Probiotic Eases Infant Reflux
During the first year of life, the baby’s body is rapidly developing. One of the structures that is yet to reach maturity is the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscular ring that surrounds the esophagus as it enters the stomach. Normally, this band keeps the contents of the stomach where they should be. But with too much food (especially all that liquid) or when the tummy fills too quickly, some of it invariably comes back up, causing baby to reflux.
Ask any parent and they’ll tell you about that burp cloth they wore on their shoulder (sometimes forgetting to take it off) for the first year of their child’s life. Most of the time, spitting up—or GER (gastroesophageal reflux) as it’s known in the medical community—is a little bothersome, but can be managed by making some adjustments to baby’s feeding and positioning and eventually clears up on its own. However, even when GER isn’t severe enough to warrant medication, it can bring with it enough stress to cause parents to seek medical attention.
Probiotics support undeveloped digestion
The new four-week study investigated the effect of probiotic drops on gastric emptying time (how long it takes the stomach to empty after a meal) and frequency of GER episodes in 34 infants. The babies, ranging from three weeks to 12 months old, were healthy, yet had experienced GER two or more times per day for three or more weeks.
In total, 19 babies received a probiotic, Lactobacillus reuteri, in a dose of 100 million colony forming units per day in drop form. The other babies received a matching placebo. The investigators compared gastric emptying time in the babies with reflux with that of babies without reflux and asked the parents to record the number of times per day that their baby had reflux.
Babies who were given the probiotic had significantly faster gastric emptying than babies in the placebo group, meaning that the food left their stomachs faster, decreasing the chance of reflux. The frequency of reflux was also significantly lower in the probiotic group, with only one episode per day, compared with four episodes per day in the placebo group.
Tips for reducing GER in your baby
- Burp that baby: If breastfeeding, burp your baby before you switch sides. If you’re formula-feeding, burp your baby several times throughout a feeding. Avoid putting pressure on your baby’s tummy by putting them over your shoulder; instead, support baby’s head with your hand while rubbing and/or lightly patting their back.
- Thicken it up: Try adding a little bit of rice cereal to baby’s formula or breast-milk. This gives a little more substance to the milk, with the hope that it won’t come back up as easily. Check with your doctor if your baby is less than four months old.
- Don’t lay me down, just yet. Feed your baby in an upright position and try to keep him or her upright for 30 minutes after a meal. This gives the stomach a chance to empty, lessening the chance that the contents will come back up to cause reflux.
- Give probiotics a try: There are many over-the-counter formulations with L. reuteri. Check with your child’s doctor to see what one is right for your baby.
(Eur J Clin Invest 2010;doi:10.1111/j.1365–2362.2010.02425)
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her doctoral degree from Bastyr University, the nation’s premier academic institution for science-based natural medicine. She co-founded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI, where she practiced whole family care with an emphasis on nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, detoxification, and food allergy identification and treatment. Her blog, Eat Happy, helps take the drama out of healthy eating with real food recipes and nutrition news that you can use. Dr. Beauchamp is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.