Did you know that just like in adults, children need bacteria in their body to help with digestive health? Yes, some find this statement surprising, but it’s important modern Irish families start embracing healthy bacteria.
There are 'good' bacteria and 'bad' bacteria in our bodies. Helpful, ‘good’ bacteria predominantly live in our large intestine and come in many forms. A supplement of probiotics can help enhance their presence and boost your immune system.
While probiotic supplements are commonly used by adults for their health benefits, most people remain hesitant to administer the probiotics to their children.
Probiotics can help boost the gut health of your kids and fight off the bad bacteria in the microbiome. This can help to keep the bacteria composition in a child's body balanced and prevent tummy troubles and more serious medical conditions like respiratory tract infections.
A daily dose of healthy probiotics are vital for children as their bodies develop and learn to fight off whatever they come up against in their daily lives at home, at creche, at school and around the community. The good thing is you don't have to push your kids to consume them because they come in different (and often delicious) kid-friendly forms!
If your child is sensitive to dairy products there are dairy-free options, or if they are intolerant to gluten, you can opt for gluten-free probiotic supplements.
Benefits of Probiotics for Children
Probiotics being good, healthy bacteria, provide a range of great health benefits for your kids.
1. Improve Your Kid's Immune System
Introducing probiotic foods to your kids at an early age allows them to develop a strong immune system that can ward off common ailments and more serious medical conditions.
If your child is taking an antibiotic for an illness, administering probiotics minimises side effects the antibiotics may have.
In addition, it will reduce the signs and symptoms of the illness, allowing your child to heal faster.
2. Improve Digestion
Many Irish children suffer from bloating or constipation; by giving your child probiotic supplements, you will be a step closer to achieving a smooth digestive system.
The use of a reliable probiotic for kids can come in very handy, especially for premature infants, by lowering the risk of acute necrotising enterocolitis by half. Though rare, this condition is potentially fatal for kids per neo-natal studies from UCC.
3. Minimise Infection Rate
The active cultures in probiotics help boost the growth of friendly bacteria and ward off unfriendly bacteria. This can help your child to remain healthy and save you money on treating common gut-related health problems should they arise in future.
Probiotics can help counter common childhood infections including colic, allergies, and urinary tract infections by boosting the kids' gut system. Probiotics also aid in developing a healthy dental formula for your child(ren).
4. Synthesise Vitamins
Probiotics support your child's growth through the production of vitamins such as B, C and K. Vitamin K is beneficial in helping your child's blood to clot, ensuring they don't bleed too much when injured and it helps in the fast repair of body tissues.
5. Protect Your Skin
A kids' skin is always sensitive and will react at the slightest provocation, including change of weather, soaps, and nappies . A kids' probiotic may help ward off rashes, eczema, and itchiness. Allergic reactions that affect the skin may be avoided with probiotics.
6. Breakdown Medication
If your kid is on antibiotics for a medical condition, as the drugs fight the unwanted strains of bacteria, in the process, the antibiotics could potentially kill the good bacteria.
Types of Probiotics
Probiotics come in two main strains:
The beneficial effects of each are outlined as follows.
This type of friendly bacteria helps produce lactase, which is the enzyme necessary for disintegrating the lactose found in milk. The lactobacillus probiotic also aids in the production of lactic acid, which is responsible for fighting the multiplication of unfriendly bacteria in your body.
These friendly ones work with the relevant vitamins in absorbing the minerals in your body.
Commonly found in the small intestine and the vagina, the lactobacillus boosts the growth of healthy bacteria that promote kids' digestion and immune systems.
Some of the common probiotic strains under this species include:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus reuteri
These probiotics may help children in the production of lactic acid necessary for their health. Additionally, probiotics help in the growth and repair of tissues.
The Bifidobacteria works just like the lactobacillus in breaking down food into nutrients vital for the kids' body.
Some of the main strains of this probiotic include the saccharomyces boulardii that is used commonly in medicine.
The probiotic may be administered to the baby as a chewable tablet for maximum benefits. It is mostly administered to kids with diarrhoea problems, irritable bowel syndrome, and colitis.
Different probiotics have different effects on children's bodies. You need to consult and get medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from qualified personnel on the best probiotics for your child.
Common types of probiotic strains under this species include:
- Bifidobacterium animalis
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bifidobacterium lactis
The lactis is the most commonly administered probiotic supplement as it's derived from raw milk and forms a major component of the best probiotics meant for children.
Signs Your Child Needs Probiotics
Now that you know the benefits of probiotics for children, how do you tell if they need them?
