28. Feb 2019

Probiotics against digestive problems

There is an increased rate of flatulence and constipation during pregnancy. Additionally, 30% of new-borns are tormented by painful infantile colic, which represents a true endurance test for parents. A recent study assessed whether a special multispecies synbiotic can alleviate these complaints.

To reduce the occurrence of allergies, specific bacterial strains have been given to new-borns and pregnant women for quite some time now. Several clinical trials prove that they provide a significant protection against allergic diseases; especially when these gut bacteria are taken before and after the birth of the child (Panduru, 2015). A multispecies synbiotic, researched especially for this purpose, has been proven to ensure a reduced occurrence of neurodermatitis in children with a predisposition for allergies (Niers, 2009). The underlying mechanism of action leads to a balanced maturation of important cells of our immune system (TH1 and TH2 cells).

A familial predisposition is often present

A clinical study was conducted at the state hospital Feldbach-Fürstenfeld in Austria, under the direction of Prim. Univ.-Doz. Dr. Hannes Hofmann. Its goal was to find new possible applications for multispecies synbiotics. During the study, a synbiotic (containing the following bacteria of human origin: Lactococcus lactis W58, Bifidobacterium lactis W52, and Bifidobacterium bifidum W23) was given to 148 pregnant women during their last 2 months of pregnancy and subsequently their babies received it for their first 4 months of life. The study examined whether the following complaints improved due to the intake of the synbiotic:

  1. Frequency of constipation and flatulence during the last months of pregnancy
  2. Occurrence of infantile colic in babies during the first 4 months of life

The study participants families showed increased occurrences of the following diseases: 61.9 % of the new-borns had a genetic predisposition for at least one allergic disease. Also, the prevalence of digestive disorders was similarly high at 57.7 %. A predisposition for infantile colic was especially commonly reported (36.7 %) this also included recurring diarrhoea (13.5 %), (chronic) obstipation (10.4 %) as well as irritable bowel syndrome (8 %). The general likelihood of colic occurring in infants, amounts to roughly 30 % (Ståhlberg, 1984)  however, genetic predisposition increases the probability. The form of child delivery also has a significant effect on this risk (Dominguez-Bello et al., 2010): During a natural birth, the mothers bacteria are transmitted to the child during the birthing process. During a C-section however, this primary bacterial colonisation is missing almost completely; instead, harmful hospital bacteria have an easier time settling within the new-born.

Small bacteria show a big effect

By the end of a pregnancy, up to 40% of women suffer from constipation (Marshall et al., 2010), whereby constipation is defined as 3 bowel movements or less per week (Hasenöhrl, 2014). Of the pregnant women who had taken the synbiotic during the trial, only 2.4 % suffered from such problems at the end of pregnancy  that is equivalent to a significant reduction of 94 %.

Unpleasant flatulence also occurs is 40 % of expectant mothers at the end of pregnancy (Rath, 2010). These symptoms could also be reduced considerably with the administration of a probiotic: Shortly before birth only 5.3 % of the pregnant women who had taken the probiotic suffered from flatulence.

In new-borns, infantile colic is characterised by flatulence, diarrhoea, and significantly increased crying-time. Colic in new-borns may be defined by the well-known definition known as the rule of three: A child is suffering from colic when it cries for longer than 3 hours a day, 3 or more days a week and for longer than 3 weeks. Infants which received the 3-strain probiotic, showed greatly reduced crying-time in comparison to children which didnt receive support from these good bacteria. Of the examined children, only 4.9 % showed signs of excessive crying (infantile colic)  whereby normally almost every third child (30 %) is affected. Even children who, due to a familial predisposition for colic, were at a higher risk, didnt cry more or show other signs of colic during the trial.

Meanwhile there are studies showing that the early administration of pro- and synbiotics can even have a positive effect on both the physical as well as mental development of children. The current study shows very clearly that specially developed multispecies synbiotics can help to alleviate symptoms such as flatulence and constipation in mothers-to-be. In infants, it can help to prevent colic and other digestive disorders (diarrhoea, flatulence). A good start for mother and child. 

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