Probiotics for Kids: The Ultimate Guide

Probiotics refer to good microorganisms living in healthy gastrointestinal tracts of humans. Probiotics continue to be a popular subject with many people these days.

These microorganisms are said to improve a number of health issues particularly when it comes to a healthy digestive system. Some medical researchers claim that having a healthier gut can improve the person’s overall physical health and may prevent certain illnesses.

Some studies suggest that taking probiotics can prevent certain autoimmune disorders such as asthma and eczema especially in children given childrens probiotic supplements or probiotic foods.

Still, many parents want to know if probiotics are safe and effective for kids.

What Are Probiotics Anyway, & Where Do They Come From?

The term probiotics is used to describe the healthy living bacteria and certain yeasts that live in a person’s digestive tract. These microorganisms are typically passed on to babies as they travel through their mother’s birth canal during vaginal deliveries.

Some studies suggest that babies are expsed to their mother’s bacteria and yeast that are already colonized in her digestive tract during the birthing process.

Other studies suggest that babies born by C-section develop their healthy gut flora later, and that those microorganisms are different. More studies are needed to know whether C-section babies are more prone to certain diseases and autoimmune disorders and whether the addition of probiotics in these babies really make a difference in their overall health.

Aren’t Bacteria Responsible for Many Illnesses?

Many experts believe that this initial colonization of good microorganisms, that begins during birth, helps keep the infant healthy and starts the normal healthy balance of live microbes that will continue to play a role in the child’s health for years and decades to come.

While germs like bacteria are usually known to cause diseases and sickness, scientists have discovered that healthy individuals have a balance of specific “good” bacteria that keeps the digestive system healthy.

More scientists and disease specialists believe that the entire body benefits from these helpful bugs if kept in the proper balance.

How Antibiotics Impact the GI Tract Balance of Good Germs

The widespread use of antibiotics, used to treat bacterial illnesses, has resulted in less infant and young children’s deaths in countries that have good medical care. However, the use of antibiotics has created new health concerns.

When an ill person takes antibiotics known to work on the specific strain of bacteria causing the illness, the person generally recovers from their illness symptoms.

However, the antibiotics will also kill the beneficial gut bacteria that keeps yeast and other microorganisms in check within the gastrointestinal tract. This is why it is common to get a yeast infection following antibiotic therapy.

The live yeast that is present in a healthy person’s digestive system will multiply when the normal good bacteria amounts are decreased or altered due to the action of antibiotics. This will cause the telltale genital area itching, redness and other symptoms indicative of a yeast infection.

Reasons to Consider Probiotics After Antibiotic Therapy

More physicians and other healthcare professionals encourage the use of probiotics after undergoing antibiotic therapy. This can help restore the digestive system back to its optimal healthy balance of helpful microorganism status.

As a result, more parents are interested in giving their children probiotics after antibiotic treatment to prevent yeast overpopulation that can cause an uncomfortable infection.

It is imperative that parents first discuss this subject with their child’s pediatrician beforehand to avoid harmful complications. More pediatricians do recommend introducing dietary foods rich in natural probiotics such as live yeast cultured yoghurts and soft cheeses to protect a child’s gut health.

How Kids Can Benefit from Eating Probiotic Foods

There are a number of food options that have higher amounts of probiotics or good microorganisms that are important in maintaining good health in general.

Some natural probiotics food choices include:

  • Live cultured yeast yoghurts
  • Soft cheeses like cheddar & Gouda
  • Buttermilk
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Sourdough bread

Parents will also find numerous probiotic supplements on the market. While these supplements are touted as a miracle cure to kid’s common health ailments, parents should understand that probiotics are not a magic pill.

Even so, including foods rich in probiotics and/or introducing probiotics via supplements can be beneficial according to many healthcare and nutrition experts if these are cleared by the child’s pediatrician first.

What Do Probiotic Supplements Contain?

In general, most probiotic supplements found in health food stores, grocery chains or pharmacies are considered relatively safe for both adults and children.

These supplements usually contain saccharomyces, bifidobacterium or lactobacillus, and these supplements often contain all three of these live bacteria strains.

