PAST studies have suggested that consuming probiotics on a daily basis can benefit our digestive health. And these benefits may also apply to infants, as a new study suggests that giving probiotics to children in their first 3 months of life may reduce their risk of developing gastrointestinal disorders. The research team from the Aldo Moro University of Baro in Italy, led by Dr. Flavia Indrio, says that probiotic use in infants may also lead to lower health costs associated with gastrointestinal disorders.
During the first 6 months of a child’s life, infant colic, acid reflux and constipation are the most common gastrointestinal disorders that lead to pediatrician referral, according to the investigators. They add that these disorders can result in hospitalization, use of medication, changes in food intake, parental anxiety and loss of parental working days. The investigators wanted to see whether regular intake of a probiotic supplement may reduce the occurrence of these gastrointestinal disorders.
Probiotics are microorganisms that are believed to play an important role in regulating intestinal function and digestion by balancing the microflora of the gut. Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a study suggesting that probiotics may reduce the risk of diarrhea from antibiotics. Some foods, such as yogurt, aged cheeses, miso and some soy beverages, contain natural probiotics, or they can be consumed in the form of supplements.
For their study, the research team analyzed 554 newborn children who were less than 1 week old. All children were born at nine different neonatal units in Italy between September 2010 and October 2012. The infants were all randomized to receive either a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 bacteria, or a placebo supplement each day for a period of 90 days. The children were followed for 3 months.
Parents were required to keep a diary of the frequency of their child’s vomiting, the emptying of their bowels, the duration of inconsolable crying and the number of doctor visits. Any changes in daily crying time, vomiting, constipation and the cost benefits of probiotic supplement use were measured during the study period. At 3 months, the researchers found that the children who received the probiotic supplement emptied their bowels more each day, compared with the placebo group – at 4.2 times versus 3.6 times.
The infants who had the probiotic also had a lower average vomiting and crying rate each day, compared with the placebo group, at 38 minutes versus 71 minutes and 2.9 times versus 4.6 times, respectively. Furthermore, probiotic use was associated with an average saving of $119 per patient in each family. The researchers note that probiotic use did not cause any adverse effects in the infants.