Probiotics for kids
As many mothers are interested in probiotics for children - I have received a special request for information about this on the Gutmatters Facebook page – I hope the following review is of practical help.Many Infant formula now include probiotics as well as a growing number of processed infant foods (jarred infant food, baby cereals and snacks) that are fortified with probiotics
But what are Probiotics?
Probiotics are living beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive system of adults and children and provide health benefits especially for the immune system.
Why would I need to give my child probiotics?
A newborn baby begins obtaining good bacteria from the moment of birth via the mother's vaginal tract (in delivery), the mother's skin and breast feeding. The passing of digestive flora continues until your baby is around two to three months of age with most of this beneficial bacteria coming from the mother via touch, suckling and kissing. (1)
But if a baby is delivered via caesarean section or is not breast fed, then the right balance of good to bad bacteria may not occur (the bacteria comes from the maternity hospital itself, especially from nursing staff). When this happens a strong immune system does not develop and babies and children are more likely to have increased infections, diarrhoeal illness and allergies.
Even when an infant develops its own bacteria, there are several reasons why your infant's digestive flora may need a helping hand from probiotics including:
• A recent course of antibiotics.• Unbalanced bacteria in the mother at time of the baby’s birth. Some common signs of an out of balance flora may include Candida albicans infection (intestinal and/or vaginal thrush), food intolerances, dysbiosis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms.
• A caesarean birth. Research indicates that the digestive flora in infants born by caesarian section may be disturbed for up to six months after birth (2)
• Premature baby. Research has shown that a premature birth can result in a delayed and abnormal pattern of gut colonization with beneficial Bifidobacteria (3).
What is the best Form of Probiotics for My Child - Foods or Supplements?The answer depends on your baby’s age as well as the reason for giving your baby probiotics in the first place.
For healthy babies who are on solid foods, giving probiotics as a food makes sense. It is good to get your infants used to the sour taste of probiotic foods as soon as possible.
Suitable early foods include probiotic yogurt and fermented dairy drinks such as milk kefir. You can also liquidize cultured vegetables such as fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) in a blender and you can rub some of the fermented vegetable juice into your baby’s gums.
However consider a probiotic supplement when you want to naturally treat a child with a specific problem eg diarrhoea, post antibiotics, continuing colds and flu, eczema, even mild reflux.
First check with your doctor that the condition is not serious. Then try giving your child one of the branded baby probiotics as they contain an adequate dose of probiotics for therapeutic use. Remember that babies who have not been weaned can obtain the benefits of probiotics from the mother taking them.Can Probiotics help against specific childhood disorders?
Here is the scientific evidence showing that Probiotics can help babies and children with specific conditions by:
1. Reducing duration of diarrhoeal infections. Probiotics are effective in reducing the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and the duration of acute infectious diarrhea. (4,5) The probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG has been known to decrease the duration of diarrhoea in several trials.
2. Reducing the incidence and duration of respiratory tract infections.
A study from China, published in the August 2009 in the journal "Pediatrics", found that children who drank a mixture of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium animalis in milk twice a day, required less antibiotics to treat colds and the flu and recovered more quickly from illness. The reduction in symptom rates was impressive - the children in test groups experienced fewer fevers (up to 72 percent), coughs (62%) and runny noses (59%). Kids who took probiotics also missed less school than those who didn't. (6)
3. Improving colic symptoms in breast fed newborns.
Lactobacillus reuteri improved colicky symptoms in breastfed infants within 1 week of treatment, compared with Simethicone, a popular ingredient in gas and colic drops, suggestings that probiotics may have a role in the treatment of infantile colic. (7)
4. Improving chronic constipation in children.
A study in 2010 conducted by Italian scientists suggests that probiotic supplements containing Lactobacillus reuteri may help treat chronic constipation in babies. Infants taking probiotics experienced a significant improvement in their constipation with bowel movements increasing from less than three to almost five per week. "Because of their safety profile, probiotics may be an attractive option in the treatment of functional constipation," concludes the study. (8)
5. Useful in prevention of atopic allergies such as eczema, atopic dermatitis and hayfever
A study in Western Australia found that probiotics, products containing live bacteria, may help some young children with eczema. (9-12)
6. May reduce incidence of ear infections
A preliminary clinical trial has demonstrated that probiotics may also be able to reduce the risk of developing ear infections.(13)
7. Reducing number of days sick from daycare
A 7-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 571 children in daycare centers in Finland found that use of milk fortified with Lactobacillus GG reduced the number and severity of respiratory infections.(14)
Which Are The Best Probiotics for Children?
