Probiotics for Kids

When do children need probiotics? In this blog, we’ll look at the benefits of probiotics for kids and why a supplement can support their diet.

What Is A Probiotic? 

Firstly, let’s look at what a probiotic is. ‘Probiotic’ means beneficial living organism. In this instance, we are talking about beneficial bacteria helping to support health and wellbeing. Every human gut contains a world of bacteria, known as the microbiome. This microbiome, when we are adults, is home to over 100 trillion bacteria. 

To repay us for giving them somewhere safe to live and grow, these bacteria support our health in many different ways. 

Why Use Probiotics For Kids? 

First contact with the bacteria which form the microbiome tends to be with our mother’s vaginal flora. We are exposed to the bacteria that live in our mother’s birth canal during a routine birth, where we take in a large number of lactic acid-forming lactobacillus bacteria. These bacteria start the microbiome and encourage the growth of other, helpful bacteria. However, children born via C section do not receive this first influx, and research has indicated that this may lead to an increased risk of allergies and infections in their very early years.     

The bacteria which start the microbiome are also said to help babies properly digest the milk they are fed on from birth. If this is a mother’s breast milk, it will also be rich in Bifidobacteria and oligosaccharides. Bifidobacteria provide further microbiome growth and support, whilst human milk oligosaccharides provide food for further growth and development of healthy bacteria. 

Probiotics For Colic

Colic is one example where probiotics for children can be of benefit. Colic is when a baby who isn’t ill or hungry cries for more than three hours a day, more than three days a week and for more than three weeks. This can be a very difficult and stressful time.

One thing which may be helpful as a probiotic for babies is the specific bacteria L. rhamnosus GG.  Research carried out on L. rhamnosus GG has shown that it may help to reduce colic symptoms and significantly reduce crying time, in colicky babies. (2) 

Probiotics For Children Can Benefit Digestion

Probiotics for kids can also aid in digestion as they get older. The bacteria of the microbiome play an important role in supporting a healthy digestive system. They help to break down food and extract vital nutrients. They also play a role in keeping the bowel functioning well. Two bacteria strains which should be included in probiotics for children are B. Infantis and S. thermophilus. 

  • Bifidobacterium infantis is only found in a child’s gut and tends to disappear after the age of 12. This species has been shown to help support stomach health and digestion. Those supplementing with B. infantis have reported improvements with digestion and bowel function. (3)  
  • Streptococcus thermophilus has been shown to play many different roles in supporting wellbeing.  Supplementing with S. thermophilus may help to reduce the risk of problems such as antibiotic-associated diarrhoea in children. In addition, research has reported that children who received supplements containing this probiotic had better growth during a 6-month period than children who did not receive the supplement. (4) 

Probiotics For Children May Influence Happiness

The bacteria growing and developing within the microbiome do not just support healthy digestion. Children’s probiotics can also have a positive impact on mood, too.

Research has indicated that probiotics can influence the immune system, happiness and contentment. Scientists have reported that children who have a good variety of different gut flora are more likely to be happy, curious, and impulsive! (5)

Which is Best – Supplements Or Dietary Probiotics? 

Probiotics for kids can be delivered by the diet in food such as live yoghurts, kefir and sauerkraut, as well as other fermented foods. However, this may not always be the best way to introduce good bacteria, not least because, apart from yoghurt, children are unlikely to enjoy these fermented foods! 

Yoghurt is also far from the ideal way to get probiotics into children. Although they are marketed as ‘live’, they are made from milk that has been pasteurised to kill all the bad bacteria. Unfortunately, this means that all the beneficial bacteria which existed in the milk have also been destroyed. A single strain is then added back in for the yoghurt production. The bacteria used most commonly for yoghurt making is Lactobacillus bulgaricus. However, this is not very good at surviving the digestive tract.

For this reason, to ensure that the probiotics we are using for our kids are doing what we want them to, we should opt for children’s probiotic supplements that have been designed specifically with children and toddlers in mind.

Written By Jenny Logan DNMed. (Jenny is a Nutritional Therapist who has worked with clients in Health Foods Stores and Private Clinics for over 20 years.)

REFERENCES: 

  1. Negele K, Heinrich J, Borte M, et al. Mode of delivery and development of atopic disease during the first 2 years of life. Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2004;15(1):48–54. 
  2. Francesco Savino et al; Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (ATCC 53103) for the Management of Infantile Colic: A Randomized Controlled Trial; Nutrients. 2020 Jun; 12(6): 1693.
  3. Mark A. Underwood et al; Bifidobacterium longum subspecies infantis: champion colonizer of the infant gut; Pediatr Res. 2015 Jan
  4. Nopchinda S et al, Effect of Bifidobacterium Bb12 with or without Streptococcus thermophilus supplemented formula on nutritional status; J Med Assoc Thai. 2002.
  5. Toddler Tantrums may be due to their Gut Flora; science Daily 1025

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