All babies are born with a sterile gut with probiotics, a class of microorganisms containing bacteria and yeasts. These are naturally introduced to a baby’s gut via the birth method, breast milk, or formula, and later through food. Since children need a healthy balance of bacteria, probiotics support food digestion, immune function, and nutrient extraction from food.
They are popular and effective supplements with proven benefits for children with acute diarrhea.
If you are still unsure about giving probiotics to children, this article looks at five things you should know about probiotics for kids.
1. Benefits of probiotics
Researchers are still studying the benefits of probiotics and how they work. Still, most reports suggest that probiotics help children with digestive issues like constipation, infectious diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Probiotics for immunity are the best way to set your child up for adulthood success. With 70% of the immune system located in the gut, you can support your child’s immunity with probiotics. The supplements help an immune system respond to threats appropriately and protect the gut cells. They also support a healthy gut to ensure good nutrient absorption.
Probiotics can reduce the incidence and duration of upper respiratory tract infections. They can also prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea in children. For example, they shorten the bout of diarrhea in children who catch an infection by one day.
Current research has shown a link between gut bacteria and broad health aspects like obesity. Probiotics also positively impact the gut microbiome, helping to maintain the balance of pro and anti-inflammatory bacteria. They prevent harmful bacteria from settling in the gut and blocking toxin production.
2. Choosing the right probiotic for the right reasons
When choosing an effective probiotic, there are a few factors to consider. A good starting point is to select high-quality supplements containing strains that support your child’s unique needs. There are different probiotics for toddlers. Gut bacteria species are probiotics critical to human health. It has identified beneficial properties like bifidobacterium lactis, lactobacillus acidophilus, and lactobacillus paracasei species. The human body needs a balance between these species for optimal health.
Each species has different strains that are useful in establishing a healthy gut bacteria environment. For example, lactobacillus rhamnosus has been shown to help with diarrhea, while Saccharomyces boulardii can also help children with infectious diarrhea.
If a child is four weeks, use a supplement with a dairy-free powder formula containing Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07. It reflects the natural composition of bacteria in a newborn baby’s gut. Once the weaning starts, use a supplement with a powder formula containing bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 and Lactobacillus acidophilus. This probiotic reflects the bacterial decomposition found in the baby’s gut once they are exposed to solid food.
The composition of bacteria changes as the baby grows. A young baby’s gut is predominantly made of bifidobacterium species of bacteria. Hence, the probiotic supplement should reflect these bacteria species.
The bacterial composition in the baby’s gut changes to include a wide variety of species and strains as they grow up and wean onto solid food. At this point, provide a multi-strain probiotic supplement that includes bifidobacterium and lactobacillus acidophilus species to support a healthy balance of gut microflora.
3. Should your child take a probiotic?
Probiotics are non-pathogenic microorganisms that positively impact the child’s health. The widely available nutritional supplements have many health benefits. Your child doesn’t need to take a probiotic unless a pediatrician recommends it. If your child is fit and healthy, you may not need probiotics.
However, doctors recommend giving your child probiotics to balance the gut microbiome. Low-fiber diet and antibiotics can impact a microbiome composition and reduce levels of friendly bacteria. Giving your children probiotics is easy to ensure they have extra support needed to support gut health.
You can find probiotics in natural foods, including yogurt. They are also popping up in functional products and supplements. Pediatricians recommend probiotic foods to feed the microbiome found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A nutrient-dense diet with plenty of whole foods is a great way to support a robust immune system.
Probiotic supplements are unique for every child. When buying probiotics, always check the label to see what is included in the product. Some probiotic formulations have extra ingredients that can be harmful. Any probiotic supplement you buy for your child should be third-party verified. Always consult your child’s pediatrician before deciding on probiotics.
4. Are probiotic supplements safe?
Yes, probiotics and considered safe for healthy toddlers and even infants. They are a safe and well-tolerated supplement for healthy infants and children. Good tolerance is also observed in premature infants and low birth weight babies.
Probiotics are found in supplement form as drops, gummies, or foods. They have a history of safe use, particularly in healthy people. For example, children may prefer to take probiotics as a chewy gummy containing a friendly bacteria strain.
Choose a non-pathogenic, non-toxic, and probiotic free of significant side effects. It should show a beneficial effect and survive through the gastrointestinal tract. A quality probiotic is stable for the intended product’s shelf life.
The risk of harmful probiotic effects is more significant in children with severe illness or compromised immune systems. If the child experiences side effects like constipation or diarrhea, stop the probiotics and see if the symptoms disappear. You can then consult your child’s pediatric doctor if symptoms persist.
5. When should children take probiotics?
Probiotics can help manage allergies and relieve eczema symptoms. They can also help reduce the frequency and duration of diarrhea in children. Pediatricians recommend children take probiotics whenever they’re on antibiotics. This is because antibiotics can eliminate many friendly and harmful bacteria, leading to microbial imbalance.
Breast milk contains the mother’s probiotics that encourage healthy bacteria growth. Once the child grows, encourage a healthy diet comprising unprocessed foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables to promote better gut health.
There’s a difference between consuming probiotic-rich foods and taking probiotic supplements. The supplements have higher prices than what you’ll find in naturally-occurring food. However, there is no recommended dose or set dose of probiotics for children. Talk to their child’s pediatrician to determine the best supplement for your child and the correct dosing.
Probiotic supplementation is beneficial following antibiotic therapy in children. They help nurture a healthy balance of bacteria for a child’s health from a young age. Do your research before buying probiotics for your children. While probiotic supplements are widely available, they may not meet the criteria for children’s use. Always check with your child’s pediatrician before adding a probiotic supplement to your kid’s diet.