Probiotics can help your kids get sick less – do you need to know any more than that?? Well yes, kind of. Read on to see what you need to know, and scroll down to the bottom to download my free guide to find out which probiotics supplements to try for your kids.
What are Probiotics?
I was thinking about how I would explain probiotics to my three-year-old, and frankly, things get pretty vague pretty quickly. “Well, they’re like teeny teeny tiny bugs, that are inside some foods. But they’re good bugs that are friendly to the inside of your belly, and they help fight bad guy bugs…”
I’ll try to break it down a little more. Also you’re probably not three years old if you are reading this, so I can use some bigger words. Ha!
We have hundreds of TRILLIONS of bacteria, made up of over 500 species, living inside our GI tract. Most of these trillions of bacteria have no real effect on us, positive or negative. Many of them do have a positive effect. These helpful bacteria are called probiotics. They help limit the growth of “bad” bacteria, help us digest food, and they can improve immunity.
Why we need to break it down more
There are many different species of probiotics, and many different strains within species. That means when we say “probiotics,” we are actually referring to many different types, not just one. It’s like the word “animals.” We know what an animal is, but if I said “I have an animal in my backyard eating plants” you wouldn’t know whether I was talking about a deer, or rabbit, or squirrel, or wild boar…
So we hear that probiotics are good for us. And I already told you they can help keep your kids from getting sick as often. But that does not give us much information to help us decide whether the probiotics found in food are good enough, or if we need supplements. And if we need supplements which strain of probiotic should we get? How much of a dosage do we need to see a benefit? How long to take it for? And wait what type of benefit can I expect?
This is why a lot of the information that you will find about probiotics is not all that useful. Because it does not answer all of these questions.
Why we need to know the strain
Probiotic benefits are strain specific. If you want to reduce diarrhea while on an antibiotic, for example, you will need a specific strain that is proven to help with that.
Proven benefits for kids
They really do work! Let’s talk about the researched benefits.
I’m going to add two words of caution here. One- these recommendations are for generally healthy kids. If you have any concerns for your child, PLEASE consult your physician. Two- I am not prescribing anything here. (Gotta cover my butt, you know.) I am reporting research results and translating them for the public.
Reduce frequency of URIs, fever, cough, runny nose
Pay attention if you’re in the thick of cold season! Daily probiotic supplementation can reduce the frequency of upper respiratory infections, and the symptoms of fever and cough.
Studies recommend daily supplementation with at least 1 billion CFU (colony-forming units) of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or Lactobacillus acidophilus.
Combine this with Bifidobacterium lactis to reduce the occurrence of runny nose!
Treat acute gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
This is when your child has a virus causing diarrhea with or without vomiting or fever. Probiotic use can decrease duration of diarrhea by about a day. Make sure to rehydrate adequately, too! That is the most important way to treat diarrhea.
Research suggests at least 10 billion CFU Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or Saccharomyces boulardii.
Prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea
About 20% of children develop diarrhea while taking antibiotics. You can prevent this from happening with probiotics.
Studies recommend supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG or Saccharomyces boulardii at 5-40 billion CFU per day.
There is very limited evidence at this point, but some studies do show an increase in stool frequency with the use of probiotics. However, there is not good consensus on the dose or the type of probiotic. Discuss with your doctor, but a probiotic with a mix of species would likely be your best bet.
How often to take them?
Most probiotics only have an effect for as long as you take them for. They typically do not colonize or “make a home in” the gut. Therefore, daily intake is necessary to receive the benefits.
This does not mean every kid needs to take a probiotic every single day! You can make it part of their daily routine if your pediatrician recommends it, but my point is that most kids do not need a daily probiotic in order to be healthy.
What about probiotics in food?
Foods that naturally contain probiotics should regularly be included in your child’s diet. Yogurt, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, tempeh, and olives in brine are a few examples. Yogurt is typically the most kid-friendly of the bunch!
Learn about the best probiotics foods in this post: The Best Probiotic Foods for Kids
Download your Probiotic Supplement Guide
Want to take the confusion out of choosing probiotics for your kids? Download my probiotics for kids supplement guide to see which products I recommend, what each product is best for, and how much your kids should take!
CLICK HERE to download my free guide to help your kids get sick less often!
This post is informational and should not be construed as medical advice. Always consult your pediatrician to ask whether probiotics are recommended for your child.