Probiotics may help babies with constipation

Probiotics are a kind of bacteria that can help balance out populations of bacteria in the intestines, keeping bacteria that cause disease from taking over. Children with constipation have been shown to have different types of bacteria in their stool than healthy children, suggesting that taking probiotics might help ease their symptoms.
But there had been no definitive evidence to recommend that kids with chronic constipation be treated with probiotics, the authors say.
(In this study, the researchers used a bacterium called Lactobacillus reuteri, which is found naturally in the intestines of some people. The bug was named after the German microbiologist who discovered it, Gerhard Reuter. It’s unclear if that Reuter is related to Baron Paul Julius Reuter, the founder of Reuters, but Thomson Reuters had nothing to do with this study.)

Led by Dr. Paola Coccorullo of the University of Naples “Federico II” in Italy, the authors followed 44 infants that had been referred to their pediatrics department with chronic constipation. Half of those infants were assigned to take a dose of L. reuteri mixed with a few drops of oil once a day for eight weeks, while the others were fed an inactive placebo.

The researchers asked parents to keep track of how often their baby had a bowel movement and the consistency of the stool, in addition to babies’ “inconsolable crying spells.”

When it came to stool consistency and crying, it didn’t matter whether a baby was taking L. reuteri or the placebo. Both groups had general improvements in their stool consistency but cried more later in the study than at its start.

Babies taking probiotics, however, had significantly more bowel movements than babies on the placebo after two, four, and eight weeks, suggesting an improvement in their constipation. At the beginning of the study, the probiotic babies had, on average, less than three bowel movements per week. By week eight, they had an average of almost five.

The probiotic treatment had no side effects, according to the report, which is published online in The Journal of Pediatrics.