Is a Stomach Bacteria the Cause of Baby Colic?

Learn about a study that finds a bacteria in the gut as the culprit behind baby colic. Is this a new breakthrough or just another empty theory for this frustrating condition? House Call Doctor explains

Sanaz Majd, MD
4-minute read
Episode #100

Is a Stomach Bacteria the Cause of Baby Colic?If you’ve ever taken care of a crying baby, you know how miserable it can be when you can’t seem to console this bundle of love and what’s-supposed-to-be joy. Now, imagine those moments amplified times ten, and prolonged for hours on end…every day…for weeks or months. This is what parents of babies with colic experience. 

What’s even more frustrating is that doctors don’t really know the cause of colic. Is it a change in environment from the womb to a new world over-filled with stimulation? Is it a reaction to mother’s milk? Is it acid reflux? We don’t really know. We just know that about 20% of all babies get it and they eventually grow out of it.

But recently, a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine gained a bit of media attention. The study found a possible link between stomach bacteria and babies with colic. Let’s research this together and find out what this means for us parents living in near-insanity.

How Was the Study Performed?

For us science-minded folks, the details of how the study was carried out are important in order to learn how valid the results of the study actually are.

The study was performed by a physician practicing in a local rural hospital in Saudi Arabia. He took 55 colicky babies between the ages of 2 weeks and 4 months (the colicky phase) and 30 non-colicky babies (this is called the “control” group) who were “matched” by ethnicity, country of origin, sex, and age. In a study like this, it’s important to find “matched” babies to compare these colicky babies to because otherwise one could argue that those babies are just colicky because of their ethnicity, or sex, or age, or some other variable.

To meet the official criteria for colic, a baby has to cry for at least 3 hours a day, 3 days a week, for 3 or more weeks in a row. Imagine that!

The doctors who performed the study tested the stools of each of the babies for the presence of “Helicobacter Pylori” (or H. Pylori) bacteria. They found that 45 of those 55 colicky babies (almost 82%) and 7 of those healthy, non-colicky babies (about 23%) had H. Pylori in their gut, which is a notable difference.


Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education.