Do Toddlers Really Need Probiotics?
Health and wellbeing is always going be a top priority for any parent when it comes to their children. Ensuring they are fit and healthy in order to allow the best possible start in life must be the obvious answer.
So, if you could do something to prevent your child from getting sick in the first place, you would right?
That’s why we see so many different health supplements on the market for children these days. It’s not surprising that probiotics are pretty much common place in every grocery store now. I’ve researched in great depths about which ones are the best; however, the question still lies, do I really need to give them to my little one?
Probiotics promise “friendly bacteria” will help your baby fend off infections and boost immunity. Which begs the question, do toddlers really need probiotics? Or is it all just market hype? Let’s look at the facts to help us make an informed decision.
What are Probiotics?
Did you know the body is full of all types of bacteria? Probiotics are what we would deem one of the helpful kinds of “germs.” They are micro organisms which live in the digestive area and as long as there are adequate levels should fight off infection and keep your infant healthy. (source)
How Can Probiotics Help?
Some clinical research suggests there are benefits to probiotics in young children, but on the other side of the coin, there are also many conflicting reports with inconclusive results. Probiotics may be able to help in the following circumstances:
We have all been there before. No matter how hard you try to keep them healthy, your little bundle of joy manages to pick up a bug and the pediatrician recommends a course of antibiotics to fight off the infection. Taking antibiotics kills the bug, but it also takes away goodness from the friendly bacteria, which could contribute to other downsides such as antibiotic associated diarrhea. I think you will agree with me when I say, having a sick child and having to deal with an upset stomach on top of that really doesn’t help issues. Probiotics could help by restoring the balance between good and bad bacteria.
2. Digestive Issues
As this helpful bacteria is found in the stomach, you would be correct in thinking it could have benefits within the digestive system.
Diarrhea is something that every parent dreads, and can be quite a common occurrence once children start mixing at day care. Some research suggests probiotics could help with the effects of diarrhea by replenishing the helpful bacteria in the stomach. However, it’s by no means a cure for the problem but it should ease and reduce the timeframe of those tummy troubles. (source)
4. Keeps Belly Bacteria in Check
There is a healthy ratio of good and bad bacteria in the stomach, obviously the more bad bacteria the more chance of a weak immune system and illness. Therefore, topping up the levels of good bacteria with probiotics should, in theory, keep bugs at bay.
In this modern age, many children are now being diagnosed with various allergies, mainly caused by exposure to conditions in society and pollution. There may even be reason to believe that taking probiotics could reduce the effects of ailments such as eczema, although research is still ongoing with this and the potential links to other allergies.
What are the Natural Alternatives?
Probiotics can be found in a number of natural foods, but dairy products are the most common place to find them. Cultured or “live” yoghurts could be one of the top choices for children as they also contain other nutrients such as calcium, protein, and possibly other vitamins which are beneficial for developing infants. Choose a food source that is low in sugar and something that contains the helpful bacteria “lactobacillus.” This has shown the most consistent results and has been examined in the most clinical studies. Other alternatives could be soy milk or various types of cheeses.
Are Probiotics Safe?
Probiotics are classed as a dietary supplement and are regulated by U.S. food and drug administration (FDA). Although research is encouraging, they currently have not approved any type of probiotic for preventing or treating any specific health problems. (source) However, studies into safety of lactobacillus bacteria have results claiming that it is safe in healthy children. (source)
Research does indicate significant benefits to probiotics, but it is clear that more needs to be done to understand the actual mechanics. Looking at natural ways of boosting your child’s friendly bacteria and ensuring they get a healthy well balanced diet could be sufficient to maintain your child’s health. However, if you are considering giving your child any kind of dietary supplement, your first point of call should always be your child’s healthcare provider.