What is Colic?
Colic is the term used to describe unexplainable and uncontrollable crying in babies from zero to four or five months old, for more than three hours a day, at least three days a week. If you are the parent of an infant who has colic, you know how frustrating it can be to suffer through, both for you and your child.
Colic generally disappears on its own at three months of age, however some infants continue to demonstrate symptoms for several months thereafter. The most common symptoms of colic is excessive crying, irritability, gas and difficulty sleeping. Other symptoms normally include flexing of the knees against the abdomen, clenching of the fists, and straightening of the trunk, legs and arms.
A recent study published in Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing finds that Chiropractic Care is beneficial for babies with colic (Explore 2011; 7:168-74). This study collected data from eight major medical research databases which reviewed 26 articles which findings revealed that chiropractic care is a viable alternative to the care of infantile colic.
Gentle Chiropractic Adjustments
Dr. Carpenter at Carpenter Chiropractic performs an evaluation on your infant by checking for misalignment of spinal bones (vertebrae) – a condition that has been linked to colic. It may surprise many people to know that safe, gentle chiropractic treatment of your infant can help alleviate the symptoms of colic.
Spinal misalignments in infants are sparked by the twists, turns and pressure placed on the head, neck and spine during the delivery process. In fact, an average of 40 to 60 pounds of force is exerted on a newborn’s head and neck during birth. This strains the spinal joints in the upper neck – called upper cervical joints – especially the joint between the baby’s head and neck. Caesarean sections and assisted deliveries may produce additional torque to the infant’s head and neck, possibly setting these babies up for even greater risk.
When spinal movement is restricted or vertebrae become misaligned, the result is a common condition known as vertebral subluxation. In addition to colic, vertebral subluxations are linked to ear infections, headaches and a number of other disorders. Dr. Carpenter uses safe and gentle maneuvers called chiropractic adjustments to restore alignment and movement to the spine. Extremely light pressure is applied during infant adjustments. The procedure generates a calming effect that can, in some cases, quiet colic in a single visit.
Chiropractic Studies for Alleviating Colic
Case Study #1: A recent article published in “The Journal of Pediatrics, Maternal and Family Health,” January 2010, reports the case study of a 2-week old male patient who showed symptoms of colic, constipation, and a troubled sleep pattern.
The child’s mother indicated that her son’s birth was normal and without complications. The boy began crying extensively whenever he was not eating or sleeping, and he showed signs of constipation within days after his birth, including a distended stomach and gas. The child’s doctors reduced his intake of milk, but no immediate improvement was noted. At night, the child slept intermittently, causing him distress and well as distress for his mother.
The examining chiropractor found the existence of subluxations in the child’s spinal area. The doctor performed the first adjustment, after which the infant has an immediate bowel movement and fell asleep.
The patient underwent a regular program of chiropractic care, including spinal adjustments. After the fifth adjustment, the mother reported that the baby’s bowel movements were becoming more regular. After just 16 adjustments, the child was sleeping better and all symptoms of constipation and colic had been resolved.
Case Study #2: 317 colicky infants were involved in a study including 73 doctors of chiropractic. Within 14 days of chiropractic care (an average of three visits), 94 percent of the children – including the 80 whose colic was suppressed on the first day – “showed a satisfactory response. After four weeks, the improvements were maintained.” Interestingly, 51 percent of these children had already undergone unsuccessful drug-therapy treatment. Chiropractic not only worked: It worked when drugs failed. (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1989; 12:281).
Case Study #3: A recent study compared the effects of chiropractic spinal manipulation with traditional drug intervention (dimethicone) normally offered by those in the medical profession. The study divided 50 infants with colic into two groups of 25. The first group received chiropractic spinal manipulation for two weeks, and the second group received traditional drug treatment (dimethicone) over the same two weeks. Results demonstrated that the chiropractic group spent less hours crying after the first five days of the study than the medically treated group, a reduction of 2.4 hours total between days 4-7 compared to only one hour in the dimethicone group. These results became even more disparate following the first week, with the Chiropractic group increasing the reduction in crying over the next several days. In addition, it is worth noting that nine infants in the dimethicone group dropped out before the end of the study (none of the chiropractic group dropped out), after having actually worsened since the testing started, indicating that the use of drugs was not effective compared with chiropractic care. Chiropractic care focuses on addressing the root cause of disease and illness – not covering up symptoms with drugs and exposing patients (particularly children) to potentially dangerous side effects. (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1999; 22:517-22).
Cow’s milk can cause allergic reactions. Most infant formula contains cow’s milk, and can cause reactions in allergic babies. There is also some evidence that breast-fed infants may have allergic responses to cow’s milk proteins in the mother’s diet. Numerous studies have evaluated the effects of cow’s milk or cow’s milk protein in the diet of infants with colic. Most of these found an improvement in crying when cow’s milk protein was removed from the diet of formula-fed infants, or from the diet of the mothers in breast-fed infants.
As an alternative to standard cow’s milk–based formula, researchers primarily used hypoallergenic formula made from hydrolyzed (processed) whey or casein. Formula based on these sources of protein may be superior to those based on soy, because soy itself can cause allergic reactions in sensitive children.
Dr. Carpenter reports that proteins in cow’s milk “appear to be associated with the prevalence of infantile colic in a significant number of cases,” according to researchers from the University of Calgary, Alberta Children’s hospital. Even though most colicky children outgrow this protein intolerance, doctors of chiropractic urge mothers to breastfeed infants whenever possible.
Benefits of Probiotics
No one really understands what makes a baby colicky, but some now think it may stem from inflammation in the gut, perhaps a result of too many harmful bacteria and not enough beneficial ones. A 2009 study found that colicky babies had gastrointestinal inflammation and traces of a bacterium in their guts that may have prompted it. Babies without colic had no inflammation and a greater diversity of beneficial bacteria. The study population consisted of 36 term infants ranging in age from 14 to 81 days. During 24 hours, infants with colic cried and fussed for 314 minutes, compared with control infants (103 minutes). In addition, fecal calprotectin levels were 2-fold higher in infants with colic than in control infants. Infants with colic, a condition previously believed to be nonorganic in nature, have evidence of intestinal neutrophilic infiltration and a less diverse fecal microflora. (J Pediatr. 2009 Dec;155(6):823-828.)
Researchers from the University of Turin randomly gave 83 infants either a daily dose of probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri 30 minutes after feeding, or simethicone, a pharmaceutical control.
After 7 days, the scientists reported that the average crying times of the probiotic infants were down 21%, from 197 minutes a day to 159 minutes a day, according to the mothers, while the crying times of the control group were only reduced by 10%; from 197 minutes per day to 177.
After 28 days, the crying times had dropped 75% (51 minutes per day) for the probiotic group and 26% (145 minutes per day) for the control group. (Pediatrics 2010; 126:3 e526-e533)
To ease the stress and strain of colickiness for both you and your baby, there are natural options such as chiropractic care. Call Dr. Carpenter today to learn how you and your new baby can enjoy the precious first few months of life.