Gut care is imperative at all ages, to ensure better digestion and a healthy lifestyle. The recently discovered health benefits of probiotics has as a result been stressed upon not only for adults, but children too.
Consumption of probiotics help to counter the ill effects caused by the increase of pathogenic microbes in the body, as it brings balance to the existing bacteria that is present in the intestinal, digestive and urinary tracts by flooding them with good bacteria.
The role of probiotics in general digestive health and wellbeing can be the same for people of every age, but there are some specific reasons why probiotics for children are being given extra emphasis.
What Do Probiotics Do for Children’s Health?
Recent studies reveal that many kinds of probiotics are highly beneficial for the health of young children. Probiotics supplements prove to be valuable aids in the treatment of numerous conditions and allergies, especially at a young age.
Here is how probiotic bacteria can enhance children’s health, based on the kind of conditions they can treat, as well as the effect they have on gastrointestinal health and immune response:
- Colic – Lactobacillus reuteri strains in probiotics for infants and newborn probiotics can help alleviate colic in very young babies. In fact, doctors say that these may be far more effective than simethicone, which is an active ingredient in several OTC anti-gas products. These supplemental bacteria can help natural digestive flora flourish, keeping our kids’ tummies happy and healthy.
- Intestinal Problems – Probiotics can relieve symptoms of chronic conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory diseases like ulcerative colitis. Natural probiotics strains found in some supplements are known to alleviate the severity of children’s abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, diarrhea and gas. Moreover, giving constipated babies the probiotic lactobacillus reuteri helps to regulate bowel movements too.
- Allergies – A strain of the probiotic lactobacillus genus, l. rhamnosus, is very useful in the prevention and cure of peanut allergies in young children.These probiotics adequately fill the missing piece in children’s immune systems, and after a course of probiotics, 80% of allergic children showed heightened immunity to peanuts. This is not restricted to peanut allergies alone, since the symptoms of conditions like lactose intolerance and gluten-sensitivity can also be relieved with probiotics.
- Infections – Probiotics stop antagonistic bacteria and yeast from getting too friendly in our guts, by creating competition for nutrients and producing acids that make it unfavorable for pathogens to thrive. This is especially important for young children, since they are likely to be exposed to bacterial and viral pathogens outdoors, at school and even at day care. If a strong resistance can be built in their bodies while they’re still growing, it will last for years to come!
- Diarrhea – Certain kids probiotics can help reduce diarrhea and lessen its symptoms in young children. The probiotic group, lactobacillus, has proved helpful in curing infectious diarrhea in kids. Diarrhea triggered by antibiotics can be assuaged by the probiotic strains, saccharomyces boulardii and lactobacillus rhamnosus GG. These strains are found in some probiotic foods as well as supplements that can be mixed into the child’s food and drinks.
- Eczema – Milk allergies can trigger bouts of painful childhood eczema, which can be treated by probiotics for children. Babies born into families with a history of allergies or eczema may be given courses of LGG prenatally up until they are 6 months old. Such children are half as likely to suffer from eczema as babies given traditional medical treatment.
- Other Conditions – Probiotics benefits extend to many other diseases and conditions that affect children, like urinary tract infections, childhood obesity, ear and respiratory infections, stomach ulcers, moderately severe cases of atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and acne, as well as viral infections like common colds and the flu, mainly through their ability to strengthen the child’s immune system.
What is the Best Probiotic for Children ?
When you’re looking to find the best infant probiotics or supplements and foods for older ones, it’s important to look for strains that have been extensively researched and show promise at treating certain conditions.
Of course, general probiotics benefits like improved gastrointestinal health and immunity are common to most probiotic sources, whether they’re used for adults or children, but dosages must be customized as per the child’s age, weight and health. Many infections are treated with broad spectrum antibiotics that deplete favorable gut microflora, without providing replacement therapy to restore the balance between good and bad bacteria.
To improve digestive functions and abdominal health, the most favourable microorganisms that should be a regular part of your child’s diet are lactobacillus sporogenes, lactobacillus rhamnosis GG and saccharomyces boulardii. Taking a regular course of these probiotics can help alleviate many distressing symptoms affecting the wellbeing of small children, and probiotic-rich diets can counter the side effects of antibiotics too.
How to Take Probiotics for Children
There are many foods with probiotics that children can eat regularly. Yogurt is the best source of daily probiotic, and contains ample amounts of lactobacilli. However, in some yogurts, the live bacteria content may be killed while processing, so parents are recommended to buy products containing labels like “contains live active cultures”.
A daily serving of probiotic-rich yogurt is helpful in keeping the child’s immune and gastrointestinal system healthy. These days, manufacturers add probiotics to numerous foods such as cereals, snack bars, and juices. To create some variation, yogurt can be mixed with foods containing rich amounts of prebiotics, such as grains, veggies and fruits.
However, a large quantity of probiotic-rich foods would have to be consumed to derive the same probiotic benefits that bacterial supplements provide. Supplemental probiotics, rather than foods with probiotics, also have higher microflora concentrations and are a better option for treatment.
Kids can easily take probiotic supplements in the form of tablets, powders, fluids or even chewable probiotics. It is not really possible to overdose on them, but as with any medication for children, consult their physicians before starting probiotics supplements or adding probiotic-rich foods to their diet, to avoid possible interference with any prior medication or illness.
When Should Children Take Probiotics?
Consuming supplements or foods with probiotics as part of one’s daily diet is highly encouraged as a preventive measure for numerous digestive and health problems in children. These natural probiotics include fermented foods with active cultures, especially those strains that have been proven through research to provide probiotics benefits.
Of course, when there’s a specific ailment to treat, you should look into kids probiotics that can help. One of the main situations in which children need to take probiotics is when their normal bodily microflora balance gets disturbed. This can happen due to any of the illnesses discussed above, from the use of broad spectrum antibiotics, or even when traveling.
It is particularly important to have a plan for the intake of probiotics foods and supplements after undertaking a course of antibiotics to replenish beneficial bacteria in one’s body. Probiotics taken during traveling can help prevent infectious diarrhea by resisting pathogenic attack and keeping digestive processes running smoothly.
You don’t need to worry about probiotic side effects; mild bloating and gassiness are the most commonly reported ones. However, more serious side effects may occur with the intake of unpasteurized fermented foods, so it’s best to consult a doctor for more information about which probiotics can be used by very young children or those with weak immunity.