The effects of probiotics on children are tremendous. These supplements or enhanced foods contain live micro-organisms like yogurt along with lactobacillus and play the role of changing the balance of bacteria in the child’s body. The presence of this good bacteria in a child’s system can work to destroy bad bacteria and so reduce infection and a host of other medical conditions.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are supplements that contain live microorganisms, such as yogurt with lactobacillus, that change the bacterial balance in the human body. The idea of including this in a child’s diet is to boost the good bacteria in the body so that it destroys the harmful kind and so reduce infection.
How Probiotics Work on Children
Since some antibiotics get rid of good bacteria with bad bacteria, probiotics can be regarded as the reserve reinforcements that increase the amount of good bacteria and get rid of infection and illness-resulting bacteria. They also help to strengthen the lining of the intestines so that bad bacteria don’t enter the bloodstreamand change the intestinal environment by making it more acidic and a less fertile ground for bad bacteria.
Can I give this to my child?
Since over 70% of the human immune system is located in the gut, the gut microbiomes can play an influential role in our brain chemistry and our range of behaviours. So, it helps to get the best of our stomach flora to prevent any sickness or infection and feel well and healthy over a protracted period.
However, most foods do not contain as much probiotic content to help children stay well. Hence, taking probiotic supplements in the form of chewable tablets or drops becomes necessary.
Health Benefits of Probiotics for Kids
Research points to the fact that probiotics have a positive effect on a child’s immunity. It also has beneficial effects in treating children of various ailments and conditions, such as:
Increases immunity: A regular diet of probiotics help strengthen a child’s immune system. The child’s gastro-intestinal (GI) tract becomes healthier and stronger and more disease-fighting. According to a study, reported in the journal Pediatrics, a group of Mexican children were given probiotics for a three-month period at a day school in Mexico. At the end of this period, it was found that they had fewer bouts of diarrhoea and respiratory infections than those who were given a placebo.
Colic: Lactobacillus reuteri has proved to be effective in treating infantile colic. When over several weeks, infants on L. reutericried less and less by over 50%, it proves that this probiotic works. During this period, E. Coli and ammonia content in the child’s stool also reduces. According to a study published in Pediatrics in 2007, colicky infants on Lactobacillus reuteriProtectis, started seeing results within a week. In week 4, infants cried for barely 51 minutes each day, as compared to 145 minutes for those infants who were taking the conventional medicine containing simethicone.
Diarrhoea: The role of probiotics in curing diarrhoea is that they reduce the diarrhoea by a day and reduce its severity. Children are known to respond well to the probiotic Lactobacillus which was seen to be safe and effective in treating children with infectious diarrhoea, says a study in the journal Pediatrics. Children taking Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (or LGG) and Saccharomyces boulardiwere successfully treated byantibiotic-associated diarrhoea, as found in 10 randomized controlled trials. It was also found that children with diarrhoea due to acute viral gastroenteritis had a shorter bout of diarrhoea when they saved a day due to these probiotics. Probiotics have also proven to give a modest measure of success in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhoeaamong healthy children as against the effect of a placebo.
Tooth decay: With L. reuteri, children’s dental health improves.
Intestinal problems: The probiotic strains contained in some supplements help reduce the severity of abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhoea, bloating and gas. If they suffer from chronic conditions like Crohn’s disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, ask your doctor if probiotics can help in the long-term. According to research, constipated babies in Italy were given L. reuteriprobiotics which resulted in them having bowel movements oftener after a period of two weeks as against those who were given a placebo.
Eczema: If a child is allergic to milk, he may break out into eczema. By taking probiotics like Lactobacillus GG, researchers found that children had a 50% chance of developing eczema over those who were given a placebo.
Potty training: Giving a child probiotics has a great influence on his potty training as it helps to move the child’s bowels and keep the GI tract in a relaxed state.
Infection: Foods that are probiotic in nature, such as yogurt and yogurt shakes, and fortified foods help children with problems concerning breathing, eczema and food allergies. Infection among children is a huge concern, especially since it points to the fact that they have a weak or suppressed immune system due to an underlying problem.
Side-effects of Probiotics
Intestinal Gas: The commonest side-effect of probioticson children is gas. This forms due to gas-causing bacteria present, whichis instrumental in breaking down lactic acid. In its mildest form, gas can be cured with some probiotics but if it becomes severe and painful, a paediatrician will have to be consulted.
Bloating: Children can experience bloating too in its mildest form. It forms as a result of gas building up in the stomach and intestines and can be quite painful and severe if children have a weak immune system. So, speak to your paediatrician before giving your child any probiotic-based food.
Measures to take before giving your Child Probiotics
L. reuteri supplements are helpful for children suffering from diarrhoea, colic, tooth decay, respiratory tract infection, etc.
- To administer this probiotic supplement, use the powder form by mixing it with breast milk and administering it with a syringe.
- For kids two years old and above, chewable tablets can be given.
- For children aged three years and above, tiny tablets that can be swallowed easily should be given.
Probiotics are safe for children, but for doctors to prescribe them with confidence, more research is needed on it. Parents should discuss the pros and cons of giving their children probiotics with their paediatrician before taking a long-term decision.