What comes to mind when you hear the word “probiotics”? For some parents, the thought of giving their children bacteria to ingest makes them feel uneasy but giving your kids some probiotics may be one of the best things you ever do for them.
This article will inform you about the benefits of giving your kids probiotics, what to watch out for when ordering probiotics, and effective ways to use them. To start, here is a definition.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits when consumed in adequate amounts. The supplements consist of a combination of bacteria and yeast that are naturally present in your guts. A sign of good health is having a balance between the good and bad bacteria in your body. Usually, when the concentration of harmful bacteria surpasses the concentration of good bacteria in the body, it results in an infection. Taking a probiotic-supplement is an effective way to restore balance and eliminate some of those harmful bacteria.
Signs that Your Kid Needs Probiotics
The USA market is gradually becoming more open-minded about alternative therapies such as probiotics, and with research showing that probiotics can be just as beneficial for kids as adults, more parents are looking into ordering some probiotics for their children. Here are a few questions to ask when considering using probiotics:
- Does your child regularly miss school because of common cold or diarrhea?
- Is your child currently using antibiotics to treat an infection?
- Does your child experience difficulties with digesting food?
- Does your child suffer from skin conditions?
- Does your child get sick often or has a sour mood?
- Is your child immunocompromised?
A kid being immunocompromised means that he/she has a weak immune system and is susceptible to many infections. Suppose your answer to question 6 is yes, then you must consult your pediatrician before starting your child on probiotics as it may lead to complications.
If your answer is yes for the first 5 questions, you should probably get your kids started on probiotics. If your answer is no, you can still get probiotics as they won’t harm your kids in any way. Actually, they stand to gain a lot of benefits.
Benefits of Probiotics for Kids
According to the survey carried out by the National Health Interview in 2012, probiotic foods and supplements are the 3rd most used natural products for children. Probiotics are famous natural remedies, and here are a couple of reasons why parents use them for their kids:
1. They aid digestion and restore balance to the gut microbiota.
As your child is growing, they must digest their food and absorb the nutrients appropriately. The natural microorganisms’ children have in their gut provide the digestive enzymes they need to break down food. With the help of probiotics, the organisms that produce these enzymes would be present in sufficient amounts.
Also, probiotics are known to treat irritable bowel diseases and diarrhea. They do this by getting rid of the harmful bacteria causing the disorder. With the propensity of kids to develop diarrhea from sugar-rich diets and allergies, this would be a great way to balance their bowel movements.
2. They help to reduce the occurrence of respiratory tract infections.
A 2015 study established the effectiveness of probiotics in preventing upper respiratory infections in people of all ages. As parents, this would reduce the number of days your kids are absent from school due to common colds.
3. They boost immunity
About 70% of the immune system of adults and children is located in the guts; hence, the microorganisms’ nature plays a huge role in preventing diseases and infections. With probiotics, there would be a friendly bacteria wall to protect your children’s immune system and gut cells. You can be sure your kid’s healthy immune system is responding appropriately to threats from bad bacteria.
4. They improve the mood of your kid.
Serotonin, popularly known as the happy hormone, is responsible for stabilizing both children and adults’ mood, well-being, and general happiness. This hormone’s importance cannot be overstated as it impacts the entire body and helps with eating, digestion, and sleeping.
Now that you understand the importance of serotonin in determining your child’s mood, you would be happy to know that approximately 90% of the serotonin required by the body is produced in the guts. With probiotics ensuring that the guts’ systems are running correctly, the serotonin levels in your child would also be at an appropriate level.
Say goodbye to moody children and tantrums by giving your kids some probiotics.
5. Healthy skin.
From eczema to acne to psoriasis, about 1 in 5 children have stories to tell about their skin problems. With a lot of ongoing research on the benefits of probiotics, a recent study has been able to link the skin with the guts’ health. The researchers explain that increasing the level of good bacteria in the guts would calm down inflammation, support a healthy gut lining, and improve the skin’s health.
Basically, by feeding your child a probiotic-rich diet or using supplements, you can also boost their confidence by ensuring their skin looks good.
Best Sources of Probiotic for your kids.
The word “live” mentioned in the definition of probiotics has a lot of significance. To the layman, this word may not have much meaning, but to professionals, it infers that the organism is alive but inactive. However, this all changes as the microorganisms become “active” when consumed. For this reason, it is always best to consult a pediatrician before ordering a probiotic supplement for your kids.
There are various forms you can add probiotics to your children’s nutrition, and the most popular way is through their diet. Here are the top diet sources of probiotics:
1. Breast Milk
Breastfeeding has so many established benefits. One of them is transferring probiotics and prebiotics that aid in developing the gut microbiota of your infant. If the process of breastfeeding is disturbed, it will lead to incomplete final gut microbiota. It is recommended that a child be exclusively breastfed for a minimum period of 6 months. This is the time required to develop the natural gut microbiota of your infant fully.
