Probiotics for kids – are they safe? You see it in the health aisle of your favorite grocery store. You hear it’s effective for many types of ailments. Adults swear by it. But should you be giving it to your children? Are they healthy and safe for them?
Probiotics are live and friendly microorganisms that inhabit the intestines and different parts of the body. They provide many benefits to the host such as aiding digestion, fighting infection, reducing bowel inflammation, reducing abdominal pain, treating skin conditions, and many more.
For many adults, taking this supplement is no problem at all. They experience no side effects and feel better after emptying a cup of yogurt or a bowl of kimchi. But for kids though, they work differently. If you’re planning on giving probiotics to your kids, here are a few useful things to know about it:
- They are generally safe for kids unless their immune system is compromised, they have cancer, or they’re a premature infant. If that is the case, it can put them at risk for infections.
- They don’t work very similarly for kids at all times. Some may feel relief while others may experience side effects such as intestinal gas, infection and bloating.
- Some foods contain various types of probiotics. You can opt to give these to your kids – cheddar cheese, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, miso, natto, pickles, sauerkraut, traditional buttermilk, tempeh, and yogurt. When you choose yogurt, ensure the brand says active or live cultures.
- Regular consumption may decrease the risk of infections. One study shows that infants aged two to 12 who were given formula milk mixed with probiotics had lesser occurrences of ear and respiratory infections. Acid reflux, constipation, and colic may also be prevented.
- They seem beneficial for kids mainly for diarrhea. But for other circumstances, the benefits aren’t that clear. Some conditions that may benefit from it are allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, Crohn’s disease, eczema, inflammatory bowel diseases, and irritable bowel syndrome.
- There are three main strains found in it – Bifidobacterium, Saccharomyces boulardii, and Lactobacillus. Bifidobacterium lives in the large intestine and colon, Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast and protects the lining of the gut, and Lactobacillus is found in the small intestine. These three strains have diverse roles in the body. Kids will benefit from a particular strain based on their health condition.
- Taking probiotics with antibiotics can help because they help ease the side effects caused by antibiotics such as constipation, diarrhea, and stomach pain. They can also shorten the symptoms.
- There is always a risk, which is why it’s not advisable to give it to your kids for longer periods of time. Side effects can be serious if your child is very sick.
- Some brands to choose from – Culturelle, Nature’s Way, and Ultimate Flora. Culturelle is flavorless and can be added to food or drink. Nature’s Way is a cherry-flavored chewable. Ultimate Flora is also a chewable that comes in berry flavor. Other good brands include up4, Olly, Lil Critters, Nordic Naturals, Renew Life, Digestive Advantage, Garden of Life, PRO-Kid, and SmartyPants.
- It is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as a food product, not a medicine. Therefore, there is not enough proof that they are effective and safe for all. There is also no ideal dose recommended to users.
- There are over-the-counter supplements that are sold in the form of powders, capsules, liquid extracts and tablets. Each of these contains a particular type of probiotic. They’re available in grocery stores, pharmacies, vitamin shops, and health food stores.
- There are so many products out there so the best way to choose is to ask your pediatrician. Stick to the most reliable companies because they produce high-quality products. You don’t want to buy products that might be contaminated. Some are poorly regulated so you should look for certifications to make sure you’re getting the best value for your money.
Probiotics may relieve different kinds of ailments in children. They may shorten symptoms when used with antibiotics. They may improve the overall health of some kids. But they may not work with some children either. Whether you choose to give your kids supplements or the natural form, it’s best to think about how they will benefit from it the most.
If you’re not sure what to give your kids, get professional help. Consult with your pediatrician and ask the most important questions – how will your child benefit from it, what is their recommended brand, what are the warning signs, how long should you give it, and what is the right dose?
Keep in mind that this product is not recommended for long term use. They shouldn’t be used as preventive remedies unless your doctor recommends it. Remember that your kids have natural probiotics in their bodies and you can always boost it by incorporating the right kind of food in their diet.