If you're up on the latest wellness news, you probably already know that probiotics can positively impact your gut health, which helps you feel good all over. But as a parent, have you considered pediatric probiotics? Whether you're well-versed in the ways good bacteria can benefit the body or want to know more about fewer family tummy aches and other plusses of probiotics, our comprehensive guide tells all.
What Is a Probiotic and Its Benefits?
Let's start with the basics: the body's microbiome consists of billions of organisms, such as bacteria, yeast, and fungus species. These microscopic living creatures support organ and tissue function and help the body work properly, but some can also cause us to get sick.
Probiotic supplements help boost the body's many types of beneficial bacteria. They contain live cultures of one or more good germ species. Taking probiotics or eating foods with these compounds can keep your microbiome balanced.
According to a report from Healthline, probiotics can improve immune defenses against the common cold and reduce the effects of autoimmune diseases, particularly those that affect the GI system, such as irritable bowel syndrome. In addition to increasing levels of beneficial bacteria, probiotics support digestion, provide vitamins and nutrients, and process medications.
Probiotics for Infants
Colic, characterized by excessive crying with no known cause, represents one of the biggest potential challenges for new parents. A systematic review and meta-analysis published by JAMA Pediatrics in 2013 found that probiotics can effectively reduce episodes of colic-related crying in exclusively breastfed infants. These supplements may also soothe symptoms of acid reflux in newborns and infants. When your child begins to eat solid foods, probiotics such as those found in yogurt can potentially help with diarrhea symptoms, according to a WebMD report on a 2007 Canadian study.
Probiotics for Toddlers
Kids this age are also known for putting objects in their mouths, so you'll appreciate the immune-boosting effects of probiotic supplements. Many toddlers also begin potty training, resulting in unwanted symptoms such as diarrhea and constipation. Probiotics can support GI health as your little one's body transitions to the new routine.
Probiotics for Ages 4 and Above
Among this age group, probiotics offer kids many of the same benefits experienced by adults. You may consider a probiotic supplement to improve your child's immunity or help with frequent upset stomach issues. It can also reduce unpleasant side effects resulting from antibiotic use, such as diarrhea.
A 2015 study published by the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that probiotic use can prevent or reduce symptoms of the common cold in school-age children. Participants who took probiotics had 47% fewer upper respiratory tract infections during the study period than those in the placebo group. Probiotics also shortened the length of the average cold by nearly two full days, reduced the need for antibiotics, and reduced absences from school related to URTI.
Risks of Not Taking Probiotics
If the body's good and bad bacteria (microbiome) become unbalanced, you may notice signs of illness and GI upset, such as gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Without probiotics to address the issue, it can worsen over time, potentially resulting in secondary GI, urinary tract, yeast, or other infections. This risk increases for those who do not get enough of the proper nutrients in their diets.
Parents who decide to try probiotics should look for quality supplements from a trusted brand. You should also talk to your health care provider before adding any supplements, including probiotics, to your child's diet.