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Probiotics help babies with constipation

Some probiotics may help treat chronic constipation in babies, according to a new study.

Probiotics help babies with constipation

Some probiotics may help treat chronic constipation in babies, according to a new study.

Probiotics are live microorganisms (usually bacteria) which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. They are similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut and are also referred to as 'friendly' or 'good' bacteria as they  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.

To study the impact of probiotics on infants' constipation, researchers followed 44 infants, at least six months old, who  had been referred  for chronic constipation. Half of those infants were assigned to take a dose of Lactobacillus 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 the parents of the participants to keep a 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. It was found that babies taking probiotics 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 on the babies. Because of their safety profile, the researchers feel, probiotics may be an attractive option in the treatment of functional constipation.
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