Gripe water or a colic relief remedy without dyes, fillers and preservatives. Does it exist?
As I was searching for an organic, clean, non-toxic colic remedy or gripe water, I was shocked at complete lack of descent products. I lead a very clean, organic lifestyle and I certainly did not want to compromise it for colic relief. I was very surprised at ingredients and how anyone could think they are safe for babies.
The study referenced found traces of some 232 synthetic chemicals in cord blood samples from 10 different babies of African American, Asian and Hispanic descent born in 2009 in different parts of the U.S.
The 2009 study was a follow-up to an earlier analysis of chemicals in cord blood in the mainstream U.S. population during 2004 births. That earlier study found some 287 different industrial chemicals and pollutants in babies’ cord blood, although BPA was not yet on EWG’s watch list at the time. (source)
“The dose makes the poison” is a statement I hear often. While it is true, when so simply stated, does a little bit of 232 chemicals is still OK? The studies out there look at one chemical in isolation, but there are no studies looking at combination of chemicals and how they react with each other in our bodies.
Some BPA from the baby bottle, a dash of phthalates from the fragranced lotion or dryer sheets, some parabens from the shampoo and baby wash, formaldehyde from off gassing furniture, lead and fluoride in drinking water and a sprinkle of flame retardants from that baby mattress/stroller/car seat. Sounds like a ticking time bomb to me.
And we are. We cannot ignore the epigenetics– changes in our gene expression. Environmental chemicals and toxins are a major factor in some genes expressing or being “turned on”. In other words, we are born with predispositions to an array of health conditions – kind of like a loaded gun; what factor will pull that trigger? And not just for “us” – epigenetics affects generations. Our children and their children will be affected by choices we make today. So let’s make the best choices we can.
A quick note: Before giving anything to the baby, do the taste test – taste it yourself to see if it is acceptable…
Ingredients of concern
Charcoal – According to one of the manufacturers of gripe waters, ingredient “Charcoal (vegetable carbon) used in homeopathic formulas is recommended “for adult use only” for a very short period of time. Side effects of charcoal include constipation and black stools. More serious, but rare, side effects are a slowing or blockage of the intestinal tract, regurgitation into the lungs and dehydration. Be cautious when combining with medicines. Activated charcoal absorbs substances in the stomach and intestines. Taking activated charcoal along with medications taken by mouth will decrease how much medicine your body absorbs, and decrease the effectiveness of your medication. ” RX List does confirm these concerns.
Glycerin – Can be, and is used as a sweetener. So sugar in plain English. In large amounts it can have a laxative effect; cause excessive urination and therefore dehydration… There are many forms of glycerin, vegetable, animal or synthetic that is made from propylene, a petroleum derivative.
Potassium Sorbate – “Potassium sorbate is clearly seen to be genotoxic to the human peripheral blood lymphocytes in vitro.” (source) and “These results demonstrate that ascorbic acid and Fe-salt oxidized potassium sorbate and the oxidative products caused mutagenicity and DNA-damaging activity.” (source) In other words, potassium sorbate mixed with ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C, caused mutagenicity and DNA damaging activity.
Sodium Benzoate – Chemical preservative that when combined with Vitamin C forms benzene. FDA has limits to how much sodium benzoate can be in a product. Linked to ADHD and hyperactivity disorders, increased asthma symptoms, even cancer. Read more about it here.
Sodium Bicarbonate – Baking soda. “The baking soda manufacturers state on the warning label on their product, “WARNING” – Except when advised by a physician: Do not use the maximum dosage of this product for more than 2 weeks; Do not give to children under 5 years of age;” It is important to note when a baby is colicky and/or gassy, it does not mean that the baby has an acidic stomach – it may very well be an alkaline stomach. Introducing sodium bicarbonate (an alkaline) into the baby’s diet over a period of days or weeks can cause the pH in the baby’s stomach to become too alkaline and may actually cause the baby to have a colicky condition again. Sodium bicarbonate has been shown to deplete and interfere with Folic Acid and Iron, indicating that it may affect the function or absorption of the two.” (per Colic Ease)
Natural Flavors – During a very brief googling session my suspicions were confirmed, that natural flavors are not much better than artificial flavors. The main difference is that they came from a natural source – sounds good but it is not. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean the “natural flavors” in your blueberry granola bar are simply crushed-up blueberries. Rather, they probably consist of a chemical originally found in blueberries, enhanced and added into your food in a lab. Artificial flavors, on the other hand, are usually entirely human made, as opposed to being derived from a natural source.” And “”The differentiation is really down to the origin of those molecules, whether synthetically processed in a lab or purified in a lab but from a natural source,” Andrews says. Here’s where it gets even muddier: Added flavoring, both natural and artificial, could contain anywhere from 50 to 100 ingredients. And all of the extra ingredients in flavors often aren’t as innocent as you’d hope they would be. “The mixture will often have some solvent and preservatives — and that makes up 80 to 90 percent of the volume [of the flavoring]. In the end product, it’s a small amount, but it still has artificial ingredients,” Andrews says. Ultimately, the difference between natural and artificial flavors often comes down to miniscule distinctions. “Most often, as far as I could find, the actual chemicals themselves could be identical or extremely close in terms of natural versus artificial.” (a great article with more info)
Citric Acid and/or Sodium Citrate and/or Xantum Gum – these are hidden sources of genetically modified ingredients. For some brands I looked into if a particular ingredient IS of a genetically modified source, for some I did not.
