Probiotics for Kids: Your Complete Guide

Probiotics for Kids: Your Complete Guide

Probiotics for kids are a hot topic! New research shows that these supplements packed with tiny helpers can support kids' health in multiple ways.

Studies show that probiotics can improve kids’ digestion and immune system function. They can even help with certain common conditions, like allergies or eczema. 

All of this is new terrain in health science! Until recently, probiotics were seen as a “once in a while” supplement when kids were at risk of a tummy bug or recovering from an infection. Now we know that kids can benefit from probiotics regularly. 

As a parent, you might be wondering exactly what probiotics do and whether your child could benefit from a regular dose of probiotics. Maybe you’re interested in the specific benefits of probiotics because your child has a health concern.

In this post, we’ll explain how these microscopic marvels work and share guidance on choosing the best probiotic for your child. 

Probiotics 101: What are these healthy microorganisms?

Probiotics are a supplement packed with beneficial microorganisms, sometimes called “friendly bacteria.” These tiny helpers are similar to other friendly microorganisms in the gut microbiome.

The gut microbiome is a complex and diverse ecosystem of trillions of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms living in the digestive tract. 

When you think of bacteria, you might think of germs that kiddos sick. But probiotics are “good” bacteria that can help crowd out the bacteria that cause illness.

We asked Dr. Evangelynn Honegger, the Lead Clinic Physician at TRUEcare Integrative Medicine, an integrative naturopathic family medicine, acupuncture, and functional nutrition practice in Kirkland, WA, for a 101 on probiotics.

Dr. Honneger explains:

The gut microbiome is a control center for kiddos’ bodies. Trillions of bacteria in the gut support all systems of their bodies. Beginning at a young age, a child’s microbiome develops, and the diversity of microorganisms in their gut can impact their health. Probiotics help support the microbiome for optimal health.”

Why your kid needs a healthy “gut microbiome”

Ok, we know the gut microbiome has some very important work to do — but you may be amazed at the full range of what this system does to keep your kid healthy.

  1. Enabling digestion and nutrient absorption: The gut microbiome helps break down certain foods that the stomach and small intestine have not fully digested. This process aids in the absorption of various nutrients.
  1. Producing vitamins: The gut microbiome synthesizes essential vitamins, such as vitamin K and some B vitamins.
  1. Aiding metabolism: The microbiome influences the body's metabolism, affecting how we break down and store fats and carbohydrates.
  1. Supporting immune function: The gut is home to a large part of the immune system. The microbiome plays a crucial role in how kids develop healthy immunity.
  1. Balancing mood: The microbiome can influence brain function and mental health through the gut-brain axis, potentially affecting mood and behavior.
  1. Protecting against pathogens: It helps protect against harmful bacteria and viruses by competing for nutrients and space in the gut environment.
  1. Dialing down inflammation: The microbiome can influence systemic inflammation, a factor in many chronic diseases.
  1. Building a barrier: It helps maintain the integrity of the gut lining, preventing harmful substances from "leaking" into the bloodstream.
  1. Detoxification: Some microbes in the gut can break down toxins, reducing the body's exposure to harmful substances.

The gut microbiome is an incredible system — and we may only have grasped the basics of what it does. Plenty of research is still underway.

Now, let’s talk about how probiotics can help with specific health concerns.

Probiotics for kids’ digestion, constipation and diarrhea

Friendly bacteria are the rock stars of the tummy world. As we’ve discussed, they keep the gut in tip-top shape, which is important for healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.

How can probiotics help with common childhood tummy troubles like and diarrhea?

  • Digestive aids: Probiotics can help break down food, fibers and absorb nutrients.
  • Soothing inflammation: Probiotics can reduce gut inflammation in digestive disorders. This can also help with regular bowel movements!
  • Building a barrier: They reinforce the gut barrier, preventing harmful bacteria from triggering digestive distress. (This is key for kids exposed to infectious strains of tummy bugs at daycare and school!)
  • Keeping things moving: Probiotics can influence the muscle movements (peristalsis) in the digestive tract that propel food through the gut. (Bye-bye, bloating and constipation!)

Tummy troubles are common in childhood, but probiotics can help.

If your kiddo has persistent pain or discomfort, we always recommend you check with your pediatrician to make sure everything is fine.

In great news, probiotics can help improve symptoms associated with Chronic Digestive Disorders, too, including: 

  • Colic
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Probiotics to strengthen kids’ immunity

You may have heard that probiotics can help strengthen immunity, too. 

Dr. Honegger explains:

“These microorganism powerhouses do more than support gut health. A growing body of research demonstrates that probiotics can be a key to immune health—which makes sense since over 70% of our immune system is in our gut. Together with sleep, movement, outdoor time, and optimal nutrition, probiotics can help build immunity.” 

Friendly bacteria help to grow immune cells, shape immune responses, and strengthen the gut barrier (a shield against some infections). 

There’s proof that probiotics help defend against respiratory tract infections. They can help reduce the risk of getting a virus and shorten the period during which your kid feels yucky. 

Probiotics can even minimize the chances that a child will need antibiotics, which is great news for their gut microbiome.

