What is Colic and Can Chiropractic Ease My Baby’s Symptoms?

By on Feb 28, 2017 in Infant Chiropractic, Michelle's Blog

32555059 - newborn baby girl crying loudly.

Your little bundle of joy isn’t acting so joyful lately. In fact, for weeks now, she will suddenly start screaming her head off, clenching her fists, tensing her tummy and flexing her legs. This continues for hours and hours for what seems like no reason whatsoever and nothing you do seems to console her. New mom, you’ve probably just witnessed the common infant condition known as colic.

If it makes you feel better to know this, colic and these symptoms are very common in newborns. About 60 percent of infants suffer from it. Parents suffer too because many feel helpless, unable to find relief for their baby.

Colic typically starts at three weeks of age and can last for several months or longer. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, it can stop, or it can taper off until it completely stops. But don’t wait until that happens. There’s relief for your baby and you now.


What Causes Colic?

So let’s talk about what colic is and isn’t and what causes it. Colic is a symptom, not a disease; but a symptom of what is the question. Health care practitioners have many theories for what causes colic. Some say it’s gas or air swallowed during feeding or crying; others see it as some gastrointestinal discomfort due to something in mom’s diet, food allergens in breast milk, lactose intolerance, changes in the normal bacteria in the digestive system, a digestive system that hasn’t fully developed, or sensory overload … and the list goes on.


 A Chiropractic Perspective

The chiropractic community considers the digestive and elimination systems when working with colicky babies. These systems are controlled by our central nervous system. If the spine is healthy, your baby has a good chance of being healthy. Chiropractors also consider a link between colic and minor misalignments of vertebra in a baby’s spine caused by physical stress on the baby during birth. The immature and sensitive digestive systems of infants may also be a contributing factor.


Vertebra Misalignments

Misalignments in the vertebra in the spine can interfere with nerve impulses responsible for proper GI functioning. Messages from those nerve impulses can affect an infant’s muscles, tissues, and organs.

One such nerve located at the base of a baby’s skull called the vagus nerve supports the functioning of the GI tract. If there’s a misalignment of the vertebra near that nerve, it can put pressure on that nerve. A chiropractor can apply a gentle manipulation to correct for the spinal misalignment and release that pressure.

Constipation is another imbalance that may be caused by vertebra misalignment.  Chiropractic adjustments have been reported to improve bowel functions and regular bowel movements.

Parents report seeing changes in their baby shortly after a treatment: better sleep, more alert, slower eating, easier burping, reduced spitting up, and no crying from having gas.


Undeveloped Digestion

Baby’s young upper digestive systems haven’t learned to completely coordinate with their central nervous system. Their gastrointestinal system is brand new so digesting food can be a big job for their intestines. Food can pass through too quickly through their system and not break down completely. This often results in pain from gas.

Another possibility for discomfort can be caused by an imbalance of healthy intestinal bacteria. Probiotics can improve their intestinal health, correct the bacteria imbalance and enhance digestion.  A particular strain clinically shown to reduce the crying time of colicky infants by 50 percent is L. Reuteri.  Always check with baby’s health practitioner before starting any supplements.


Triggered by Acid Reflux or Silent Acid Reflux

Colic can sometimes be triggered by infant acid reflux, GER, or GERD. With infant acid reflux the underdeveloped lower esophageal sphincter muscle can let stomach acid flow back up into the throat and mouth, irritating baby’s esophagus, just as it does in adults.

With infants, the symptoms can cause frequent spitting up, poor eating, and irritability during and after feedings. Most babies usually outgrow reflux by age 1 and colic usually goes away long before then, but why let them suffer with it? If addressed early, reflux and baby’s pain and discomfort can stop quickly.


Symptoms of a Food Allergy

Baby’s colic may be the result of food allergies or food sensitivities. It could be an allergy to milk protein or an intolerance to lactose. Or, colic may be a reaction to specific foods in Mom’s diet if you’re breastfeeding. These allergies or sensitivities can cause baby’s stomach pain that may be setting off the colicky behavior.

What can you do? Watch what you eat. Temporarily eliminate any foods from your diet that can cause gas. Gas-producing foods include cabbage, cauliflower, citrus fruits, dairy, soy, wheat, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, coffee, and fish. But it could be something else in your diet. Experiment by eliminating one suspect food item at a time.

If your baby is on baby food, read the labels to see if any potential allergens are there.


Clinical Studies

In a review of chiropractic care of patients with infantile colic, the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association found 26 articles showing that chiropractic care is “a viable alternative to the care of infantile colic and congruent with evidence-based practice …” These articles reported on clinical trials, survey studies, case reports, peer studies, commentaries, and literature reviews.

A three-month study involved 73 chiropractors in 50 clinics of 316 infants suffering from infantile colic showed positive results from spinal manipulative therapy in 94 percent of the cases. The results occurred within two weeks and after an average of three treatments.


Natural Remedies for Colic to Try at Home

  • Smaller, more frequent feedings
  • Modify your own diet
  • Use proper feeding positions
  • Breastfeeding moms, remove potential allergens from your diet
  • A warm towel or hot water bottle placed over the clothing on the abdomen can assist gas movement and reduce heartburn
  • Sing to your baby, play repetitious sounds or use background noise like a fan or humidifier
  • Use soothing, repetitive motion like a rocking chair, vibrating device, or a moving car
  • Pump the legs of your infant bicycle-style or make small circles on the abdomen following the digestive tract
  • If you suspect silent acid reflux or acid reflux may be contributing, try elevating the baby while sleeping
  • Hold baby upright for at least 30 minutes after eating


Schedule a Visit

Call the office of Dr. Michelle Parker at The Chiropractic Place For Mommy & Me today to set up an appointment for your colicky baby. Dr. Parker has special training as a pediatric chiropractor certified through the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association and is the only chiropractor with this certification in Parker County.  She is located in Aledo, Texas in East Parker County. Dr. Parker serves moms and their children in Tarrant, Parker, Erath, Palo Pinto, Hood, Wise, Denton, Dallas and Johnson counties.