Sunday, February 24, 2013

CON or PRO-biotic?

Probiotics have been making quite a bit of noise as the homeopathic answer to many illnesses in adults and children, but how effect can they really be? 

Oliver Thomas - 2 days old

When Ollie was a few weeks old he became increasingly upset and fussy after he nursed, and would spit up large amounts of milk. He would grunt and moan in his sleep, waking up unhappy and uncomfortable. With the help of his pediatrician, Ollie was eventually diagnosed with a milk and soy protein intolerance.  This is not a serious ailment, and while it made him uncomfortable we were basically told it would go away on its own as he matured.  There were, however, a few things we could try to help lesson his digestive discomfort: massage, warm baths, gas drops and, low and behold, an over the counter children's probiotic.

After a week or so of taking the probiotic we saw a noticeable difference in Ollie's stomach issues.  He was no longer fussy and would rarely have pain from gas.  In addition to giving Ollie the probiotic I had stopped eating dairy and soy so he wouldn't be exposed those proteins while nursing.  It's hard to say for certain the improvement was a direct result of the probiotic, especially since a baby's digestive system naturally matures around 2 months or so, but I am convinced it made a difference. The increased amount of sleep is he was getting was enough to make me a believer!

Around 5 months of age Ollie came down with his first major cold which eventually turned into an ear infection. His pediatrician prescribed an antibiotic for his ear, and also encouraged us to give him probiotic to counter the effects the medicine could have on his digestive system. There it was again, a probiotic prescribed as a natural digestive helper.

So it was of great interest to me when I came across an article in the New York Times Magazine  detailing one family's experience with children's' probiotics.  The Boy With the Thorn in His Joints is the true story of a 3 year old boy who was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, a rare disease that eventually left him unable to walk without significant pain.  His body had stopped growing, and the little boy would wake up in the night crying that his joints and bones hurt. After trying multiple medications to no avail, it was suggested he take a probiotic in combination with the medication and eliminate certain high allergy foods from his diet. The theory was that the juvenile arthritis was the result of a syndrome called "leaky gut."

"she believed that her son’s arthritis was caused by something I had never heard of before — leaky-gut syndrome, a concept that has been accepted in alternative circles for years despite a name that asks you not to take it seriously. The idea is that inflammation in the gut causes the tight junctions between the cells that make up the intestinal lining to loosen. Then, like a lax bouncer, the barrier starts letting through undesirables, various proteins or bacteria that would normally be rebuffed; they then leak into surrounding tissues. The uninvited guests, the hypothesis goes, then trigger an offensive by the body, which uses inflammation to try to get rid of them. That sustained inflammatory response characterizes autoimmune disease" Susannah Meadows, New York Times Magazine

The hope was that the probiotic would neutralize the leaking bacteria and eventually alleviate the boy's symptoms.  And guess what? It worked!! After taking the probiotic for 6 weeks the boy was pain free! I find this incredibly amazing.

While I'm pretty pro western medicine, I completely believe natural remedies exist and should be included in conversations around our health and the health of our children.  I am thankful that Oliver's pediatrician is open to discussing multiple options, and combining western medicines with homeopathic alternatives as possible responses to his illnesses.

Has anyone had an experience, positive or negative, with probiotics? How do you feel about natural medicines being a part of your child's healthcare?


  1. We used probiotics with our daughter after she was on antibiotics for 7 months straight more or less for recurrent ear infections. They helped reset her gut.

    1. Nice!! I think they really truly help a lot of kids, and a lot of adults!!

  2. I totally think there should be a balance between Western medicine and homeopathic alternatives... and I've heard SO many good things about probiotics! Glad your little guy is feeling better!

    1. Thanks!! I totally agree, whatever works is what you should go with!