Colic is tough to manage, but it might be preventable 

Q: My husband and I just barely survived a bout of colic with our 4-month-old son. My other two kids never had it. What happened this time? — Sally J., Twinsburg, Ohio

A: I’m sorry your child (and you two) had to go through that. Colic (inconsolable crying for at least three hours a day, three days a week) affects about 20 percent of babies between 3 weeks and 3 months of age. What causes it has always been a mystery. The prevailing theories have been that it has something to do with an immature digestive tract causing gas pains. Or it’s from allergies to ingredients in baby formula or sensitivity to cow’s milk in the mother’s diet and breast milk. But nothing seems to ease the infant’s (or parents’) agony.

Finally, researchers may have discovered a way to prevent colic or soothe its symptoms. Although the data aren’t conclusive, it appears that an imbalance in an infant’s gut bacteria (the biome) could be at the heart of the matter. Having the right amount of good and bad bacteria in the gut is essential for everyone’s health. Newborns pick up their initial mixture of bacteria as they pass through the birth canal. They need exposure to the mother’s microorganisms in order to develop a healthy immune system and good digestion. But certain things, like chronic maternal stress, a C-section, mom taking antibiotics while pregnant or an infant getting them shortly after birth, may interfere with the balance of those diverse bacteria. Then the infant’s gut may not get enough good lactobacilli and too much bad e-coli, resulting in colic.

A recent study found that giving infants a 90-day dose of the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri helps prevent colic, constipation and regurgitation. Other studies (although not conclusive, as we said) show that taking Lactobacillus reuteri can reduce the amount of time a baby suffers from colic.

Our advice for moms-to-be: If you’re stressed or take antibiotics while pregnant, also take a probiotic. And if your child develops colic, talk to your pediatrician about determining a safe source and dose of probiotics for your infant.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Michael Roizen is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to

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