We don’t just want our kids to have a strong immune system—they need a smart one, too. Healthy bacteria in the gut can even teach the immune system how to respond properly to threats (without overreacting), which helps guard against auto-immune disorders.

Probiotics for kids with allergies

Speaking of a smart immune system, let’s discuss how probiotics can help with allergies. To understand how these tiny microbes can tackle seasonal allergies, we have to first understand why allergies occur in the first place.

Sniffy nose, watery eyes, sneezing… these are all signs of an immune reaction. When these symptoms are triggered by an allergen (like pollen or peanuts), your kid’s immune system is overreacting to something harmless. 

When the gut microbiome is balanced and strong, it regulates the immune system. Good microorganisms can train the immune system to distinguish real threats from false alarms and dial back allergic responses.

Probiotics for kids’ mood, mental health and sleep

The gut is sometimes called the "second brain"! 

Inside the gut lining is a complex system of about 100 million nerves. There’s also a strong connection between the gut and the brain, known as the gut-brain axis. This relationship explains why gut health impacts mood and mental well-being.

The gut's microbes actually produce some of our “feel good” neurochemicals, including serotonin and dopamine. Both are known for their role in regulating mood and emotions. 

Changes in the gut microbiome can affect kids’ moods. For instance, an imbalance in gut bacteria has been linked to anxiety and depression. The good news is that a healthy gut microbiome is associated with better mental well-being.

There’s reason to believe probiotics can support healthy sleep, too. Serotonin plays a role in sleep regulation, for one, and a calm mood promotes good sleep. Researchers also believe that probiotics might influence circadian rhythms, which regulate sleep patterns.

Probiotics for skin disorders in kids

A healthy tummy can even benefit your kid’s skin!

That’s right—if your little one has a skin disorder such as eczema, psoriasis, or chronic rashes, research shows that a probiotic could help.

Our whole body (yes, even our skin) relies on healthy bacteria living in our gut. So when a probiotic adds in all those healthy bugs, it can help restore balance to our body and reduce the severity of skin disorders. 

And when combined with the skin-barrier-strengthening powers of Vitamin D, common skin disorders like eczema don't stand a chance!

The case for boosting “good bacteria” in the gut

Recap: Kids need a healthy gut microbiome packed with friendly bacteria. 

But you may be wondering, “If the gut is already home to trillions of microorganisms, do kids really need more in the form of a probiotic?” 

Probiotics boost the population of friendly microorganisms in the gut. Think of it as sending a fresh population of good guys into your kids’ gut microbiome so that it can get that incredible list of tasks done. 

This is especially important if your kid’s friendly bacteria are threatened by pathogens, like unfriendly bacteria and viruses.

Not only do probiotics strengthen the numbers, but these supplements can also add diversity and balance the gut microbiome. Balance means having more “good” bacteria than bad. 

Why might your kid’s gut microbiome get imbalanced? 

An imbalance in the gut microbiome (“dysbiosis”) can be caused by a variety of factors that reduce friendly bacteria. Some of the common causes include:

  • Antibiotics can be life-saving but also disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome by killing beneficial bacteria along with harmful ones. Other medications can, too!
  • Diet can also be a factor. Foods that are processed, high in sugars and unhealthy fats can feed unfriendly bacteria. (Friendly bacteria love fiber, so a diet low in fiber can weaken the good guys.)
  • Prolonged stress can alter the gut bacteria balance, and we know that kids do experience stress!
  • Disrupted or inadequate sleep can impact the gut microbiome.
  • Certain gastrointestinal infections can disrupt the microbiome balance.
  • Exposure to pollutants and chemicals can impact gut bacteria.
  • Hygiene (too much of a good thing) can impact the gut microbiome. While it’s important to wash hands and keep things clean, when environments are over-sanitized, kids don’t get exposed to certain microbes that play a role in the development of the gut microbiome.

There's no need to fear, though! Most parents can tick off at least one, if not several, of the above. Children’s gut microbiomes are resilient, and there’s a lot you can do to help them support a balanced gut.

Does your child need probiotics?

Looking at the list above, you might not be sure if your little one needs probiotics.

Here are a few questions to help you decide whether it’s time to dole out regular doses of these good guys!

Does your child eat the rainbow?

Healthy foods feed good bacteria. That means plenty of raw and unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Friendly bacteria love fiber.

Do they have a sweet tooth?

Sugars can feed certain harmful bacteria and yeasts in the gut, like Candida. It’s important to keep these bad actors in check by feeding the tummy good bacteria.

Does your child experience tummy issues?

Upset tummy? Diarrhea? Constipation? These are a few signs your little one’s tummy is out of balance. 

Has your child recently recovered from an illness?

Illness can wreak havoc on our gut, causing an imbalance of good and bad bacteria. If your child is recovering from illness, probiotics can help rebalance their gut. 

Have they just been on antibiotics?

Antibiotics are great for fighting infections and are definitely life-saving. But they kill ANY bacteria — good or bad.

When kids lose good gut bacteria, the unfriendly bacteria get a chance to flourish. It’s all about balance in the microbiome, remember!

A great way to rebalance the gut after taking antibiotics is with probiotics. 