Review of ingredients in commercially available colic relief remedies and gripe waters
Ingredients of concern to me are in bold
Active Ingredients: Aloe Socotrina, Carbo Vegetabilis, Carum Carvi, Chamomilla, Foeniculum Vulgare, Melissa Officinalis, Mentha Piperita, Prunus Spinosa, Zingiber Officinale.
Inactive Ingrediets: Citric Acid, Glycerin, Potassium Benzoate, Potassium Citrate, Potassium Sorbate, Purified Water, Xylitol
Active Ingredients: Chamomilla, Colocynthis, Dioscorea
Inactive Ingredients: Acacia Gum, Lactose N.F.
Notes: Some parents were saying these tablets do not dissolve as quickly as advertised. And some say they do not fully dissolve at all, posing a chocking hazard. Read more about Acacia Gum and Lactose N.F. Lactose N.F is a milk sugar and if your child is reacting to dairy, this may not be the best choice…
Active Ingredients: Argentum Nitricum, Asafoetida, Carbo Vegetabilis, Chamomilla, Cinchona Officinalis, Colocynthis, Lycopodium, Nux Moschata, Sepia
Inactive Ingredients: Citric Acid, Hydroxyethyl Cellulose, Grape Flavor (natural), Potassium Sorbate, Purified Water, Sodium Citrate, Vegetable Glycerin
Notes: Sodium Citrate and Citric Acid are supposedly non-GMO
Active Ingredients: Organic Ginger Extract, Organic Fennel Extract
Inactive Ingredients: Deionized Water, Vegetable Glycerin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Citrus Bioflavonoid Extract, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Natural Fennel Flavor
Notes: This is the best selling gripe water. I decided against it because of the sodium bicarbonate or baking soda in the ingredients as well as the daily 90mg serving of that baking soda per day (if given all 6 doses)… The manufacturer states none of the ingredients are derived from GMO crops.
Active Ingredients: Foeniculum Vulgare, Matricaria recutita L, Melissa Officinalis L
Other Ingredients: Purified Water, Agave Syrup, Glycerin, Natural Ginger Flavor, Citric Acid, Potassium Benzoate, Xanthan Gum.
Active Ingredients: Simethicone
Inactive ingredients: Carmellose Sodium (and) Microcrystalline Cellulose, Citric Acid, Natural Strawberry Flavor, Propylene Glycol, Purified Water, Sodium Benzoate, Sucralose, Xanthan Gum.
Active Ingredients: Ginger Extract, Fennel Extract
Other ingredients: Purified Water, Sugar, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Flavor, Sodium Citrate, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Xanthan Gum, Disodium EDTA.
Ingrediets: Anethum Graveolans Oil, Sarjikakshara
Other Ingredients: Sugar, Aqua. Preservatives: Bronopol, Sodium Methylparaben, Sodium Propylparaben, Sodium Benzoate.
Notes: Quite possibly the worst out there – sodium methylparaben? Sodium propylparaben… Everyone knows at this point that giving parabens to a newborn is not the wisest idea. Parabens mimic estrogen hormone in the human body. Please do not give something like this to a young child. In addition, I do not see it on the label but official description states it also contains Sodium Bicarbonate.
Ingredients: Dill Weed Seed Oil, Caraway Seed Oil, Cinnamon Bark Oil, Clove Bud Oil, Clove Bud Oil, Cardamom Seed Oil
Other Ingredients: Deionised Water, Fructose, Polysorbate 80, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate.
