especially use of antibiotics and medication this ratio is usually reversed. Also the gastro-intestinal tract of many pregnant women is often very low in beneficial probiotic bacteria. As a result, when babies are born the beneficial bacteria in their gut are often outnumbered by pathogens leading to colic, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea.
Colic has been a puzzling idiopathic condition for centuries, and babies often suffer for weeks or even months as a result of this common problem. However, the much studied Lactobacillus reuteri strains, has shown the ability to help and prevent the digestive discomfort associated with colic in new born infants.
At least three studies proved that this specific type of bacteria (Lactobacillus reuteri) is safe and much more effective in reducing infant colic than most commonly used to treat colic now Simethicone, which for years has been the traditional choice to treat colic. Here is the quote from the results of one of these studies: “Eighty-three infants completed the trial: 41 in the probiotic group and 42 in the simethicone group… On day 28, 39 patients (95%) were responders in the probiotic (L reuteri) group and 3 patients (7%) were responders in the simethicone group!”
Apart from helping to eliminate trapped wind from the gut and relieving the discomfort caused by infant colic the Lactobacillus reuteri will aid indigestion and absorption of carbohydrates (starches, fibre and sugars). The Lactobacillus reuteri strain is also believed to be helpful in enhancing the mucosal barrier and promoting microbial diversity in the gut.
Deficiency of probiotic bacteria and growing number of pathogenic bacteria gradually damage the lining of the baby’s gastrointestinal tract contributing to allergies and various skin conditions such as eczema. For instance, according to the 2009 study which involved two groups of children with eczema those who received daily dose of Lactobacillus reuteri experienced significant reduction of symptoms.
The types of bacteria that reside in an infant’s or child’s intestines are not the same as those found in adults. For this reason the Infant formulas should contain only a special, viable and most potent strain of Lactobacillus reuteri probiotic bacteria which demonstrated to be most beneficial especially for babies and children suffering from the above mentioned problems associated with bacterial flora imbalance.
Lactobacillus Reuteri has been known to produce a unique anti-Microbial compound – Reuterin, which helps modulate immune responses via the gut’s mucosal immune system, aiding in the production of antibodies and keeping pathogens under control. It acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, reducing C-reactive protein (CRP) levels and proinflammatory cytokines. It may help to avert allergies by training baby’s immune system to distinguish between pathogens and non-harmful antigens and respond appropriately.
Unfortunately, there are many available now formulas for infants that contain combinations of various types of probiotic bacteria but at the same time they are deprived of Lactobacillus reuteri which is actually the only strain that has been proved to be effective in treating infant colic or eczema. Therefore, the best and effective probiotic formulas to treat infant colic and eczema should contain only Lactobacillus reuteri.
Gromert, N. Axelsson, I. (2009) ‘Lactobacillus reuteri effect on atopic eczema in childhood’, Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2009; 48 (Suppl. 3): E148-149, abstract AHP-07.
Schreck Bird, A. Gregory, P.J. Jalloh, M.A. et al (2016) ‘Probiotics for the Treatment of Infantile Colic: A Systematic Review’, J Pharm Pract. 2016 Mar 2. Epub 2016 Mar 2. PMID: 26940647
Ojetti, V., Gigante, G., Gabrielli, et al (2010) ‘The effect of oral supplementation with Lactobacillus reuteri or tilactase in lactose intolerant patients: Randomized trial’, European review for medical and pharmacological sciences., 14(3), pp. 163–70.
Savino, F., Pelle, E., Palumeri, E., Oggero, R. and Miniero, R. (2007) ‘Lactobacillus reuteri (American type culture collection strain 55730) versus Simethicone in the treatment of infantile Colic: A prospective Randomized study’, Article, 119(1), pp. 124–130. doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-1222.
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