Providing a nutritious diet to the child is a constant endeavour of every parent. Making a child eat healthy food is a continuous challenge. But in today’s age of fast foods and processed foods, it is not always easy to eat healthily. In this respect, probiotics are fast gaining immense popularity. There is substantial evidence to believe that probiotics are beneficial for children. Several studies show that intake of probiotics either through supplements or food can bestow several health benefits on kids by positively affecting their gut. Many parents are increasingly opting for probiotics supplements for their kids to enhance their kid’s immune system.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics can be defined as live microorganisms like yeast or bacteria which are beneficial for our health. Simply put, they are the “good” bacteria. They aid in keeping our gut in a healthy condition by boosting the healthy bacteria. This is important because almost 80 percent of our immunity resides in the gut. Interestingly, the number of probiotics in our digestive tract is ten times more than the cells in our entire body. Probiotics can be derived from foods like yoghurt or consumed as additions which are available in various forms, such as, chewable tablets, drops and also particular probiotics coated straws. Remarkably, different probiotics work to cure different health issues. Hence, selecting the right kind of probiotics is important.
Why Do Children Need Probiotics?
A child’s gastrointestinal system is alive with many bacteria. Some are “good” bacteria, and some are “bad” bacteria. Various medical conditions like allergies, asthma and autoimmune diseases can disrupt the normal balance between the “good” and the “bad” bacteria. Consumption of processed foods and fluoridated water can also alter this balance. Probiotics can help in building up the good bacteria in the child’s gut, thereby improving the immune system of the child. A boost in immunity safeguards the child from falling prey to various diseases and infections. But the child may not be getting his daily dose of probiotics through his regular diet. Thus, it may become necessary to provide probiotics supplements to the child. However, it is always a good idea to first discuss it with your paediatrician. The benefits of probiotics for kids are as follows:
- Probiotics can help in boosting the child’s immunity by maintaining the gastrointestinal flora balance in the child’s gut.
- Antibiotics, when taken by a kid, generally destroy the good as well as the harmful bacteria thereby, causing distress in the gastrointestinal system of the child. For this reason, doctors may offer to give the child probiotics beforehand and even afterwards to reduce the harm to the healthy bacteria.
- Many diseases also can disrupt the balance between the “good” and the “bad” bacteria in the gut. Consumption of probiotics can help restore this crucial balance.
- Probiotics may help in lowering the risk of several diseases and allergies.
- Probiotics are believed to infuse the gut with health-enhancing microorganisms which not only improve the digestive system but also aid in the digestion of food.
- Studies indicate that probiotics can positively influence the movement of genes.
- Probiotics may be essential for the management of child’s weight and metabolism all his life.
- Research shows that probiotics promote brain health during different stages of child’s growth as the gut and the brain are closely connected.
- According to research, probiotics may lower the possible harmful side effects of vaccinations that are administered to the child.
- Studies show that probiotics can help in promoting healthy urinary tract in kids by preserving the beneficial bacterial count.
- Probiotics are known to produce vitamin B12, vitamin K2 and butyrate which help in increasing energy.
Ailments That Can Be Treated or Prevented With the Help of Probiotics
Studies have shown that probiotics can make a significant difference in promoting the wellness of your child. Certain ailments that can be prevented with the help of probiotics are:
- Probiotics may help in treating diarrhoea caused as a side effect of taking antibiotics.
- Research shows that probiotics can effectively help in easing colic, reducing gas and reflux.
- Doctors may suggest probiotics for kid’s constipation.
- Probiotics are also credited with curing eczema.
- According to some studies, probiotics may aid in curing IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)
- Studies show that consuming probiotics on a regular basis can promote lactose tolerance in a child.
- Probiotics may also prove effective in preventing tooth decay.
What Kind of Probiotics Are the Best for Kids?
Every child has its unique gastrointestinal tract which is full of bacteria. No two kids share the same combination of bacteria. But the two commonly occurring useful bacteria in our body are Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. Most probiotics supplements usually use these bacterial strains. It is advisable to select probiotics supplements that are specially formulated for kids. While selecting the right kind of probiotics supplement for your child, one may want to look for more than one strain or several strains of beneficial bacteria, in the supplement, for optimum benefit. It is sensible to prefer those probiotics that occur naturally are considered safe for the kids and can easily adapt to the child’s digestive system. One can also ask the doctor for a trial to figure out the most suitable probiotics for your child. Ideally, probiotics should be given to a child after he has had his meal. When given on an empty stomach, the acids in the stomach can destroy the microorganisms. Some choices can be:
- Probiotics with Bifidobacterial strain can be selected.
- One may also look for Lactobacillus GG bacteria strains.
- Probiotics with both bile and acid resistant strain may be a good choice.
- Saccharomyces boulardi, a kind of yeast has also proved to be useful.
Food Sources of Probiotics
Dairy products are considered to be the best source of probiotics. While choosing the dairy products, one must ensure that it contains naturally active bacteria as most products lose the live cultures at the time of processing. Some of the food sources can be:
- Cheeses like gouda and cheddar.
- Cottage cheese.
- Kimchi (pickled cabbage).
- Miso soup.
- Kombucha tea.
What Are Prebiotics and Synbiotics?
Prebiotics and synbiotics also offer numerous benefits for the healthy functioning of the gut. But experts are still studying their effects and the extent of benefits that can be derived out of them.
- Prebiotics are a kind of specialised fibre that promotes the good bacteria already living in the colon by nourishing it.
- Prebiotics are nourishment for probiotics. The more prebiotics, probiotics eat, the better they can function in keeping the gut healthy.
- Prebiotics contain fructose-oligosaccharides and fibre.
- Fruits, whole grains, and vegetables provide fibre.
- Foods such as onion, banana, honey, asparagus, maple syrup, rye, and oats provide fructose-oligosaccharides.
- Products that contain both prebiotics and probiotics are called synbiotics.
- When probiotics and prebiotics foods are combined, a synergy is produced which increases the health benefit of the food products.
- Accordingly, probiotics can be mixed with prebiotics fibre like yoghurt can be taken with honey.
Providing your child with probiotics rich diet can be a wise choice to make for ensuring his excellent health. Though, it is essential to remember here that the effects of probiotics are very temporary. They vanish from the gut if their intake is discontinued. Research in the field of probiotics is still in its initial stages, and it will be a long time before concrete evidence is obtained to establish its beneficial effect on human health conclusively.