Notes: Plysorbate 80 has a MSDS sheet. “May cause adverse reproductive effects based on animal test data. No human data found. May cause cancer based on animal test data. No human data found. May affect genetic material (mutagenic)”
Active Ingredients: Simethicone
Inactive Ingredients: Carboxymethylcellulose sodium, Citric Acid, Flavor, Maltitol, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Purified Water, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Citrate, Xantum Gum
Active Ingredients: Simethicone
Inactive Ingredients: Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium, Citric Acid, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Natural Flavors, Polysorbate 60, Potassium Sorbate, Purified Water, Sodium Benzoate, Sorbitan Monostearate, Sorbitol, Xanthan Gum
Organic Chamomile, Organic Ginger Extract, Organic Fennel Extract
Other Ingreditents: Filtered Water, Organic Agave Fructose, Organic Pomegranate Juice Concentrate (for flavor), Organic Glycerin, Citric Acid, Sodium Bicarbonate.
Notes: I do like the USDA organic label, the glass bottle, but there are more than a few complaints and pictures of mold growing inside bottles. This supplement needs to be refrigerated and even then some still got mold. Problem with mold is that once you actually see it, it has been there for a little while. So you may be giving developing mold spores to your newborn and not knowing it. Sadly, if there are no preservatives, mold can be an issue. This gripe water also contains sugar and Sodium Bicarbonate or baking soda, so I chose against it. All non-GMO ingredients.
Better Commercially available colic remedies
Active Ingredients: Organic Chamomile, Organic Ginger, Organic Fennel, Organic Peppermint
Inactive Ingredients: Deionized Waer, Vegetable Glycerine, Organic Agave Syrup, NutraLast (Proprietary Blend of Citrus Bioflavanoid, Grapefruit Seed and Garlic Extracts), Natural Fennel Flavor, Citric Acid.
Notes: I spoke with the company and they advised the Gripe water is GMO free. I do not love the sugar and natural flavor but otherwise the ingredients look good. With maximum 6 doses daily, a newborn stands to consume 6g of sugar in a 24 hour period. 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon of sugar. Buy here.
Boiron Cocyntal Colic Relief – the cleanest remedy I was able to find
Active Ingredients: Carbo Vegetabilis, Colocynthis, Cuprum Metallicum.
Inactive Ingredients: Purified Water.
Notes: This is the cleanest, most “organic” colic relief or gripe water I could find. Homeopatihic, minimal safe ingredients, reputable company. Each dose is separately packaged and is very easy to use. For us, we gave two doses the first night and then one nightly dose and my daughter seemed much calmer.
The official directions are “Children 1 month of age and older: Snap off one single-use dose. Twist to open. Squeeze entire contents into mouth. Repeat, as needed, every 15 minutes for 2 more doses. For best results, administer before meals.” I called the company and asked if this medicine can be given to children under 1 month and they said to ask the pediatrician, however, there is nothing in this remedy that should not be given to a baby younger than 1 month old. My pediatrician had no problems with using Cocyntal with my 2-3 week old daughter. Give your pediatrician a quick call.
2018 UPDATE: Years have passed since the writing of this post. I still recommend Boiron Cocyntal to moms struggling with colicky babies. The feedback has been fantastic from these moms.
Notes: While I think NoseFrida is an amazing invention and truly one of my top gifts at baby showers (I like to be practical), I do not know what to think of the Windi… It is a contraption that you insert into the baby’s anus to help let the gas out. There are mixed reviews with roughly 69% being five stars. Personally I decided against it.
2018 Update: NoseFrida is amazing, even with a two year old toddler. Lasts for years. I periodically soak mine in water and vinegar mixture to disinfect but otherwise works great.
Notes: Microwavable band that provides heat to baby’s belly to relieve discomfort. Microwaves have different wattages so 30 seconds for some is OK but not for a high wattage setting.. And some report minor burns on baby skin. When you are tired, overwhelmed and extremely sleep deprived, even the most careful parent can press 3 minutes instead of 30 seconds on the microwave or underestimate the heat of the belt; the inner wrist test is not as sufficient as one might think. I would probably avoid this product or be very, very careful with it.
Natural alternative colic remedies
Pediatric Chiropractor – Try to find someone that specializes in kids. We have had great success with our Chiropractor and not just for colic. Being born is serious business and a very gentle adjustment can do a lot of good. In addition, our chiropractor was able to stop a developing ear infection in its tracks with lymphatic drainage. The adjustments are very gentle – usually a mild pressure on specific points. Look for a pediatric chiropractor here.
Probiotic – A good infant probiotic is a must. For all babies, not just colicky babies. Rotating probiotics is also a good idea to add diversity of good bacteria to the gut. Once you run out of the brand you choose, try another brand and so forth… Take some yourself too – it is good for all, baby and mommy. For all probiotics, choose the optional ice-pack. Good probiotics are not stable in warm weather and should be refrigerated.