It is important to choose a probiotic developed especially for children that is high potency with bacteria in the billions. Yes billions! It must also contain several strains such as Lactobacillus acidopholis, lactis and rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium strains. Not all will be present but look for a product that contains as many as possible.
How Do I Administer Probiotic Supplements to a Baby?
For breast feeding mothers a baby will acquire most of its beneficial flora from its mother. To ensure your baby gets a good maternal dose of healthy intestinal bacteria, make sure that mum too includes probiotics in her diet as well as plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, which feed the all-important beneficial bacteria. If your child is breastfed, then powders can also be rubbed onto the mother’s nipple. Your child will then ingest the probiotics as he or she suckles.
For supplementing with probiotics in liquid form, then the easiest way is to drop it directly into your baby’s mouth. This way you can be sure that your baby will receive the exact and entire dosage required.You can also add probiotic drops to your baby’s food or drink. Be aware that your child will only receive the full dose of probiotics if he or she consumes all the food or drink to which the probiotic supplement was added.
If your baby probiotic is in powder form, then this too can be added to liquid or solids.
In Summary:Probiotics are a safe and beneficial supplement for children (or the mother) because they help digestion, stimulate a child’s immune system, can be used to treat specific childhood illnesses and help to keep potentially harmful organisms at bay.
1.Rinne, M et al; Effect of Probiotics and Breastfeeding on the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus/Enterococcus Microbiota and Humoral Immune Responses; The Journal of Pediatrics; August 2005; Volume 147:2; 186-191
2.Grönlund MM, et al; Fecal Microflora in Healthy Infants Born by Different Methods of Delivery: Permanent Changes in Intestinal Flora after Cesarean Delivery; J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr; 1999; 28:19-25
3.Butel, M.J et al; Conditions of Bifidobacterial Colonization in Preterm Infants: a Prospective Analysis; J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr; May 2007; 44(5):577-82.
4. Bernaola Aponte G et al; Probiotics for Treating Persistent Diarrhoea in Children;Cochrane Database Syst Rev; Nov 2010;11: CD0074015. Kligler B, Hanaway P, Cohrssen A. Probiotics in children. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2007 Dec;54(6):949-67; xi.
6. Leyer G, Shuguang Li, Mubasher M, Reifer C, Ouwehand A. Probiotic Effects on Cold and Influenza-Like Symptom Incidence and Duration in Children. Pediatrics Vol. 124 No. 2 August 1, 2009
pp. e172 -e179 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2008-2666)
7. Savino F, Pelle E, Palumeri E, Oggero R, Miniero R. Lactobacillus reuteri (American Type Culture Collection Strain 55730) Versus Simethicone in the Treatment of Infantile Colic: A Prospective Randomized Study. Pediatrics Vol. 119 No. 1 January 1, 2007 pp. e124 -e130 (doi: 10.1542/peds.2006-1222)
8. Coccorullo P, Strisciuglio C, Martinelli M, Miele E, Greco L, Staiano A. Lactobacillus reuteri (DSM 17938) in infants with functional chronic constipation: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. J Pediatr. 2010 Oct;157(4):598-602. Epub 2010 Jun 12.
9. Weston S et al. Effects of probiotics on atopic dermatitis: a randomised controlled trial. Arch Dis Child URL: http://adc.bmjjournals.com/ 2005;90:892-897
10. Kalliomäki, M et al; Probiotics in Primary Prevention of Atopic Disease: a Randomised Placebo-Controlled Trial:, The Lancet;April 2001; Volume 357, Issue 9262, Pages 1076 - 1079.11. Rosenfeldt V, Benfeldt E, Nielsen SD, Michaelsen KF, Jeppesen DL, Valerius NH, Paerregaard A.
Effect of probiotic Lactobacillus strains in children with atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Feb;111(2):389-95.
12. Gerasimov SV, Vasjuta VV, Myhovych OO, Bondarchuk LI. Probiotic supplement reduces atopic dermatitis in preschool children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2010
13. Rautava S, Salminen S, Isolauri E. Specific probiotics in reducing the risk of acute infections in infancy—a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Br J Nutr. 2008 Nov 6.14. Hatakka, K.et al; Effects of Long-Term Consumption of Probiotic Milk on Infections in Children Attending Day Care Centers: Double Blind Randomized Trial;JAMA; July 2001; 399.