- What are probiotics?
- Health benefits of probiotics
- Types of probiotics: what to choose?
- Food sources of probiotics
- How to choose a probiotic for your child?
- Best probiotics for kids
- Safety issues to consider before using probiotic supplements
- Possible side-effects of probiotics
- Do all probiotics have the same effectiveness on every child?
We know bacteria are harmful. But people have now recognized their usefulness too. It might be a little overwhelming to know which bacteria are bad and which are good; hence the useful ones are termed probiotics.
What are these probiotics? Should they be used for kids, and if yes, how do you select them? MomJunction answers these questions and also tells you the types of probiotics you can give to your children.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are mostly bacteria and sometimes yeast, which are good for health. That is why they are commonly called “friendly bacteria” or “good bacteria”.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) define probiotics as ‘live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’ (1).
They are considered good for digestion, offering protection from harmful bacteria and maintaining the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut.
Health Benefits of Probiotics
It is agreed that probiotics are good for health. But what are the specific benefits? Here they are:
- Preliminary evidence suggests that probiotics may help in preventing or treating conditions such as (2) (3) (4):
- viral diarrhea
- irritable bowel syndrome
- inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis, diarrhea after usage of antibiotics
- hay fever
- colon inflammation
- common cold
- respiratory infections
- Probiotics are also good for kids with allergies such as eczema and allergic rhinitis (5).
- Maintaining a balance between good and bad bacteria is important to keep the immune system strong. Probiotics help in restoring this balance.
- Some probiotics produce natural antibodies in the body.
- Specific probiotics also help in weight gain or loss (6).
- It can also improve gastrointestinal problems such as gas, bloating or constipation.
You may note that all the probiotics are not equally beneficial, and certain benefits need further research to confirm. Therefore, it is good to know which ones are the most useful probiotics.
Types of Probiotics: What to choose?
Here are some of the most commonly used probiotics (7):
- Bifidobacterium: This bacteria live in the gastrointestinal tract. Its strains include Bifidobacterium infantis, B. adolescentis, B. animalis subsp animalis, B. animalis subsp lactis, B. bifidum, B. longum, B. breve.
- Lactobacilli: They are present in the gastrointestinal tract along with Bifidobacterium. Some of its strains are Lactobacillus plantarum, L. johnsonii, L. acidophilus, L. sakei, L. bulgaricus, L. salivarius.
Some strains are used to ferment products, such as yogurt, cheese, pickles and sauerkraut. It is useful in treating antibiotics-induced diarrhea and constipation.
- Saccharomyces: It is not a bacteria but yeast used as a food ingredient, and is commonly known as baker’s yeast. Saccharomyces helps in regulating intestinal microbial homeostatis cells and gastrointestinal functions (11).
- Streptococcus: For children who cannot take lactose, streptococcus thermophilus breaks down the lactose and makes it easier to digest dairy products. It promotes digestive functions, immune system, health of the gut, and reduces diarrhea (12).
The other beneficial bacteria are pediococcus , bacillus, leuconostoc and E.coli.
In healthy children, probiotics have a good safety record (13). If your child is healthy, in general, then you might want to add some probiotic-rich foods to their diet. We’ll tell you about such foods in the next section.
Food Sources Of Probiotics
Foods are the best sources of probiotics as they are natural. Here are some foods that are high in probiotics:
- Yogurt: Yogurt may help reduce diarrhea, mainly caused by antibiotics and also relieve irritable bowel syndrome. It also suits kids who cannot tolerate milk products as the bacteria in yogurt breaks down the lactose, making it less likely to cause bloating (14).
- Cheeses: You may also try cheeses including mozzarella, cheddar, gouda and cottage cheese (15).
- Buttermilk: The liquid skimmed after making butter is served as buttermilk in India. Only the traditional drink contains probiotics and not the cultured ones. It has vitamin B12, calcium and some other minerals (16).
- Unpasteurized sauerkraut: It is the shredded sour cabbage. The bacteria on the surface of the cabbage ferment the natural sugars of the vegetable into lactic acid. And lactic acid prevents the growth of harmful microbes. It is a good source of probiotics and several important vitamins (17).
- Kefir: The fermented milk-drink is produced by lactic acid bacteria and yeasts, which are friendly to the human body. It is tolerated by kids who are lactose intolerant. Kefir may help improve digestion and offer protection against infections (18).
- Some other sources of probiotics are:
- kombucha (a fermented tea drink)
- fermented soya bean products like tempeh and natto
- fermented vegetables
In addition to foods, probiotics are also available in the form of supplements. Before knowing about the supplements to use, let’s see how to choose the right one for your child.
How To Choose A Probiotic For Your Child?
Probiotics are found in many forms, from capsules and powders to different foods. Here are some suggestions to help you choose the right probiotic for your child:
Strains: Pick the right strain of microorganism for achieving effective results. Check on a product’s genus (eg: Lactobacillus), species (eg: rhamnosus) and strain designation. Research proved that the most effective probiotics are a combination of L. Casei, L. Rhamnosus, and S.boulardii.
- For example: If your child is suffering from diarrhea after taking antibiotics, you should look for a probiotic that contains at least one of these strains: Lactobacillus reuteri protectis, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Saccharomyces boulardii (19).
- If your has eczema, you may give them a probiotic with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG strain, bifidobacterium lactis and lactobacillus acidophilus (20).
