Infant(Ile) Colic

Volume: 7
Issue: 10
October 15, 2012
Infant(Ile) Colic

Dear Colleagues:

This month I would like to discuss the problem of the “fussy baby”. I use the term “fussy” because a spectrum exists between the newborn infant who simply fusses after being fed, to the full-blown, inconsolable, little screamer, who keeps the family up all night. These ones we identify as “infant(ile) colic” and some of these arrive at the Emergency Department during the middle of the night. I suspect that most physicians feel as helpless and upset as the poor parents.

Fortunately most cases of infant colic seem to settle spontaneously after three months of age. However they can be a hard three months for the parents, not to mention the baby, to endure. Some studies report that up to 30% of infants are affected.

Despite its prevalence, no consensus yet exists as to its etiology or pathogenesis. Theories on offer include food hypersensitivity/allergy, gut dysmotility, psycho-social factors, gut dysbiosis and genetic factorsOne recent paper reported that infant colic is more common in children whose mothers have migraine.  Another reports an association with helicobacter pylori in the infant.

Non-mainstream medicine has been more pro-active. Chiropractors sometimes offer spinal manipulation as treatment for infant colic. I have heard occasional good reports from patients about this treatment, but recent meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials found no evidence or weak evidence of its efficacy.  Treatment of infant colic by cranial manipulation has long been offered by the osteopathic profession, though again little solid “evidence” is available to support its value.  (In my opinion, manual therapies do not lend themselves to controlled studies and will therefore never be evidence based.)  A section in the “foundations of Osteopathic Medicine” (p. 322 of the 2nd edition, 2003) describes the various lesions associated with infant colic and methods to treat them.  The rationale of cranial manipulation in this situation is to correct irritation of the accessory, glossopharyngeal and/or vagus nerves.

The idea of manually “moulding” the cranium of new-borns is part of certain folk traditions e.g. Haiti and Pakistan. Presumably the purpose of moulding in these circumstances is esthetic, but perhaps practitioners have also noticed improvements in infants’ well-being.

The possibility that babies are reacting to certain foods, either consumed by the mother and affecting breast milk, or in formulas, has been entertained by both conventional and non-mainstream physicians. Dairy products top the list of likely triggers. The physician who has learned autonomic response testing has a distinct advantage in quickly and efficiently identifying the offending food(s).

The technique requires an intermediary (ideally the mother) connecting energetically with the baby by placing one hand on the baby’s body. Her free arm is extended horizontally and the physician tests her strength by pressing it downward. The physician then positions the palm of his/her hand over the baby’s umbilicus (as in Chapter 4 of my book).  Retesting the mother’s strength will probably reveal no change in a colicky baby.  Specimens of likely food allergens are then placed on or near the baby.  The mother’s arm strength is retested, and if there is a change, the baby is sensitive to that food.  

A small but significant part of my practice has for over 20 years consisted of treating colicky babies. The vast majority responds to cranial manipulation (often immediately) or to eliminating the offending food or foods from the mother’s diet, or from the baby’s formula. These babies and their parents are very satisfying patients to treat.

However in the last year, I have discovered another cause of infant colic that can be treated with neural therapy, namely the umbilicus. (For more information on umbilical interference fields see newsletter Vol. 1, No. 4, 2006.)  Interestingly, the umbilical interference field is at least some of the time associated with a history of fetal cord compression.  This makes sense to me, as scar interference fields often develop under circumstances of emotional, or some other stress.  I would think that cord compression is an extremely stressful event for a little one struggling to enter this world.

Autonomic response testing is performed through an intermediary as described above. The difference is that rather than stimulating the umbilicus with the palm of the hand, the physician simply touches the umbilicus with an index finger. If the intermediary’s (mother’s) arm goes weak, an interference field is present.

Treatment is injection of a few quaddles of dilute procaine in a circle around the umbilicus. Alternatively, a Tenscam device can be used. It goes without saying the Tenscam is the preferred method in young children.

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