Probiotics are among the most frequently used dietary supplements in the U.S, but are they something you should be giving your child? Is it safe to use? And at what age can you start giving your child probiotics?
In this blog post, we’ll help you make sense of probiotics for kids, how they work, their benefits, and when to start.
Probiotics May Work Differently for Kids
Different probiotic strains perform different functions in the body. Up until birth, your child has no microorganisms in their gut. It’s only during birth that the gut is populated with bacteria and other microorganisms. As a result, children at different points in their development may need different probiotic strains. Research in this field is still evolving. Before starting your child on probiotics, you may want to speak with their pediatrician.
Some probiotics are formulated specifically for children, whereas others might be more suitable for adults. The main differences are the amount of active bacteria, the number of strains, and the specific strains included in the formulation.
Most importantly, a high-quality probiotic should be formulated to address specific health outcomes. For example, a probiotic designed to help alleviate antibiotic-associated diarrhea is different from one that will support gut barrier function. It is best to choose a probiotic that addresses your kid’s needs, and that is formulated to be safe for children.
Probiotics: Good Bacteria in the Gut
Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in a healthy human intestine. These probiotic bacteria support many important processes in the body, including healthy digestion, nutrient absorption, immune function, and even cognition and mood.
When the natural and healthy balance of these beneficial bacteria shifts, health issues can develop. Digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhea, more frequent illnesses, food intolerances, allergies, and even migraines are linked to an imbalance in gut bacteria.
Infants first come in contact with bacteria during the birth process. The mother’s breast milk also provides important probiotic bacteria. Developing a healthy gut microbiome in the early years of life lays the foundation for health and wellbeing, even years later.
Unfortunately, today’s external factors such as C-sections, lack of breastfeeding, and heavy antibiotic use by mother and child can disrupt the healthy bacterial balance in the infant’s gut microbiome. This can lead to digestive issues in infants such as colic, food intolerances, a weakened immune system, and the emergence of allergies later in life.
Developing a healthy intestinal flora promotes a strong immune system and influences whether someone is prone to digestive issues, infections, allergies, skin conditions such as eczema and other chronic conditions.
Are Probiotics Safe for Your Child?
Probiotics naturally occur in a healthy human intestine and probiotic supplements are generally considered safe by the FDA. All you are doing by taking a probiotic supplement is adding more good bacteria to your gut. Therefore, probiotics are considered safe for kids. However, some probiotics may be more suitable for children than others. Make sure to read the product instructions for more information.
When you choose a probiotic for your child, look for the following:
- Contains human bacterial strains
- Shown to be safe and effective in clinical studies
- Labeled as safe for infants and/or children
The Benefits of Probiotics
The probiotic bacteria in our gut support many essential processes in the body. Health benefits include improved digestion, nutrient absorption and regular bowel movements.
Your probiotic bacteria also play a critical role in immune function. In fact, 80% of the immune system resides in the gut!
In recent years, science has uncovered strong connections between our gut microbiome (the bacteria and other microorganisms living in our gut) and mood, cognition and even chronic ailments such as Type 2 diabetes, migraines, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
How Probiotic Bacteria Function
Probiotic bacteria in our gut perform a wider range of functions. They support digestion and elimination, they’re a critical part of the immune system, metabolize neurotransmitters and hormones, and communicate directly with the brain to affect mood and cognition.
Unfortunately, modern life with antibiotics, processed foods, sugar, food additives and stress can all disrupt the healthy balance of our beneficial gut bacteria. Probiotic dietary supplements add these beneficial microbes back into our gut.
It’s important to remember that different probiotic strains perform different functions. It’s not a “one size fits all.” Certain probiotic strains are well-known to inhibit the growth of pathogens (bad bacteria, viruses and fungi), whereas others support immune function or help with constipation.
Probiotic Benefits for Kids
Most children, even healthy kids, benefit from taking a high-quality probiotic.
Upon birth, the infant gut gets populated with gut bacteria during vaginal delivery and through the mother’s breast milk. If an infant is delivered via c-section, has to take antibiotics, or receives infant formula, the infant’s gut is often not populated with the same amount of good bacteria and lacks bacteria diversity. This can lead to digestive issues during infancy, as well as issues such as allergies, eczema and a weakened immune system later in life.
In addition, modern-day life poses many stress factors for our gut bacteria. Sugar, processed foods, food additives, and stress can all kill our good gut bacteria. Your child will benefit especially if he/she is experiencing frequent illnesses, food allergies, digestive issues, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
If your child is taking antibiotics, use of probiotics is essential. Antibiotics kill the bad bacteria that are making your child sick, but they also kill many of the good gut bacteria that are necessary for overall health. This can result in antibiotic-associated diarrhea and other uncomfortable, digestive side effects of antibiotics. Probiotics help restore these good bacteria.
Clinical studies with probiotics have shown that the right combination of probiotic bacteria can help prevent and alleviate antibiotic-associated diarrhea. A study with OMNi-BiOTiC AB 10 showed a significant reduction in antibiotic-associated diarrhea in participants who took the antibiotic amoxicillin.
When to Start Giving Your Child Probiotics?
