Did you know that your GI tract is as unique as your fingerprint? So is your child’s. He has trillions of microbes living within him, as do you, but they’re not the same mix from one child to the next.
Just as is the case with antibiotics, probiotics confuse people. Each one is in some way different from the rest. One strain of probiotics will not work for all conditions or for all people.
Regardless of the specific benefits, the probiotics do not build up within your child’s gut, so their effects are temporary. Once you stop giving them a probiotic, whether it comes in medicinal form or in food, your child’s levels of microflora will simply return to what they originally were.
Are Probiotics for Children Safe?
As a parent, it’s generally a good idea to be a bit cautious when giving your child supplements. But when it comes to probiotics, they aren’t an issue.
Probiotics do not appear to cause any problems for most children. Which isn’t surprising when you consider that several probiotic strains are naturally found in healthy mothers’ breast milk and passed on to their children. The “donated” flora then goes on to the child’s GI tract to play an important and complex role in developing a healthy digestive and immunologic function in your child.
Overall, probiotics are not only safe for healthy children and for most children suffering from routine childhood illness, but they are beneficial. They’ve been shown to combat digestive upset and reduce the risk of diarrhea associated with antibiotics as well as the length of time your child has acute diarrhea.
Probiotics may be effective, too, in the prevention of diarrheal infections acquired in a community setting. They are even useful in preventing and treating atopic dermatitis.
But this does not mean that probiotics should be given to every child – probiotics could pose a risk to some children. They include children with very weakened immune systems, as well as preterm babies. If you’re considering probiotics for children who fit these descriptions, please consult your pediatrician beforehand.
What Dose of Probiotics for Children?
According to a 2007 study, the precise dosage of probiotics for handling common childhood infections has not yet been determined, but there are guidelines. Generally, 5-10 billion CFUs per day is adequate, and it can be increased gradually, if your child doesn’t respond to lower doses.
In probiotic powders made for children, you should begin with just one baby scoop (enclosed with the product). Dissolve it in water and have your child drink it. Remain on this dosage for three to five days.
If your child isn’t getting the results you expect, raise the dosage to one baby scoop during the morning and one at bedtime. Remain at this dose level for a week. If you have questions about the amounts, contact your pediatrician.
The goal is finding the dosage that is most suitable for your child. His digestive system is unique, and different from yours. You may work up to two, three or more scoops each day. It depends on your child’s age and the results you are striving for.
So start slow and gradually ramp up. Gradual increases in dosage make it easier to determine your child’s optimum dosage.
What are the Most Beneficial Strains of Probiotics for Children?
The Lactobacillus species include a huge range of beneficial bacteria like L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, L. casei, L. plantarum and L. gasseri and are the most studied and possibly the most vital species of probiotics.
So it’s small wonder that these probiotics are the ones found in greatest abundance in healthy mother’s milk. In case you’re wondering which Lactobacillus probiotics would be best for children – look for a diverse combination of Lactobacillus strains for general gut health, nutrient absorption and immunity.
Each strain has a slightly different function so combining multiple beneficial strains creates a synergistic effect.
Special mention: Lactobacillus Reuteri
L. reuteri probiotics have shown positive results in children. In a recent study, scientists discovered that giving children five drops of L. reuteri was therapeutic for acute children’s rotavirus diarrhea. It’s also been proven an effective treatment against infant colic, with babies given L. reuteri showing a 50% decrease in time spent crying.
There’s a range of Bifidobacteria probiotic strains, including B. bifidum, B. longum, B. infantis and B. lactis, and they’re thought to be particularly important probiotics for children. They assist your child’s immune system, allowing it to appropriately develop. Your child may develop food allergies if he has a lack of Bifidobacteria in his system.
In one study, pregnant women, babies and children were supplemented with Bifidobacteria and it was able to prevent the development of allergic eczema.
What Children are the Best Candidates for Probiotic use?
Probiotic supplements can promote recovery for children with acute diarrhea. They decrease the number of days and the number of diarrhea episodes. They are also helpful in treating children so that they do not develop diarrhea when they take antibiotics.
From the beginning of your child’s life and through childhood, the choices you make can change the environment in your child’s body. This may ultimately change their wellness.
Probiotics should be thought of as useful not only in treating problems, but also in preventing them from occurring in the first place.
Although probiotic choices are more limited in children than adults, literature surrounding the alteration of a child’s bacteria for health and wellness is promising and fascinating. Except for Lactobacillus, there have not been many studies in the United States with probiotics in children.
The risks of giving your child a probiotic supplement are low, as long as he is not severely ill. Whether your child has a healthy immune system or you are trying to help his body to develop a better immune system, all but early-born babies and children with serious illness are good candidates for use of probiotics.