While the FDA does regulate probiotics, they do this as a food item and not as a drug. This means that there are no government mandates that probiotic supplement manufacturers must follow, and proof of safety and the product’s claimed effectiveness cannot be ascertained at the level that prescribed medications can be determined.

What Are Considered the Best Kids Probiotics?

There are countless options these days when looking for the best probiotics out there that are considered safe for kids. These come in natural dietary foods and in supplements that can be drops, liquids, pills, capsules, gummy gels or powders to be mixed into food or drink.

It can be a bit confusing for parents to pick the right product. The claims of all of these probiotic supplement manufacturers may or may not be true, and parents should do their due diligence in research before buying any brand of kids probiotic supplements.

Again, it is crucial for parents to discuss these options with their child’s pediatrician as every child will have unique circumstances that might counteract the good benefits of these products or even cause harm in some cases.

Parents can read product reviews for kids probiotics by trusted children’s health experts like this one.

Potential Benefits of Probiotics on Health Explained

Some of the health benefits that health food experts attribute to probiotics include improvement or prevention of the following:

  • Colic
  • Gassy belly discomfort
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Autoimmune disorders including eczema – a skin disorder
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Yeast infections following antibiotic therapy
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Leaky gut
  • Chrohn’s disease
  • Oral dental health
  • Infectious diarrhea like C-diff

Parents will notice other health claims that may include prevention or improvement of endocrine disorders like diabetes, thyroid issues and adrenal function among others. Some claim that a healthy gut complete with probiotics that colonize there may help depression, irritability, anxiety and insomnia related to chemical imbalance or endocrine issues.

How to Best Introduce Probiotics for Your Child

Many parents want to encourage their children to eat healthy to maintain good health and well being that hopefully will continue when the child is grown. Most foods high in probiotics are safe for kids in moderate amounts.

Some of the foods that are considered high in probiotic live cultures can have a strong and bitter taste that could be offensive to a child’s delicate GI systems. It is best to introduce these items slowly earlier on to acclimate the child to the taste sensations.

Try dipping a piece of sourdough bread into miso or liquid from pickled foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut and others. This can get the child used to the more bitter aftertaste.

There are also supplements containing probiotics that can be simply sprinkled and/or mixed into the child’s normal foods. These supplements and food options should always be cleared by the pediatrician to ensure safe results.

Probiotics Linked to Breastfeeding Studies

There are many studies that indicate that breastfeeding can pass along the mom’s beneficial microorganisms naturally to the feeding infant. More studies are needed before conclusive scientific data proves these theories, but the results thus far are certainly promising.

Which Children Should Not Take Probiotics?

Although many healthcare professionals recommend probiotics for children and adults, there are some children who should not take these probiotics unless cleared by a physician beforehand.

These kids include those with severe autoimmune problems, very ill children and others deemed vulnerable by a doctor. Its use in these children might cause an unwanted infection instead of the protection form sickness that other kids usually enjoy.

A Few Probiotic Details to Consider Before Use in Kids

While probiotics are thought by most to be completely safe for use, there are some precautions every parent should understand and consider before giving any of these foods or supplements to their children.

Some dietary foods and drinks high in probiotics might be harmful to younger children, infants and those with a compromised autoimmune system. These include raw milk or cheeses made from raw milk along with unpasteurized dairy products or fruit juices.

Homemade pickled vegetables and other foods may also introduce illness causing bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Some parents find the vegan probiotics to be beneficial and simple to use. These can be found in health food stores and are carried by some major grocery store chains or can be found online through a reputable retailer that sells health food products.

Another caution to add is not to add sugar to your child’s probiotic enhanced foods in the hopes of making it taste better. That sugar is thought to alter the GI system of young children. Never use raw honey to sweeten foods, as kids can develop life-threatening botulism.

Parents should carefully consider all of the options before adding probiotics to their children’s regular diet or as a supplement. There are pros and cons like with any dietary product.

Remember that food labels that promote probiotics might be misleading if the product undergoes processing that could limit the amount of helpful live microbes left in the processed product.

Probiotics can be beneficial to kids and adults if precautions are followed and the pediatrician recommends this dietary product.