Can probiotic drops ease colic? Doctors think so. Or do they?

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A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics on Jan. 13th that was conducted by a group from the department of pediatrics at Aldo Moro University of Bari in Italy is suggesting that colic in infants can be significantly reduced by the use of drops containing the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri mixed with oil.

The study, which consisted of 500 infants that were born at full term, found that that colic (as measured by the amount of time the baby spent crying) and vomiting were both reduced by about half in the babies that got the drops.

Lead author Flavia Indrio said, "This is something I use routinely in my practice to treat colic."

But not all doctors agree.

William Muinos, co-director of the gastroenterology department at Miami Children's Hospital said use of probiotics could potentially pose risks to newborns.

And ACSH friend, Dr. David Seres, the head of nutritional medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital has even more to say: The findings of the study are interesting and even somewhat compelling, especially when so few probiotic studies as well designed as this have shown any benefit. I would, however, strongly caution parents against starting wholesale probiotic supplementation of newborns. This is a study of a specific bacterium, which may not be available in the US, and its effects on a specific set of symptoms in a specific age group. You cannot generalize these findings to other probiotics, even in the same class of organism. And given the recent data on the impact of, for instance, cleanliness practices in infancy on the subsequent development of allergies, I would be very hesitant to try this on my infant until data exists on the long-term consequences of messing with the immune system at an age when the body is so susceptible to outside influences.