There’s a well known book that states “Everybody Poops.”
While this is generally a true statement, there are times in everyone’s life that we may beg to differ.
Constipation is a tough thing to deal with even as an adult. It’s much more difficult for children and babies who aren’t even aware what is causing them discomfort and are mostly unable to communicate the problem.
Add to this the fact that most newborns have underdeveloped digestive systems, and you have a recipe for disaster.
What Is This Article About?
When my wife and I realized our younger son had a gas and constipation issue we rushed off to the supermarket looking for a cure.
What we found was a dizzying array of gas drops, stool softeners, laxatives, probiotics, prebiotics and more.
We were short on time (and sleep) and grabbed the first thing that looked decent (and cheap).
Later that night, I sat down to begin deep research into these products. I didn’t like giving my son something when I didn’t even know what it was, and I don’t want you to go through that either.
Here are our findings on the best products and remedies for gas and constipation in babies.
What Are The Options For Treating Gas In Babies?
Generally you will find three main options for treating colic/gas in infants or young toddlers at the store.
Simeticone is an anti foaming agent. It’s purported method of action is to decrease surface tension of the gas bubbles in your intestines (Yeah! Cool/gross!) causing them to form into larger bubbles.
Simeticone does not reduce gas formation it only causes the bubbles to consolidate into larger bubbles- the idea being that these larger bubbles will pass more readily through the intestines and out the. . . uh. . . back.
There is some level of controversy surrounding Simeticone use for gas treatment. The fact that it is an anti foaming agent sounds somewhat suspect as something to put in your child’s body.
However, there is some science behind Simeticone’s use for treatment of gas and colic.
In a study conducted by Latros Consulting (Yeah sounds iffy doesn’t it?) in 2017 researchers polled 4004 parents and the survey results found that 69.7% of respondents reported improvements within 1 day for their child’s Colic, while 93.2% responded that the use of Simeticone was responsible for either partial or complete reversal of colic symptoms.
But hold on a second, just who is Latros Consulting?
From what we could gather from their terrible website (I mean seriously… wow), they do research using social media (What they call “Real world”) and seem to have a particular interest in OTC (Over the counter) drugs.
At the end of the day, it’s not the most prestigious progenitor for a study and a survey of “perceptions” is hardly the pinnacle of evidence either.
More Evidence For Simeticone.
But wait, there’s more!
In a 2017 paper, researchers at the University of Naples, Italy, released some more interesting findings about Simeticone.
176 babies were studied.
Babies in group A were given an extract of M. chamomilla L., M. officinalis L. and tyndallized L. acidophilus which is the mixture present in an Italian anti-colic product called Colimil Plus.
Babies in group B were given L Reuteri, which are a probiotic bacteria which are found in Gerber Soothe Colic Drops.
Babies in group C were given Simeticone.
As we can see here, the Simeticone was least effective. Only slightly more than half of the babies treated with Simeticone had positive results.
Colimil on the other hand performed outstanding, and the pro-biotics drops did very well also.
Simeticone: The Bottom Line.
- Some weak evidence suggests it may be helpful.
- Low cost. Cheapest of all remedies.
- Does not appear to be dangerous.
- Not well established scientifically.
You’ve probably heard a lot about these bugs in the news and at the store. They’re in yogurt, tempeh, kimchi and all manner of other fermented products.
In this particular case the specific bacteria we’re talking about are Lactobacillus reuteri.
Lactobacillus reuteri, or L. Reuteri for short, are the active ingredient in Gerber Soothe colic drops and a number of other pro-biotic gas relief products.
We did an extensive analysis of L Reuteri in our review of the Gerber Soothe drops HERE.
However, in another study conducted in 2016 by the Child Health Research Centre in Queensland, Australia, researchers found that L. Reuteri was an “effective treatment” for colic in infants and babies.
Interestingly enough fennel was also found to be effective. Which brings us to our final gas relief product:
3. Homepathic/Gripe Water.
There is a wide array of homepathic remedies for gas in infants and babies, but the most well known is gripe water.
Gripe water is an all natural, homeopathic gas treatment for babies.
It includes only two active ingredients: Ginger and Fennel.
In the same study we listed above out of the University of Queensland, researchers found that fennel was more effective at treating colic than simeticone or L.Reuteri!
Could the hippies be right? Well, yeah it looks like in this case they are.
In fact fennel was found to be 22% more effective at treating colic than Lactobacillus Reuteri.
Gas Relief For Babies: The Bottom Line.
Today we looked at Simeticone, Lactobacillus Reuteri (Pro-biotics) and Fennel Extract (Gripe Water).
While all three remedies showed some promise in scientific studies it was clearly the latter two that came out on top.
Gold Star goes to Gripe Water
Silver Star goes to Pro-Biotics.
Bronze Star goes to Simeticone.
What Are The Best Remedies For Constipation In Babies?
Constipation has fewer treatment options for babies than colic/gas.
When it comes to treating constipation at home for your child there are really only two options:
1. Prune Juice/Homeopathic.
This group is dominated by prune juice, which is a well known laxative.
Prunes are simply dried plums, and prune juice is just plum juice.
It’s the sorbitol in prune juice which acts as the laxative.
Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol. You may be familiar with it as it’s a common additive in all sorts of household products.
The important thing to note is that sorbitol acts as a laxative, but can also cause stomach discomfort, gas and bloating.
So, if your child is having gas issues, probably best not to use prune juice to relieve their constipation, as the gas is likely to get worse.
Otherwise, small amounts of prune juice are useful for treating mild constipation in children at home.
2. Glycerin Suppositories
Ouch! No one likes the idea of suppositories.
Glycerin suppositories can be purchase over the counter. They work by inducing the intestines to hold more water, thereby increasing the liquid content of your poop, and well, you can imagine the rest.
Glycerin suppositories are OTC but we highly suggest speaking with your pediatrician before using these for your child’s constipation.
There are a lot of side-effects to glycerin suppositories and some reactions can be serious.
They are also quite fast-acting and can be very uncomfortable for the user.
Constipation: The Bottom Line.
While prune juice may offer some good first line defense against very mild constipation at home, we suggest always speaking with your doctor first.
Constipation is more serious than gas and in some rare cases can even be a symptom of a greater problem.
Our suggestion is to talk to your pediatrician and go from there.