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Probiotics for Kids

Probiotics are “good” bacteria that when consumed can restore balance and help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. Babies born through vaginal delivery and babies that are breast fed tend to have more “good bacteria” than those who are not.

Breast milk contains probiotics, and recently they have been added to some brands of infant formula. However, there isn’t enough evidence yet to prove that these formulas have any positive effect on our children. Furthermore, it is very important to note that probiotics should never be given to children who are ill as there have been reported cases of serious infections associated with consumption of probiotics for children with compromised immune systems.

In otherwise healthy children, probiotics are said to be safe and may be helpful, however numerous studies have revealed that probiotics do not live up to all the positive publicity that they have received in recent years. On the other hand, no studies have found any major side effects in healthy children taking probiotics.

There has been publicity about the positive effects of probiotics in helping with constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn Disease, eczema, and asthma. However, there has not been sufficient evidence to validate these claims, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse this correlation. The use of probiotics on an ongoing basis is not recommended for children.

The AAP has however concluded that probiotics given during a stomach flu for otherwise healthy children could help shorten the symptoms by one day. Above all, the most beneficial and proven effects of probiotics are for children who are taking antibiotics. Antibiotics kill germs that make our children sick but they kill both the good and bad bacteria. Probiotics will restore the balance of healthy bacteria, which will help keep bad bacteria, yeast, and mold from growing out of control. This imbalance may also occur in children with an unbalanced diet. (One which is high in refined carbohydrates and low in fiber) For children on antibiotics, probiotics is recommended from the first day of treatment through 1 to 4 weeks following the resolution of the infection. Furthermore, probiotics may also help prevent diarrhea in children taking antibiotics.

Dietary Supplements are available for children, but I urge you to consult with your child’s pediatrician for guidance should you choose to give them to your children. It is important to note that probiotics labeling may be misleading and incorrect. For example, a large percentage of organisms in a probiotics supplement may die before you even purchase the product.

Dietary sources of Probiotics include the following:

  • Yogurt

  • Kefir

  • Cottage Cheese

  • Buttermilk

  • Miso

Baby Foods with Probiotics:

  • Nestle Good Start Natural Cultures Infant Formula with DHA & ARA (not endorsed by the AAP)

  • Yo Baby yogurt

  • Yoplait Yo Plus yogurt

  • Activa yogurt

  • DanActive yogurt drink, for kids over age three

In a nutshell, the following can be said about the use of probiotics for our children

  • Do not give your children probiotics on an ongoing basis

  • Do consult with your child’s pediatrician should you decide to use a dietary supplement

  • Probitics have been proven to be beneficial for children taking antibiotics or who have the flu

  • If your child is eating an unbalanced diet, check with your pediatrician and pediatric dietician about the use of probiotics in his/her diet

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