As a breastfeeding mother, it is okay to take probiotic supplements as they won’t harm your child. Instead, it’s persistent use can heighten breast milk’s immunoprotective potential. However, before taking a particular supplement, be sure to consult with your doctor or a lactation expert.
Another great source of probiotics that you can incorporate into your child’s diet are products of fermented milk such as:
This fermented milk product can either be prepared at home or be purchased at your local grocery store. Yogurt is prepared with different microorganism strains, so the yogurt brands you see at the store are not necessarily the same in terms of probiotic potentials. If you prefer to make the yogurt yourself, there are amazing resources on the internet that can guide you.
If you choose to purchase the yogurt from the store, you may want to observe the following steps:
- Read the label thoroughly and pick a product that has multiple microorganisms and ingredients. The more, the merrier!
- Select a brand that is high in calcium and protein but low in added sugar. Yogurt contains natural sugars, and the addition of refined sugars lowers the health benefits for your children.
- An ideal yogurt product should be fortified with vitamin B6, B12, D, and magnesium.
Besides the probiotic potential of yogurt, it is also known to help children grow healthy bones. So, what are you waiting for?
Kefir, a fermented milk drink with over 2000 years of history, is still popular among parents today because of the numerous health benefit it confers to their children. In Russia and Ukraine, the drink is traditionally given to infants as it is easily digestible and is a great substitute for breast milk.
Kefir, prepared from cow, goat, or sheep milk, contains nutrients that help build your child’s immunity. It is a very potent probiotic as it contains about 30 to 50 beneficial microorganisms and yeasts. With so much ammunition available, Kefir carries out the following activities in the body when consumed:
- Fight infections caused by harmful bacteria and remove toxins
- Help with digestive problems such as H. pylori ulcers and Irritable Bowel Disease.
- Kefir is also a great source of calcium, magnesium, and B vitamins. Adding it to your child’s diet will have them growing strong bones and healthy teeth.
- As a parent, you must know how difficult it is to keep a child from playing with dirt. They simply love rubbing it all over them, and when they feel adventurous, they don’t mind tasting their dirty fingers. Well, with Kefir in their diet, you can be sure that those ingested germs won’t result in an infection. Lactobacillus kefiri, a probiotic in Kefir, has antibacterial properties that inhibits the growth of E. coli, Salmonella, and H. pylori that are usually picked up by children while playing.
As you can see, Kefir definitely deserves all the hype it gets.
3. Soft Cheese
Although cheese is produced as a result of fermenting milk with bacteria, not all of them have probiotic properties. This is because not all bacteria survive the aging process required during the preparation of cheese. To be sure that the cheese you’re about to purchase has probiotics, you have to read the label thoroughly and ensure that the word “live” or “active” is present.
Examples of cheese that have probiotics are cheddar, cottage, Gouda, and Mozzarella cheese. With these cheese in your child’s diet, he/she stands to gain many nutritional benefits such as healthy bones, healthy heart, and great bowel movements.
4. Buttermilk and Acidophilus Milk
Buttermilk is the liquid byproduct of butter preparation from milk, while acidophilus milk is the product of fortifying regular milk with Lactobacillus acidophilus. They are both great sources of nutrients and probiotics for your child.
Buttermilk is high in phosphorus, great for the skin, and is the easiest milk product to digest. If your child suffers from indigestion, constipation, or acid reflux, a simple cup of buttermilk could remedy your dilemma within 2 hours.
Does your child have difficulties digesting Lactose foods? Well, acidophilus milk is here to save the day by ensuring your child gets all the nutrients he/she needs by improving the rate of lactose digestion. It also reduces serum cholesterol levels, prevents intestinal infection, and performs anti-carcinogenic activities.
Buttermilk with probiotic potential can only be prepared at home as the powders sold in stores are heavily processed and made from low-fat milk.
Acidophilus milk can be purchased at your local grocery store or on Amazon.
This Korean delicacy is made from fermented cabbage and Korean radish. It’s delicious and more frequently on the spicy side, so you may not be able to add it to your kid’s daily diet. The dish contains the probiotic Lactobacillus kimchii, which promotes good digestive health and prevents intestinal infection.
Though Kimchi’s spicy taste may be a bit difficult, you can avoid this by preparing the dish to suit your taste.
This list would not be complete without the addition of this traditional nutrient-rich meal. It is usually made with finely shredded cabbage and lactic acid bacteria. Although its sour, salty taste may make it difficult to get your kids to eat them, the benefits they would obtain from eating them are numerous.
