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Tuesday, 19 January 2016
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. Their findings were published in JAMA Pediatrics in 2014.
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 paediatrician 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 in 2013, Probiotic supplements were shown to prevent or lower the risk of diarrhoea caused by antibiotics, according to research in The Cochrane Library. Scientists from the Cochrane Collaboration suggested that taking probiotics alongside antibiotics can prevent this troublesome side effect.
Antibiotics interfere with the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut and permit other dangerous bacteria like C. difficile to take hold. Some people who have C. difficile do not have symptoms, while others are afflicted with diarrhoea or colitis. The "good bacteria" or yeast found in probiotic foods and supplements can offer a safe, inexpensive method to help prevent C.difficile diarrhoea. The authors pointed out this is a significant finding because this type of diarrhoea is costly to treat.
Infants randomized to probiotic supplement or placebo
For their study, Dr Flavia Indrio and the research team analysed 554 new-born 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 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.
Probiotic use 'saves money and increases child health'
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. The researchers note that probiotic use did not cause any adverse effects in the infants. Commenting on their study, the researchers say their findings suggest that probiotic use early in an infant's life may reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disorders: "Driving a change of colonization during the first weeks of life through giving lactobacilli may promote an improvement in intestinal permeability; visceral sensitivity and mast cell density and probiotic administration may represent a new strategy for preventing these conditions, at least in predisposed children."