Mom’s Diet Helps Calm Colic
Breast-fed infants who suffer from colic may benefit when their mother’s diet is changed to exclude many commonly allergenic foods, reports the journal Pediatrics (2005;116:e709–e715).
Colic is defined as persistent, inconsolable crying in an otherwise healthy infant. The crying lasts more than three hours per day, and occurs on three or more days per week for at least three weeks. During the crying episodes, which tend to occur in the evening, the baby may draw its knees to its chest, clench its fists, and grimace. Colic usually begins between three and six weeks of age and typically subsides around the age of three or four months. Little is known about the cause of colic, although babies whose mothers smoke are more likely to experience it.
Placing a warm water bottle on the baby’s belly or walking while holding the baby (especially in a sling, called “baby wearing”) may help soothe a crying baby. Simethicone (Mylicon) drops can help relieve associated intestinal gas. Fennel and ginger, herbs that are found together in the remedy called \”gripe water,\” have also been reported to be helpful. Sometimes, caregivers of colicky babies may be able to anticipate a bout of crying and take measures to control it before it escalates.
The allergenic proteins a mother eats or drinks can pass into breast milk, and some studies have suggested that avoidance of certain allergenic foods may help relieve colic. The new study investigated the effect of placing the mothers of colicky breast-fed infants on a low-allergen diet. The mothers of 90 babies with colic recorded the amount of time that their infant cried or fussed during a 48-hour period, and were then assigned to follow either a low-allergen diet or a control diet for one week. The low-allergen diet excluded all dairy products, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, and walnuts), and fish. Mothers in the control group were instructed to eat one serving each of peanuts, wheat, and chocolate, and to drink two cups of a cow milk or soy beverage each day. At the end of the week, the mothers recorded the duration of their babies’ crying or fussing for another 48 hours. Infants whose crying decreased by 25% or more were considered “responders” to the diet.
The duration of crying/fussing was significantly reduced in the low-allergen diet group compared with the control group, with a 74% response rate among infants in the low-allergen group. By contrast, only 37% of babies responded to the control diet.
Food allergies, sometimes called food sensitivities, can contribute to many different health conditions. Recurrent infections (ear infections, sinusitis), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and eczema are just a few of the conditions that may be successfully treated by identifying and eliminating offending foods from the diet. The new study is the first of its type to demonstrate that colic may abate in breast-fed babies whose mothers eat a low-allergen diet.
Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.
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