Baby Colic & Lactose Intoleance

Nearly half of baby colic is caused by Lactase Deficiency.

Lactose intolerance is a common and often (as after infections) temporary problem in babies. It can be upsetting and unsettling for parents and the baby. The symptoms can include excessive wind and bloating, abdominal sensitivity/ discomfort, cramping or colic, diarrhoea and crying.

It results from shortage or insufficient production of the lactase enzyme. This enzyme is produced in the guts and its function is to break down the lactose present in human and animal milk into two absorbable smaller sugars called glucose and galactose. Lactose is in fact glucose and galactose linked together. Once the link is broken by lactase the two sugars are readily absorbed into the body to give the baby energy (fuel). Insufficient lactase production will cause the lactose to remain indigestible and bacteria that live in the guts use it themselves causing fermentation in the guts. This process causes the production of gas resulting in wind and bloating; one can feel the baby’s tummy rock hard. This fermentation also causes the bowels to react to it and the baby suffers from cramps and one can hear sounds coming from the tummy of the baby. Finally the pressure generated by lactose and lactic acid in the stomach produces an influx of water leading to a swollen abdomen and acidic diarrhoea. Changes in the osmotic pressure of the guts result in water loss and if left unattended the baby may suffer from dehydration.

The good news is that this is temporarily and eventually on further maturation, the baby will start producing enough enzymes to be able to cope with the lactose ingested. Premature babies are more likely to suffer from this type of colic, and it may take longer for them to be able to tolerate lactose as this depends on the maturation of the small intestine.

Treating Colic Caused by Lactose Intolerance.

In the research mentioned above, a group of babies was given milk added with a placebo while another group was given milk with treated with lactase. 45% of the babies either stopped showing further symptoms of colic or their crying was significantly reduced. The lactase in glycerol and water solution used helps break down the lactose and can be used in both formula or breast milk. 

Kanabar et al, of the Department of Paediatrics, Guy's Hospital, London, UK conclude “These findings suggest that infant colic may have a multiple aetiology, and that in a significant number of cases the immediate cause is transient lactose intolerance, in which cases pre-treatment of feeds with lactase can result in considerable symptomatic benefits.”

There are two known products on the market which seem to have the same ingredients. Colief may be found from your local pharmacy while Lactase Enzyme liquid may be found on line for half the price of Colief.