Seeking to keep your children healthy? Add probiotics to your parenting toolkit! Probiotics play an important role in children’s health beyond immune and digestive health.
George Paraskevakos, MBA
Executive Director, The International Probiotics Association
As parents, we want the best for our children, but no matter our focus on handwashing, healthy meals, and supplements, kids tend to bring home coughs, runny noses, and all kinds of microbes, especially during the colder seasons. What’s a parent to do? Let’s get to the “gut” of the matter.
The gut is home to trillions of microbes making up the microbiota. Over 70% of the immune cells in the body are located in the gut, allowing a healthy microbiota to support the body’s natural defenses and much more.
We strive to keep our children healthy by encouraging optimal nutrition, adequate sleep, stress management, handwashing, exercise, stimulating play, and more. What else can a conscientious parent do? Consider the benefits of including probiotics in your parenting toolkit!
Probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Probiotics are the safe, beneficial, and friendly microbes that not only help to balance the good and the bad microbes in your child’s body, but they also train and support the immune system, as well as a child’s overall health and digestion.
Probiotics support various immune cells by helping them to identify and eliminate certain germs and viruses. They additionally teach and train the immune system to respond to threats appropriately. Specific probiotics have been clinically studied in children and have been shown to reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections and the duration of colds and sore throats.
When antibiotics are prescribed, it is important to take them as directed. Many doctors now suggest taking a probiotic to rebalance the microbiota that has been damaged due to the antibiotic. Specific probiotic strains have been clinically shown to reduce the occurrence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children.
Stress and anxiety
Human clinical research has demonstrated an exciting connection called the gut-brain axis, and in mechanistic studies, specific probiotic strains show promising support for enhancing mood and gut-brain interactions in children.
Eczema and acne have a physical and psychological impact during sensitive periods of childhood. Certain probiotics have shown clinical support for both conditions, mainly by reducing local inflammation and redness.
Probiotics can help to support the balance of the microbiota in the mouth, allowing for healthy development of teeth and gums in children.
Irritable bowel syndrome
As many as 17% of young children and up to 38% of teenagers experience gut discomfort and irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Clinical studies in children using specific strains of probiotics have shown improvements in abdominal pain, gas, and bloating.
1 in 4 children experience constipation through to adulthood. In addition to typical treatments for constipation, probiotics can improve movements within the colon (peristalsis) to help relieve occasional constipation and support bowel regularity; this has been clinically demonstrated in a number of studies.
Probiotics play an important role in the digestion of food and production of energy for a child’s growth and development. Probiotics produce and optimize different enzymes, including enzymes involved in digestion. Specific probiotics produce the enzyme lactase that breaks down lactose, the milk sugar found in dairy products. Probiotics also produce key vitamins vital for health, like B vitamins and vitamin K, and help with the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Probiotics also produce short chain fatty acids that are important for health.
Probiotics are available in many easy-to-swallow convenient formats for children, including liquids, drops, chewables, gummies, powders, and fortified foods and beverages. Just like children, probiotics are all different, with different types of strains and functions, so read product labels when choosing the probiotic to meet your child’s needs. Consult your child’s health practitioner, and refer to resources at the International Probiotics Association’s website (www.internationalprobiotics.org) for more information to meet all of your family’s probiotic needs!