Probiotics for Children – Do They Get Along?
Kids spend most of their childhood suspicious of their food’s ability to get up and crawl off their plate. Taking this into consideration, the notion that their cup of yogurt could potentially be squirming with life may not be exactly appetizing. That being said, there are plenty of reasons why mom would want to serve them a big ol’ bowl of bacteria.
Bacterial Building Blocks For Gastrointestinal Health
Despite a marked vigilance of the food industry and a growing demand for access to quality nutrition, we are still far from the complete freedom that comes from trusting our food sources. This means that our digestive health still depends largely on a personal effort to be healthy. When it comes to our children, the responsibility to provide adequate nutrition becomes a matter of education.
Our immune system is not to be taken lightly. Not only does it play a huge role in who we choose as a mate, but does so functionally, with the intention of producing disease-resistant children. This means that by the time a child is born, nature already contributed immune-boosting endowments. The bummer is that we live in a modern world where toxins in our water, food, and very atmosphere challenge our built-in defense mechanisms.
Probiotics serve as a building block to strengthen our kids’ immune system and ensure that the bacterial side-kicks they were born with retain their superpowers.
A healthy gut is the very foundation for preventing disease in children, with research proving that the quality of gut microflora is directly tied to the incidence of asthma and allergies. Proof of probiotics’ effectiveness in boosting the immune response can be seen from studies involving pregnant mothers. One study showed that women at high risk for allergies could be given probiotics during their pregnancy to prevent the development of eczema in their babies. This could only function via a generalized improvement of the immune system.
An interesting note: It only takes one round of antibiotics to wipe out a healthy child’s bacterial colonies. Antibiotics are undiscriminating in their destruction of bacteria and while effective in treating an immediate infection, the treatment occurs at the cost of future protection. Therefore, especially if your child has already taken antibiotics, it is important to replenish the good bacteria.
Why Pediatricians Are Recommending Probiotic Supplements
The American Academy of Pediatrics has only good things to say about probiotics and their implementation of infant and child health measures.
Research shows that probiotics can have positive effects on children’s health beyond the scope of gastrointestinal health. For example, studies on infants showed that administering probiotics to babies prone to colics significantly reduced crying, constipation, and stomach upset.
Probiotics have also been shown to not only reduce antibiotic-related diarrhea, but also strengthen children’s resistance to contagious diarrhea-causing illnesses that may spread among peers in public settings such as the classroom or playground.
Why Breastfeeding Endorses Probiotics
Prebiotics are a non-digestible food fiber whose main function is to feed friendly bacteria in the gut. Our host digestive system does not digest prebiotics.Their purpose is to ferment in our lower digestive tract and enable colonization of probiotic microflora. Simply put, prebiotics precede probiotics.
Breast milk happens to be rich in prebiotics, a fact that undeniably endorses the importance of probiotics.
If a parent is reading this, he or she will agree that a substance’s presence in breast milk has become the deciding factor in many of the nutrition and supplement choices they make for their children.
We all know that your pantry’s current stock of coconut oil happened after learning that the stuff is chock-full of lauric acid, an anti-microbial fatty acid that just so happens to constitute a large percentage of the healthy fats in breast milk.
Need I really say anything more than it’s present in breast milk? You know what they say, “breast is best”.
Will My Kids Eat Probiotics?
Absolutely not. But they’ll lap up yoghurt with their bare hands if they have to. The trick with feeding children what’s good for them is making smart choices. No kid is going to put a spoonful of fermented cabbage in his mouth voluntarily.
The only issue with choosing “fun” probiotic foods is manufacturer labels. Probiotics are monitored as food, so important information concerning the type of probiotic strain or the count of live cultures in the product are often omitted. Additionally, yogurts specifically marketed toward children often contain unhealthy amounts of sugar- sugar, by the way, can encourage the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut.
When shopping for children, simply make sure to do some research beforehand on different types of probiotic products. Educated choices are always the best.
- Gottesman, Nancy. “Probiotics: The Friendly Bacteria.” Parents Magazine. Web. 29 Nov. 2015. <http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/feeding/healthy-eating/probiotics-the-friendly-bacteria/>.
- Fife, Bruce. The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil Francois CA, Connor SL, Wander RC, Connor WE. Acute effects of dietary fatty acids on the fatty acids of human milk. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1998;67:301-308.
- Rettner, Rachael. “Are Probiotics Safe for Kids?” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 6 Oct. 2011. Web. <http://www.livescience.com/16426-probiotics-safe-kids.html>.
- Merenstein, D., et al. “Use of a fermented dairy probiotic drink containing Lactobacillus casei (DN-114 001) to decrease the rate of illness in kids: the DRINK study A patient-oriented, double-blind, cluster-randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial.” European journal of clinical nutrition 64.7 (2010): 669-677.
- Rautava, Samuli, Marko Kalliomäki, and Erika Isolauri. “Probiotics during pregnancy and breast-feeding might confer immunomodulatory protection against atopic disease in the infant.” Journal of allergy and clinical immunology 109.1 (2002): 119-121.
- Martín, Rocío, et al. “Human milk is a source of lactic acid bacteria for the infant gut.” The Journal of pediatrics 143.6 (2003): 754-758.