1. When a Child is Gassy
As a young child's digestive system is formed, the infant will mostly be gassy. Flatulence, tummy troubles and gas are common in small babies.
As the baby progresses, the rate should go down, and in the event it doesn't, then that's a clear sign you may need to consider a form of supplement.
2. When a Child has Diarrhoea
Diarrhoea may make a very young child or baby nauseated and weak. To energise and restore their vigour, you may consider administering probiotics.
They will boost the kids' immune system and ease their bowel movements.
3. Frequent Colds and Coughs
Recurring colds in children are usually an indication of a weak immune system. To boost the gut health and in turn the immunity of your kid, consider having probiotics added to their food sources as part of a balanced, healthy diet.
Depending on their age, use the prescribed dosage of the probiotic to boost their immune system.
4. After Taking Antibiotics
When a mother is on antibiotics, she’ll pass them on to breastfeeding babies. It is, therefore, necessary to get the right probiotics for kids of this age to counter the effects of the antibiotics.
Older kids on medication should also take probiotics to restore the good bacteria lost through the consumption of antibiotics.
5. When a Kid has Skin Conditions
Kids may have allergic reactions to food, medication side effects, weather and environment that may lead to a skin condition.
Having the right type of probiotics will reduce the itchiness, making the kid more comfortable and less irritable.
How to Identify the Best Kids Probiotics
Probiotics for kids may be administered within cold food such as:
- Fresh fruits and vegetable products that are fermented
- Dairy products like cheese that are fermented
To ensure you get the best for your kid, look out for
- Live cultures - Ensure the probiotics are not expired.
- A range of bacteria strains - Probiotics with various strains yields better results than those with a single strain.
- Size - The probiotic should be big enough to form a colony, and it's possible to measure this using the colony-forming units or CFU’s. Get a probiotic that is suitable for the kids' size and age.
- Form - Since probiotics are available in different forms, including powder, chewable tablets, and liquids, go for the form most suitable for your child.
- Safe - Ensure the probiotics you choose are safe for children. Consult your child's doctor on the daily probiotic dosage that is right for your kid. Children with other conditions such as autism can also have probiotics administered, but you need to know the correct strain for such kids.
Forms of Probiotics Suitable for Children
As your child’s caregiver, always ensure that the bacteria contained in the probiotic product of choice is what you are looking for.
If your child has any food allergies, existing conditions or if you have any health concerns whatsoever, you should consult your family doctor or a pediatrician on the best supplement for your kid.
Adult probiotics and children probiotics differ greatly in form and dosage, so it's important not to ever give a child your own daily probiotic supplement and get a specialised product suited to a child's needs.
They generally come in the following formats on the Irish market at present.
- Chewable Probiotics
These work well with older children from two onwards as they view gummy probiotics as sweets or a special treat. Proper storage of these probiotics is necessary to ensure the kids don't consume them without supervision.
- Dissolving Probiotics
These are added to the kids' favourite drinks like juice, water, milk, or yoghurt. They come in handy for kids that view probiotics as medication and are unwilling to cooperate.
As you make the formula, ensure you are out of their sight to avoid the child(ren) seeing you mix, as some children can reject food and drinks if they know there's some supplements coming!
- Probiotic Melts
The melts are best for kids who have a problem with swallowing medications. Once in the mouth, the probiotics melt immediately.
Most of these come in different flavours, and you can choose the best flavour for your kid to help them cooperate.
- Easy to Swallow Probiotics
As the name suggests, these come in the form of flavoured yoghurts that will entice the kid to swallow easily. These come in particularly handy for kids who dislike the other forms of friendly probiotics and quickly recognise and refuse them.
The Meaghers Verdict on Children's Probiotics
In conclusion, probiotics do not harm children, and they are necessary for children as they boost their immune and digestive systems. Caregivers should not replace any medications with probiotics.
Before administering any probiotic for children, it's advisable to seek a paediatrician's advice to help you identify the best strains that will suit your family and always keep the probiotics safe and out of children's reach to avoid misuse.
As with any medicinal supplement, always ensure that you do thorough research before buying any probiotic products. Ask your GP or pharmacist to help you determine which products are suitable for your health.
Contact Us to Discuss Your Child's Probiotic Requirements
We're hopeful this guide has given food for thought on ensuring the best course of action when considering a healthy, balanced diet to improve your child's overall gut health - and illustrating how the effects of probiotics can form a strong aide in that mission.
If you’d like to ask our team about choosing the right dose of probiotics for your child or any other family health-related questions, please contact us today. We would be delighted to help you make a more informed decision on the best way forward for your child's health and happiness!