Kids of all ages can benefit from probiotics. Even infants can benefit from a high-quality probiotic, as long as it’s labelled safe for infants. Our gut bacteria support many important processes in the body. Supporting a healthy gut microbiome via probiotics lays the foundation for good gut health, a strong immune system, and overall well being.
Probiotics become particularly important if your baby was born via C-Section, had to take antibiotics or wasn’t breastfed. These factors can negatively impact the diversity of bacteria in the gut.
If your infant is experiencing colic and digestive discomfort, a probiotic can also be very beneficial. In a clinical study, probiotics helped reduce colic and digestive comfort in infants.
Probiotics can also help if food intolerances, allergies or digestive ailments run in the family or if your child starts experiencing these issues. Probiotics help strengthen the gut barrier and support a balanced immune system. OMNi-BiOTiC BALANCE contains strains that support a balanced gut microbiome, promote healthy digestion and strengthen immune function.
It also makes sense to start probiotics if your child is experiencing digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea or difficult bowel movements.
Stress negatively impacts gut health. If your child is going through very stressful times (for example at school), taking a probiotic like OMNi-BiOTiC STRESS Release can help restore healthy gut flora and counteract the negative effects of stress on the gut.
Are There Children Who Shouldn’t Take Them?
Premature infants should not be given probiotics unless under strict supervision by a pediatrician.
Children with serious health conditions such as cancer, heart defects, and a compromised immune system should not be given probiotics unless under the supervision of your child’s pediatrician.
Should You Start Your Child on a Probiotic Diet or on Supplements?
Most kids benefit from a probiotic supplement. There are many factors in modern life that can disrupt your child’s gut health. This includes frequent antibiotics, food additives, sugar, processed foods and stress. Probiotics are especially helpful for kids who suffer from digestive issues and who are prone to allergies and frequent illnesses.
Many parents wonder whether to incorporate fermented foods into their kid’s diet. These foods contain some live bacteria and yeasts, which may provide health benefits. Fermented foods also increase the diversity of foods for your microbiome, which can have benefits. However, they are not the same as taking a targeted probiotic supplement.
Which is Better: Probiotic Supplements vs Probiotic Foods
In most supermarkets, you can find a wide range of probiotic food products and drinks. Examples include yogurt, fermented vegetables such as Sauerkraut, yogurt-alternatives, Kefir and Kombucha. All of these items are made in a fermentation process using live, active bacteria. However, there are several challenges with probiotic foods and drinks.
The bacteria used for the fermentation process are often not human bacteria. In yogurt, for example, the bacteria are usually cow bacteria. This means that they don’t settle down in your gut and leave your body via your stool.
Fermented foods and drinks often sit on the shelf for a long time before you ingest them. As a result, the bacteria in the product may already be dead or at a life stage where they can’t deliver their full benefits.
The bacteria also have to pass through the acidic environment in your stomach. Stomach acid kills many of these good bacteria, especially if they are already at an aged stage because they sat on the shelf for a few days or weeks.
Some of these live bacteria also make it into your intestine where they may have some positive effect. However, taking a high-quality probiotic supplement is a much more effective way to improve your gut health.
How to Pick a Probiotic Supplement
Probiotics come in many forms. There are capsules, chewables, gummies, liquids, and powders. Capsules are hard to swallow for many kids, so you might prefer an alternative. Chewables and gummies often taste best, but these forms of delivery often have the lowest survival rate of the bacteria. They many times don’t make it into the intestine alive where they do their work.
Instead, we recommend choosing a powder. At OMNi-BiOTiC®, all our probiotics are formulated as a highly effective powder with added prebiotics for optimal performance.
In addition, look for a product that best fits your child’s needs. For example, if your child just took antibiotics and has antibiotic-associated diarrhea, choose a product that was formulated with this goal in mind.
Make sure that the product is labelled as safe for children and check the dosing for children of different ages
Lastly, choose a probiotic that has been clinically tested for efficacy.
Probiotic Supplements for Kids
At OMNi-BiOTiC®, our probiotics are tailored to specific health needs. They’ve been developed under the highest quality and safety criteria. As a result, most of our OMNi-BiOTiC® probiotics are suitable for children.
We most often recommended the following probiotics for children:
OMNi-BiOTiC AB 10 if your child has recently taken antibiotics, or is currently taking antibiotics. This is also our product of choice for children that have frequent diarrhea.
OMNi-BiOTiC BALANCE is designed to support a balanced gut microbiome, promote healthy digestion and strengthen immune function. This probiotic also works well for children who are prone to allergies, food intolerances, skin issues as it helps regulate the immune system.
OMNi-BiOTiC STRESS Release promotes the body’s resilience in times of stress. It helps strengthen the gut barrier, reduces inflammation in the gut and is also the product we recommend for individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
For children under the age of 3 years, we recommend taking half of one sachet per day. Please note that we do NOT recommend OMNi-BiOTiC® HETOX for children under 1 year of age.
To improve the taste of the probiotic, you can dissolve it in infant formula, milk or yogurt, a dairy alternative, lukewarm soups and apple juice. Avoid juices that are too acidic such as orange juice as these negatively impact the probiotic bacteria.