Family Health

What Are Probiotics?

Nowadays “healthy microbes” or so-called “good bacteria” such as probiotics are usually included in meals, but is it worth adding them to a child’s diet? Do kids really need them? It does not matter in what form we consume probiotics, the presence of beneficial bacteria in the organism can improve the intestinal microflora and be quite useful for immunity.

Definitely, the fact of improving digestion and supporting the immune system is tempting, but it hasn’t been proven that these substances are the magic pill. There is currently no official recommendation for using probiotics in children’s meals.

Still, at the same time, no one has confirmed that using probiotics is harmful. These substances are friendly organisms, mostly bacteria (although some of them are yeast-form), that keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy. The two most common probiotic strains are lactobacillus and bifidobacteria which are commonly added to foods e.g. Lactobacillus acidophilus can be found in yogurt. Previous clinical studies indicate that with the use of these strains in the microflora of bottle-fed newborns, the number of bifidobacteria increases rapidly.

How do they work?

They are believed to outweigh gastrointestinal pathogens by generating metabolic products that have a positive effect on the child’s immune system. The strains create a so-called ‘barrier effect’ and they fight against harmful pathogens in the stomach, preventing them from attaching to the intestines. Plus, these substances can decrease inflammation and control harmful bacteria, parasites, and yeast that often distract our immune systems from fighting off viruses.

Who benefits from probiotics?

If you decide on adding probiotics to your child’s diet, visit a pediatrician beforehand to make sure your kid requires such a diet. These substances can provide health benefits for most children, but they are not recommended for those with chronic health diseases and those with weakened immune systems. There is little evidence that probiotics can prevent illnesses, but they surely shorten the duration of some of them e.g. acute diarrhea.  These substances are also suitable for children who have taken antibacterial pills repeatedly. Probiotic supplements might decrease the incidence of the nose, ear, and upper respiratory tract infections.

When to take probiotics for kids

It definitely has a beneficial influence on healthy children to have probiotics in their diets. If a probiotic supplement is needed, your pediatrician will advise you on dosage and frequency. These substances can be given to babies from birth. Breastfed babies do not need probiotics because they receive enough good bacteria together with breast milk. The best organic baby formulas add prebiotics and probiotics. They are added to infant formulas for supporting the immune system e.g. HiPP combiotik and HiPP dutch formulas.

Who is not recommended to take probiotics?

Seriously or chronically ill kids, children with weak immunity, babies born prematurely are not allowed to be fed with probiotics. These exceptions stem from the fact that the influence of probiotics on these groups of children has not yet been sufficiently studied. In addition, there is little information available to date about which strains are best and how often one could take them. Now you know about the peculiarities of taking probiotics and it’s up to you whether to include probiotics into your child’s meals or not.