Dr. Honegger explains:

 “It is important to build up the diversity and resilience of your kiddo’s immune system. A good rule of thumb during a course of antibiotics is to take a probiotic at least two hours before or after between antibiotic doses to help reduce the side effects of an antibiotic course and help keep a balanced microbiome once the course of the antibiotic is complete!”

Do they get sick often?

Probiotics can even help reduce colds, flu, and other viral illnesses.

If your little one is always under the weather (and their doctor has ruled out any serious immune disorder), a kid’s probiotic supplement could help.

Taking a probiotic regularly may help decrease the frequency of illnesses as well as reduce the severity and duration of colds, and that hopefully means fewer stay-at-home sick days!

Are they bothered by allergies?

Taking a probiotic can often help boost the immune system and decrease risks of allergic reactions and gut reactivity.

If you’re unsure whether your little one could benefit from probiotics, just ask your pediatrician. 

Boosting kids’ “friendly bacteria” through diet 

Now you know that sugar feeds “bad bacteria,” and good food feeds good bacteria in our gut microbiome! Simple to remember.

Let’s talk about what you can do to help balance your kid’s gut through diet.

Healthy microbes feed on “prebiotics,” which are plentiful in certain high-fiber foods. Like probiotics, prebiotics support immune function, digestion, and nutrient absorption. They may even help improve metabolic health.

Common sources of prebiotics include:

  • Fruits: Bananas, apples, and berries
  • Vegetables: Onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and artichokes
  • Grains: Whole grains like oats and barley
  • Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, and beans

Good news: These foods contain many other nutrients that help build a strong immune system. 

You can also try to incorporate more probiotic foods into your kid’s diet. Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods, like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. 

We know that kids don’t always accept these foods, which is why we created Renzo’s supplements for “picky eaters.”

Supplementing with probiotics for kids: what to look for in children’s probiotics

A probiotic supplement for kids can help reestablish the balance in their gut and keep it balanced. Dr. Honegger says:

“We can all use a little extra support for our gastrointestinal system health from time to time—and kids are no exception. Adding a probiotic to their daily routine can help them maintain happy gut health so they can carry on being kids.

Kids have unique needs, which is why it is super important to choose a probiotic that has a blend of specific strains that have been clinically studied to boost childhood immunity and digestive health.”

If the word ‘overwhelm’ comes to mind when you are perusing the supplement aisle with your little one in tow, you are not alone. It can be daunting to pick out the right probiotic, let alone one for your little one. 

Spoiler alert: Not all probiotics are created equal, nor do they contain the proper strains or CFU amounts to be effective in supporting a healthy body, balanced digestion, and immune system!

Here’s what every parent should know about choosing a probiotic supplement.

Probiotic Strains

Probiotics include certain “strains” of bacteria. This is the first thing you’ll want to consider. 

Opt for a kid-friendly probiotic that includes well-researched strains, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These are known for their digestive support. 

To maximize the potential benefits, you’ll also want to look for a diverse range of strains and check for colony-forming units (CFUs). 

Here are general guidelines for probiotic CFUs for children:

  • Infants to toddlers (0-1 years): Consult your physician
  • Young Children (2-3 years): Look for probiotic supplements containing 1 billion to 3 billion CFUs. 
  • Elementary school children (4-12 years): Supplements might contain slightly higher CFU counts, ranging from 5 billion to 10 billion CFUs.
  • Adolescents (13 years and above): Kids of this age can typically use an adult probiotic supplement with CFUs from 10 to 20 billion.

Avoid Additives

Probiotics for kids can be packed with unnecessary (and even harmful!) ingredients. A quality children's probiotic should be free from additives or allergens such as sugar, gluten, and GMOs. 


Lastly, a probiotic can only work if your child actually takes it. Opt for a probiotic that’s easy to take, doesn’t require refrigeration, and has a kid-approved flavor. 

The best pediatric probiotic

To formulate Renzo’s Yummy Tummy Probiotic, we chose four of the best probiotic strains that are proven to be gentle and effective in children: Bacillus subtilis, Bifidobacterium longum, Bacillus coagulans, Lactobacillus rhamnosus.

Each tablet contains 3 billion CFUs so that little kids can take it.

Made with ZERO sugar, fake color, icky additives, or GMO junk, Renzo’s Yummy Tummy Probiotic is approved by parents. Kids love the meltable tablets that dissolve fast and the yummy cherry flavor!

TLDR: What parents should know about probiotics and children’s health

Your kid’s gut has a lot to do! 

The gut is responsible for digestion and houses a huge part of the immune system. It even acts as a second brain, which means that a healthy gut supports a happier, calmer kid.

For a healthy gut, kids need a strong supply of good gut bacteria.

Without that balance, kids can experience tummy troubles, get sick more often, and stay sick longer. They may even have more allergies and skin conditions.

You can supplement with probiotics to get your kid’s gut health back into balance. Probiotics boost the population of “friendly bacteria.”

If you’re ready to reap the benefits of these beneficial bacteria, try the best probiotic for kids and toddlers: Renzo’s Yummy Tummy Probiotic.

(Renzo's Vitamins provides general recommendations not to be construed as medical advice.)

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