Review spotlights gaps in pain relief research for children

By Olivia Brown

- Last updated on GMT

Getty Images / skynesher
Getty Images / skynesher

Related tags Pain Inflammation Nutrition

A new literature review has underlined the nutraceuticals with potential to provide natural pain relief for abdominal conditions in children, stressing the need for further research into potential products of interest.

The ‘Nutrients’ published findings observed significant improvements in abdominal pain symptoms following supplementation of fennel, peppermint, Lactobacillus reuteri​ DSM 17938, and Bifidobacterium lactis​ BB-12 in infants.

Fibres from psyllium, corn, and partially hydrolysed guar gum, as well as vitamin D supplementation, also demonstrated efficacy in abdominal pain relief in children and adolescents.

Despite the positive findings with some nutraceuticals, the Italian researchers highlighted the lack of research into nutraceuticals for pain relief, and urged for further research to be conducted.

“Further large and well-designed paediatric studies are needed to prove the efficacy and safety of different herbal extracts and prolonged use of studied products in infants and children with pain disorders of the gut–brain interaction," they urged.

Nutraceuticals for pain relief

Functional abdominal pain (FAP) disorders of the gut-brain are increasingly present in both adults and children, including irritable bowel syndrome and infantile colic. Such conditions are known to affect over 20% of infants and children globally, resulting in significant implications for quality of life and the risk of developing long-term adversities.

The use of plant and herb compounds for the relief of pain have been long used as part of traditional health remedies in the past and the effectiveness of nutraceuticals for pain relief has been increasingly investigated.

There have been several in vitro and in vivo studies reporting the potential of such nutraceuticals and their efficacy on targeting areas such as gastrointestinal smooth muscle, inflammation, and gut permeability. Yet, there is still limited research validating the scientific backing.

Thus, the researchers conducted the present review to summarise the current evidence on the effectiveness of nutraceuticals on abdominal pain disorders in infants and children.

Efficacious ingredients

The researchers utilised an array of key words and selection criteria to obtain the included studies, using the Medline-PuMed database.

The available studies investigating the efficacy and tolerance of herbs, spices, and nutritional supplements in children was found to be very low, whilst nutraceuticals were noted to be used often by parents to treat abdominal pain disorders.

Significant reductions in colic episodes and crying time were observed in five studies involving the administration of fennel via seeds, oil, or tea, or herb extract.

Such findings were also reported in a study investigating Mentha piperita, ​also known as peppermint. One in children with functional abdominal pain or IBS noted significant pain reductions following supplementation with peppermint oil capsules.

Pain reductions in children were observed following intakes of corn fibre, partial hydrolyzed guar gum, a specific multiple herbal extract (STW-5), and vitamin D supplements.

The researchers observed ‘moderate-certainty’ evidence for the recommendation of Lactobacillus reuteri​ DSM 17938 (108​ CFU/day) in reducing pain intensity in children with functional abdominal pain and for Lactobacillus rhamnosus​ GG (1–3 × 109​ CFU twice daily) in reducing pain frequency and intensity in children with IBS.

Despite the positive findings for these ingredients, the researchers stressed there is a very limited number of studies assessing the efficacy and tolerance of herbs, spices, and nutritional supplements in children with infantile colic and abdominal pain and “no recommendation can currently be provided for other nutraceuticals".

They urged for further research to overcome weaknesses related to small sample sizes and heterogeneity in recruited populations of the included studies.




Source: Nutrients


“Nutraceuticals and Pain Disorders of the Gut–Brain Interaction in Infants and Children: A Narrative Review and Practical Insights”

Authors: Silvia Salvatore et al.

Related topics Research Maternal & infant health

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