Probiotics are all the rage in kid’s health these days and are popping up more than ever before. Probiotics are being added to our kid’s granola bars, cereals, and yogurts and are starting to make appearances in the supplement aisle at your local grocery store. They are everywhere!
In case you didn’t know, probiotics are live microorganisms found in certain yeasts – essentially beneficial bacteria – that are believed to be good for overall health. More specifically, good for the digestive system.
Our gut harbors billions of bacteria, and the good bacteria is said to overwhelm the unhealthy ones and keep us healthy. Probiotics add another layer of good microorganisms to the already existing good ones, giving us a major health boost. Although probiotics are not a digestive cure-all, they can be highly beneficial to kids and adults.
So how can probiotics help your little one?
According to a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it was found that probiotics — types of “good” bacteria that colonize in your gut can have certain health benefits in some children, including:
Reduces digestive issues: For infants and children, beneficial bacteria may be key to intestinal comfort. Probiotics are said to help relieves constipation, diarrhea, and flatulence - sounds great right? Studies show that babies who have an abundance of beneficial bacteria or receive probiotics tend to experience less gas, colic, and reflux, and have more regular elimination. The AAP suggests giving probiotics early to children with diarrhea from a viral infection, but who are otherwise healthy, can shorten the duration of illness. The review also found that probiotics can help prevent diarrhea in children who are taking antibiotics.
Improves gut immunity: Influences your child’s metabolism and weight by promoting the growth and survival of good, beneficial bacteria. According to research, having a healthy amount of gut microbes may be important for your child’s weight management throughout life. It also helps digest food and produce certain nutrients that your child’s body needs.
Good for oral health: In your child’s mouth lives many, many bacteria, called oral microbiomes. Evidence suggests that oral probiotics help to maintain a healthy microbial balance in the mouth. This can help prevent plaque, bad breath, and the dreaded tooth decay in children!
Supports urinary tract health (in girls): Probiotics are very good for helping to maintain healthy bacteria populations in younger girls. Probiotics help create a healthy pH balance of vaginal microflora, which prevents an overgrowth of bad bacteria that can lead to infection.
Helps to manage eczema - maybe?: There has been a lot of talk about using probiotics to treat eczema in children, but truthfully the research on this has brought very mixed results. Some research has shown that probiotic supplements may help to lessen the severity of this condition, other studies indicated that probiotics may be no more effective than a placebo. So if you are considering using probiotic supplements to treat your kid’s eczema, make sure you talk to your pediatrician beforehand.
What foods contain probiotics naturally?
Probiotics are available in some foods,, and they’re very similar to probiotics that exist naturally in the gut. Here are some natural probiotic foods that are the most kid-friendly:
- Kombucha Tea
- Fermented vegetables
- Miso soup
What about Probiotic supplements?
If you’re wondering if probiotic supplements or foods are better, the answer isn’t clear-cut. Getting nutrients from whole foods is usually best. But in the case of probiotics, your child may not be able to get enough from food alone. Probiotics in foods may not survive the manufacturing and storage processes.
Even though probiotic supplements are generally safe, I strongly encourage you to talk with your pediatrician to discuss potential options before you start giving them to your child. Because there are so many probiotic supplements for kids available over the counter, it is a good idea to work with your pediatrician to decide on the right one.
Are there any risks for kids when taking a probiotic?
As with any supplement, there is always a risk depending on your child’s personal situation. If your child is very sick and has a compromised immune system, they may experience infection or serious side effects while taking a probiotic. Gas and bloating are also potential problems that can occur while taking a probiotic. Again, always check with your pediatrician before giving probiotic supplements to your child!
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