Sauerkraut is rich in fiber, iron, sodium, and vitamins B, C, and K. It also contains antioxidants that improve eye health. By adding sauerkraut to your kid’s diet, you would worry less about minor infections and poor eyesight as a result of poor diet.
Other fermented sources of probiotics are pickles, tempeh, natto, kombucha, miso, and many more.
7. Probiotic Supplements
There are tons of probiotics supplements available for kids on the internet. Each of them contains a particular strain of microorganism or yeast, so it is advisable to research the product thoroughly before purchasing it for your kid. Suppose you are unsure of what product or organism to buy. In that case, you can also consult a pediatrician for directives on which strain is best.
All parents know the difficulties that come with giving children pills. From grinding the tablets to camouflaging and using syringes, there is simply a need for creativity. Acknowledging these difficulties, pharmaceutical companies have found ways to make probiotics more fun. Here are some creative ways to give your children probiotics supplements:
- Chewable Probiotics
This is one of the bests ways of introducing probiotics to your kids. The supplements are packaged as jellies that can be chewed like candy. It is effective, and your kids would always be eager to take them. This method’s known disadvantage is that your kids may be overly enthusiastic for the supplements and take them without your permission. Therefore, you must exercise caution when storing the supplements. Please keep them in locations that are not accessible to your kids.
An example of a product that falls under this category is Culturelle Chewable Probiotics. It is nut-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, and highly recommended for children aged 3 and above. It is easy and effective against diarrhea and minor infections.
- Dissolvable Probiotics
This method is not unfamiliar for parents that have perfected the art of blending pills for their children. The supplements are packaged as powders that can be dissolved in drinks. For effectiveness, it is best to dissolve the probiotics in water, yogurt, or any other low-sugar drinks enjoyed by your children.
An example of a product under this category is FlorastorKids Daily Probiotic Supplements. It has a fruity flavor and is recommended for children aged 2 months and above. The product is known for its effectiveness in restoring the gut microbiota of children on antibiotics. If your child is gassy and has loose stool, then this is a great product to try.
- Probiotic Melts
This is an effective alternative for kids who cannot chew gummies and cannot stand the taste of tablets. The flavored probiotic is swift and begins to melt the moment the supplement touches the tongue. It does not usually affect the appetite of the child, nor does it have an aftertaste.
An example of a product that fits this category is up4 Probiotics Kids Cubes. It is sugar-free, gluten-free, and contains vitamins and calcium that boost the immune system of children. It is recommended for children aged 3 and above. Try this product with your kid and experience fewer stay-at-home school days.
Frequently asked questions about probiotics for kids
Do probiotics cause weight loss in children?
There is insufficient evidence to verify the theory that probiotics affect weight. Scientists have stated that if at all the theory is true, the recommended dosages won’t be enough to accomplish much in terms of weight gain or loss.
Can I use antibiotics and probiotics at the same time?
Contrary to popular belief, using probiotics and antibiotics at the same time doesn’t start a civil war in the guts. It is, however, best to take the drugs hours apart to improve the effectiveness of the probiotics.
Research that studied the reaction of about 400 children to therapy of antibiotics and probiotics concluded that the combined therapy reduces the risk of diarrhea in children by 50% (paper). You can be rest assured that your child is safe when taking both pills.
Is it possible to overdose on probiotics?
It is significantly difficult to overdose on probiotics because the concentration of microorganisms present in supplements is just a minor fraction of the natural gut microbiota. Yogurt contains about 6-10 billion bacteria, supplements contain 1.2-50 billion bacteria, while the guts are naturally home to 100 “trillion” bacteria. As you can see, doubling or tripling the recommended dose won’t cause an overdose.
Do probiotics have side effects?
The microorganisms used as probiotics are naturally present in the body, therefore, probiotics are generally regarded as safe. However, some of the side effects of probiotics are bloating, diarrhea, flatulence, and stomach upset within the first few days of using them. This is just the body trying to adjust, and the symptoms would eventually disappear.
Food to avoid when taking probiotics?
Some foods can reduce the effectiveness of probiotics, and it is best to avoid them while using probiotics. Examples of such food include sugary foods, spicy foods, processed foods, genetically modified foods, fried foods, and foods with pesticides.
Note: A popular notion is that coffee affects the actions of probiotics, however, there is no scientific proof that drinking coffee either hinders or promotes probiotics.
The greatest desire of every parent is for their child to grow up healthy and sturdy. This is why we do our best to ensure that they have all they need and go the extra length to ensure they are comfortable.
With all the information in this article, you can be sure that probiotics would help your child be more comfortable and less sick. Consult your doctor, check out the products listed in the article, and order some probiotics.
If you still need more information, Probiotics For Kids is a very comprehensive guide. Good luck!
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