Infantile Colic

Crying baby

Of all the health challenges that seem to plague infants, this is probably the one that causes the most upset with parents.  Imagine feeding your child, when all of a sudden he/she begins screaming at the top of their lungs, arms curling in, legs drawing up, with what seems like agonizing pain.  All the common remedies associated with “over-the-fence” and grand motherly advice seem to be of no avail.  Colic and ear infections are the two that tug at mothers’ and fathers’ heart strings more than any other condition you will see.

Most text books describing colic mention that it usually happens in the evening hours.  I have not found that to be the case.  I found that it tends to occur at any time of the day and seems to have no rhyme or reason.  Colic, it seems, tends to start sometime in infancy, around the first two weeks of life, and persists for a number of months.

For those who are not familiar with infantile colic, and have never has the pleasure of dealing with a child who is so afflicted, you have no idea how devastating it can be on parents’ nerves.  Why?  I’ll tell you.  It is characterized by constant crying, screaming, whining, pain in the stomach area, and acute irritability.  (This is not cute irritability, this acute irritability…big difference between the two).  The spells of crying can last for hours and parents’ nerves are shot at the end of such spells.  This type of crying leads to aerophagia, which means swallowing air.  This then causes distention or enlargement of the bowels which then creates more pain which creates more crying which creates more air swallowed which then becomes a cycle.  Colic is also characterized by passing an exorbitant amount of gas and abdominal distention, which simply means the stomach area is enlarged and bloated (this gas thing can be embarrassing when in public).  As well, the infant does not appear to be ill, is gaining weight, and has a good appetite.  If any of those are absent, then the incessant crying can be caused by a problem different from colic.

There have been many theories people have used in the past to attempt to explain what colic really is and why it occurs.  Some authorities have blamed lactose intolerance, some felt it is caused by stress of the parents, stress of the baby, abnormal gallbladder function, higher levels of intestinal hormones, allergic reactions, digestive hormone instability, etc.

One of the biggest concerns of a child having colic is that there is a potential for possible child abuse.  To be frank, try to imagine a child screaming for hours nonstop.  I find that this will sometimes get on parents’ nerves and on occasion we see a condition which is called “the shaken baby syndrome”.  This is a condition whereby the baby is literally shaken by the parents to somehow stop him/her from crying.  This only takes place when mom and dad are at the very ends of their wits.  But, there is no excuse for this behavior.  Shaking an infant can cause irreparable damage to a baby and even death.  I am not suggesting that this is a huge problem, but there is potential for abuse of an infant who happens to be colicky.  If you do ever feel that you as a parent are close to “losing it”, remember that there is a reason this takes place.

In my experience in dealing with children and babies, I found that often a vertebral subluxation in the spine affecting the way the nervous system controls bowel functions is usually the cause of colic.  Any chiropractor involved in seeing children will attest to this fact.  You must understand that the digestive system is essentially a long tube and is made of muscle walls, which are under the direct control of the nervous system.  I find that vertebral subluxation will reduce the amount of information flowing from the brain to the large intestine in the case of colic – thereby reducing the normal function and motility of the large intestine.  This causes food to “stick around” I the large intestine longer than it should, and it tends to produce gas.  This gas causes distention of the intestinal wall, causing pain and crying.  The cry of the baby is really for help.

Children who are affected by colic generally show a wonderful response in the hands of a chiropractor.  Most often I find results within the first week of care, but the care must be directed at the correction of the subluxation which is at the root of the problem, not simply giving the child mere relief.