The physical development children undergo can lay a strong foundation for how healthy they can be as adults. This is why it is important that they have the substances they need to develop properly. The introduction of probiotics into the diets of babies and young children may be able to provide them with enough of the “good” bacteria the immune systems in their bodies need to fight off illnesses. As a concerned parent, you should be able to understand how important these special bacteria can be to your children’s health and how supplemtns containing the probiotics may be used to treat certain ailments.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living microorganisms and yeasts that are naturally in the body and are essential to maintaining one’s health. Probiotics help your stomach move food and can be used to help alter the bacterial balance in body, eradicate harmful bacteria and reduce infection. You can find them in certain enhanced foods, and they are also available as supplements, which are typically used to enhance the growth of probiotic bacteria in the stomach. The two main groups of probiotics include:
- Bifidobacterium, which can be found in some dairy foods
- Lactobacillus, which is the most common type of probiotic and is typically found in fermented foods, like yogurt
Microorganisms and Children
Everyone has microorganisms that live on and in their bodies. This collection of microorganisms, or the microbiome, is created during development in the womb. During the birthing stage, babies will swallow amniotic fluid, which will begin to spur the creation of the good bacteria inside of their bodies. These good bacteria will continue to develop and then mature during the infancy and early childhood stages of development.
In addition to having key roles in the proper digestion of food and manufacturing vitamins, the microorganisms also aid in the development of the intestinal mucosal defense system, which is a complicated network of immune processes that aid in preventing diseases and infections. Studies have shown that children who have compromised intestinal mucosal defense systems have been known to suffer from asthma, Type 1 diabetes, allergies and variety of autoimmune diseases. As a result, researchers have concluded that children who have insufficient microbiomes may experience health complications throughout their lifetimes.
What Does the Science Say?
While there is an extensive range of foods that contain probiotics, only probiotic supplements contain the high doses of probiotics needed to be effective as a treatment. There are brands that are marketed specifically for use in children, like UltraFlora Children’s Daily Probiotic Support, which is made by Metagenics and can provide daily support for immune and gastrointestinal health and is ideal for kids who like chewable supplements.
There are results from multiple studies that show that children can benefit significantly from taking probiotic supplements and that they may be effective as a curative or preventative treatment for a number of illnesses from which children may suffer:
- Diarrhea: According to a study reported in Pediatrics magazine, Lactobacillus was determined to be effective in treating children with infectious diarrhea. There was also a 2007 review of ten trials that found Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG and Saccharomyces boulardi were used to successfully treat children who had diarrhea due to receiving antibiotics.
- Respiratory Infections. There is also research that indicates probiotics can be used to prevent childhood respiratory infections. A 2015 review of 12 trials, which included seven trials that focused on children mostly enrolled in child care centers or daycare where the risks of infections were high, showed that different types of probiotics, including Lactobacillus GG, reduced the chances of a child acquiring an upper respiratory tract infections by 50 percent. It also found that the administering of probiotics cut the number of children who would need antibiotic treatment to treat their infections by nearly 33 percent.
- Colic: The results of another study published in Pediatrics in 2007 indicated that the use of medical drops containing the probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri Protectis was successful in treating infants suffering from colic and actually reduced the amount of time the babies cried during the day.
There are certain situations in which children should not be given probiotics, including instances in which a child has a serious or chronic condition or if their immune system has been severely compromised. Before you add probiotic supplements to your children’s diet, contact us at Prime Wellness. We are a Metagenics product provider and can address your concerns regarding the proper use of probiotic supplements as a part of a naturopathic treatment plan.