- Kaire Labs. A good, reputable, practitioner grade company. You do need a practitioner code to purchase – either ask your chiropractor to “apply” or google for a practitioner code. After a few non-working codes, many find one that works and are able to purchase direct. It ships with an ice pack and has to be refrigerated.
- Seeking Health is another good, practitioner grade brand.
- GutPro infant probiotic is a great brand and may fit an extra sensitive infant the best. It is free of lactic-acid producing bacteria. But it is on the pricier side.
Lactation Consultant – Sometimes we need help. After breastfeeding my son for 15 months, I thought I was a professional but with my daughter I ended seeing a lactation consultant 5-6 times for questions and issues. A good professional can help with tongue/lip ties and so forth. Try locating a local La Leche and ask them to direct you to a IBLCE certified lactation consultant. Or look for a breastfeeding support group near you. I attended a local group and made some great friends!
Baby Carrier – my daughter was very comfortable in the organic Ergo baby carrier and the organic infant insert. Be sure to get the organic cotton teething pads. We were able to actually leave the house and there were days when I would only take her out to change her. She would hang out, eat and sleep close to me. Not all carriers are made the same – a baby should be facing inward with legs in a ‘frog like’ position. A local Babywearing International chapter is a great resource for trying on different carriers and seeing what fits your preferences the best. I chose Ergo as it was the only organic cotton option with proper hip placement.
Elevate baby mattress – Try elevating one end of the baby mattress by placing a rolled up towel or two under one end. Sometimes the elevation and the angle helps…
Bicycle exercises – Lay baby on his/her back and move the legs in a bicycle motion. This is descent video.
Swing – At one point of time, I was a proud owner of 6 swings/bouncers ranging from a $60 to $360 in individual cost… None worked except one. This one. Turn it on 4 and watch that baby relax… They stopped making the swing I had – the reason I link to THIS particular one, is because the soft part of the swing can be taken off and replaced with a more ‘organic’ option. I do not know if this cover contains flame retardants… Another point is possible EMF concern; I used the swing because I was not aware of it at the time.
White Noise Machine – A white noise machine worked for my son but did not work for my daughter. This one gets a lot of good reviews but we used a free IPhone app. Make sure to turn that phone on airplane mode to eliminate EMF exposure!
Homemade colic tea – A breastfeeding mother can drink organic Fennel Tea. Some research suggests that fennel tea may help reduce colicky symptoms.
Diet Changes – Watch your diet and try to see if baby is more fussy after a certain food. Dairy and wheat tend to be major culprits but it could be anything. If you suspect a particular food, or food in general, see a NAET practitioner to see if they can narrow it down.
Tummy sleeping – Both my children felt much better and my daughter actually slept when laying on her tummy. Yup, on her tummy under supervision and sometimes by herself. It is very scary but it worked. A pediatrician once told me – there is no animal in nature that sleeps on their back. All animals sleep on their tummies. I can’t argue with that. However, it is worth mentioning, tummy sleeping may not be for premature babies, weak babies or babies with any health conditions. A bare crib with baby alone should be fine.
What worked for me…
For me and probably for most it is a combination of things. Boiron Cocyntal helped tremendously. My daughters tense tummy became soft and she seemed much more relaxed. She went from a constantly stiff demeanor to a relaxed, cooing baby. And mama was happy too since I did not have to compromise my organic lifestyle and was able to find a clean, ‘organic’ colic relief/gripe water with no extra or toxic ingredients.
We used Klaire Labs probiotic and then rotated to GutPro daily. Went to see a chiropractor monthly and the organic Ergo baby carrier with the infant insert were permanently attached to me from early morning to late at night. My daughter and my son both felt much better being upright, even though they did not have reflux. Being close to mama’s heartbeat is very comforting for a newborn so that alone can take the edge off. The bicycle exercises may or may not have helped but they certainly did not hurt. And the swing allowed for a 1.5 – 2 hour sleep breaks at night.
I alternated between the swing and safe co-sleeping. Midnight to about 4am was the roughest part of the night so I breastfed and rocked my baby to sleep and placed her in the swing. The motion kept her asleep for short periods of time so I got 1.5hr breaks. Starting at 4am my daughter was more inclined to sleep so I would breastfeed her right in my own bed until she fell asleep, then I would gently move away and sleep.
I also drank organic Fennel tea. I cannot say it really helped but it may have. I also gave a teaspoon several times a day to my daughter, with a slight change in symptoms but I am sad to say it was not as a dramatic of a change as with Boiron Cocyntal.
No two babies are the same, try different things and see what works for you. But remember, this too shall pass…
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