Chronic tummy ache in children suffering from irritable bowel syndrome could be treated with a common probiotic, known as lactobacillus GG, suggests a new study, published in the latest edition of the journal Pediatrics.
Probiotics are live bacteria that resemble the beneficial microorganisms that live in the human gut. They occur naturally in yogurt and several fermented milk and soy products.
Probiotic supplements are often the source of these good bacteria in the diet. Earlier studies have found a strong association between consumption of probiotics and a healthy digestive system. However, this is for the first time a research team had evaluated the role of probiotic in children with chronic stomach pain.
It is estimated that nearly 10 to 15 per cent children suffer from recurrent stomach pain. Usually, irritable bowel syndrome is associated with chronic abdominal pain.
The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown. Scientists believe that certain foods, hormonal changes and stress might trigger this condition. However, currently few effective treatment options are available for this digestive disorder.
The University of Bari researchers observed that lactobacillus GG bacteria could reduce the severity of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome within twelve weeks.
In addition, the probiotic could improve the intestinal permeability of the children. Better intestinal permeability indicates better functioning of the natural intestinal barrier.
The lining of the intestine acts as a natural barrier through which proteins, starches, digested fats, vitamins and minerals enter the blood stream.
If the natural gut barrier is damaged, undigested food particles, bacteria and toxins will enter the blood stream, leading to health problems. Children with irritable bowel syndrome are prone to poor intestinal permeability.
The researchers further noted that the beneficial effect of the probiotic lasts for several weeks even after a child stops taking the probiotic.
Probiotics are also effective in treating diarrhea in children. Even babies more than 12 months of age could take probiotics.
The live bacteria present in fermented milk products could reduce the severity of respiratory infections in children. Dietary supplements or fermented dairy products containing over six billion live lactobacillus GG bacteria could be taken by children with digestive problems daily, twice a day.