Dose: Probiotics are measured in colony forming units or CFUs. The dose can be between 5 to 10 billion CFUs per day (21). But ask your child’s doctor about it.
Expiry date: Check expiry dates and use-by date.
Type: All types of probiotics are okay as long as they contain the strains you’re looking for in the right amounts. You may choose powder and liquid probiotics for your child, or avail the chewable gummies depending on your kid’s taste preferences.
Once you know what to buy depending on the above criteria you might begin looking for the right probiotic.
Best Probiotics For Kids
Here are some most popular probiotic supplements for children. We suggest you to consult your doctor before giving any supplements to your child.
1. Garden of Life
This chewable tablet is to be taken once a day. Besides several beneficial vitamins, the product is claimed to have bacteria without any genetic engineering, for improved immunity and better digestive system.
It does not require refrigeration and the sultry berry and cherry flavor will make your kid look forward to have it every day.
Ingredients: Lactobacillus paracasei, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus gasseri, bifidobacterium lactis, bifidobacterium infantis, organic acacia fiber et al.
Buy it here: www.amzn.to/2HcOMGK
2. Align Jr
The gluten-free probiotic comes in chewable tablets that taste like cherry smoothie. It contains Bifidobacterium 35624, a unique strain offered by no other brands. It is intended for children aged six and above. Daily usage may help in digestion.
Ingredients: Bifidobacterium 35624, sucrose, fructose, corn starch, microcrystalline cellulose, maltodextrin, propyl gallate, trisodium citrate dihydrate.
Buy it here: www.amzn.to/2HbtkOq
Culturelle chewable tablets maintain the balance of good and bad gut bacteria in kids, improving their natural immune system. It is recommended for children aged three and above.
The product contains Lactobacillus GG which provides protection from frequent digestive problems such as diarrhea and bloating. It is gluten, preservative and colors–free, and has no lactose or dairy, making it a great choice for kids who are lactose intolerant. To top it all, the berry flavor makes it a delicious treat for children.
Ingredients: Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG 5 million CFUs
Buy it here: www.amzn.to/2Hg1voh
4. Ultimate Flora Probiotics
The chewable supplement contains six different strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium and comes in berry flavor. It supports the digestive system, increases absorption of nutrients, prevents frequent stomach pain and boosts the immunity system.
It can be given to kids older than two years. Refrigerate it and give one tablet a day.
Ingredients: Bacillus coagulans, lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus salivarius, lactobacillus plantarum, bifidobacterium lactis, bifidobacterium breve.
Buy it here: www.amzn.to/2HcLxPT
5. Digestive Advantage Kids Probiotic Tablets
On long-term use, this supplement supports your child’s digestive system. It has no artificial flavors or colors but has a delicious taste.
The tablets, which contain a patented strain of probiotic called the BC30, reduce abdominal discomfort, gas or occasional diarrhea. It is recommended for children between three and 12 years of age.
Ingredients: BC30 Bacillus coagulans 500 million viable cells in two gummies, corn syrup, gelatin, lactic acid, citric acid, sorbitol, sugar and natural flavors.
Buy it here: www.amzn.to/2J7bRHp
Probiotics are useful in maintaining a healthy gut and immune system but you cannot give the supplements to your child indiscriminately. Let’s know why.
Safety Issues To Consider Before Using Probiotic Supplements
Probiotics found in food are safer. There is usually no harm in adding up dietary supplements with probiotic benefits. But the overall health condition of the child should be good.
- The USFDA (Food and Drug Administration) regulates probiotics not as a medicine but as a food product. Therefore, it is not as strictly tested and monitored as medicines are.
- Probiotics are not an alternative to medication or treatment to address a health problem.
- Further research is needed to establish the claims made about the benefits of taking probiotics because most of the knowledge available pertains to Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium while not much is known about other probiotics.
Therefore, consult your kid’s doctor to know about the type of bacteria and dosage to use so that you can avoid any side-effects.
Possible Side-effects Of Probiotics
- They could result in minor digestive problems such as bloating or flatulence.
- Yeast-based probiotics may result in constipation.
- Lactose intolerant kids can have indigestion and gas from milk-based probiotics.
- Some probiotics contain amines, which may simulate the nervous system leading to a fluctuation in the blood flow and cause headaches.
- Harmful metabolic activities such as d-lactate production and bile salt deconjugation.
- Excessive immune stimulation possibly leading to autoimmune phenomena or inflammation.
- Lateral gene transfer from probiotic organisms to other organisms resulting in antimicrobial resistance. However, there is no clinical evidence to this effect.
- Sometimes it can lead to some infection that needs antibiotic treatment. Such cases happen mostly in children with underlying health problems.
You may note that the effects depend on how your child’s body reacts to the ingredients in the probiotics. Moreover, these side-effects are specific to certain probiotics, and not common to all of them.
Do All Probiotics Have The Same Effectiveness On Every Child?
No. Probiotics differ from one another, and so are their effects. The effectiveness of a probiotic depends on the specific strain of bacteria and the defined dose of the probiotic microorganism (20). This efficiency cannot be extrapolated to other strains, not even very closely related strains.
Also, there is no definite dose recommendation that suits everyone.
Although probiotics have health benefits, they are still not tested as medicine but only as a food product. Therefore, consult your kid’s healthcare provider before giving your child probiotics.
Have you been giving probiotic supplements to your child or using food sources? Let us know in the comment section below.
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