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How Long Does It Take for Probiotics To Work?
  /   Dr. John Snow

How Long Does It Take for Probiotics To Work?

Families are empowering themselves to take control of their wellness and approach their health holistically. Probiotics are quickly becoming a wellness staple in many households. They’re a great way to help families manage regular digestive health.

If you’ve recently started giving your child probiotics, you’re probably wondering when they’ll begin to work. Probiotics have an important job to do, and they don’t work very quickly. You’ll need to have a little patience. It may be a few weeks before your child experiences significant changes in their gut health. Here’s what parents need to know.

What Do Probiotics Do?

Probiotics help to support gut health. They’re frequently used to promote bowel regularity. Probiotics are helpful for people who experience occasional diarrhea or constipation

Probiotics work by restoring beneficial bacteria in the gut. The gut tends to move slower when bad bacteria outnumber good bacteria in the digestive tract. Beneficial bacteria help the body digest food and eliminate it as waste. If there aren’t enough good bacteria, the digestive tract may work ineffectively. 

Probiotics are often used in conjunction with prebiotics, which work to feed good bacteria and encourage their reproduction. Over time, they can work to restore balance. Gut health is directly linked to nutrient absorption and immune health. Restoring gut health with probiotics can help provide nutritional support and immunity and promote bowel regularity.

How Do Kids Benefit From Probiotics?

Children benefit from probiotics in many of the same ways that adults do. Probiotics may help ease instances of constipation or diarrhea that aren’t the result of an underlying condition, illness, or infection. 

Many pediatricians recommend probiotics for children who have recently used antibiotics. Antibiotics destroy bacteria indiscriminately. They’re unable to recognize the difference between good bacteria and bad bacteria. 

While antibiotics eliminate the source of an illness or infection, they also have the potential to damage healthy bacteria microbiomes. Using probiotics after using antibiotics can help the body work to restore its natural balance. 

Are Probiotics Safe for Kids?

Probiotics are safe for most children, but you should always ask your pediatrician first. Children with autoimmune disorders or compromised immune systems usually shouldn’t use probiotics. This includes children who were born prematurely. Children with digestive disorders and children who have had abdominal surgery also shouldn’t have probiotics unless their pediatrician recommends them as part of your child’s treatment plan.

Should I Give My Child Probiotics?

Before giving your child probiotics, speak to your pediatrician. Whenever you change your child’s diet or wellness routine, you should always seek your pediatrician’s advice. You want to be sure that symptoms of digestive upset aren’t the result of something serious. 

Diarrhea can be symptomatic of an illness or infection. Constipation can be the result of a digestive disorder or an intestinal obstruction. You should never assume that probiotics are the solution until your pediatrician rules out more serious concerns. It’s always best to be proactive about your child’s health.

How Long Does it Take for Probiotics To Work?

Digestive irregularity is something that most people want to treat right away. If your child is experiencing diarrhea or constipation regularly, your pediatrician may recommend medications like loperamide or gentle laxatives for immediate relief. 

Probiotics tend to work slowly. The live bacteria in probiotics need time to reproduce and populate the gut. All good things take time. In the case of probiotics, that period of time is usually between two or three weeks. 

Probiotics are safe for long-term use. As long as they don’t cause any side effects for your child, you can continue to give them to your child indefinitely. Daily use will sustain the benefits and keep your child’s gut healthy.

What Are the Signs That Probiotics Are Working?

Probiotics begin to work subtly. If your child experiences gas, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, or constipation, the symptoms may slowly start to subside. Your child might feel the need to visit the bathroom more frequently. 

The goal is for your child to have an age-appropriate amount of bowel movements each day. For children ages 1 to 3, two bowel movements a day is generally normal. Children four years and older should typically have one bowel movement daily, and it’s normal for an older child to have up to 3 bowel movements a day, according to general guidelines. 

Do Probiotics Have Side Effects?

Most healthy people can use probiotics without any significant side effects. When your child starts taking probiotics, monitor them for the following symptoms: 

  • Changes in bowel movements
  • Excessive gas
  • Bloating
  • Increased thirst

The side effects result from your child’s gut microbiome changing. When new bacteria are introduced, the body works to re-establish a balance. This can lead to short-term changes in bathroom habits while the gut is working to adjust to the influx of healthy new bacteria.

Call your pediatrician if your child experiences any of the above symptoms after taking probiotics. These side effects are usually temporary and are rarely severe. Give your pediatrician all the information they need and let them help you make a decision. 

If the symptoms are very mild and probiotics will be highly beneficial to your child, your pediatrician may recommend that you monitor the symptoms and wait for them to pass. If the symptoms are severe or persist for a long time, your pediatrician may recommend that you stop giving your child probiotics.

How Can I Support My Child’s Digestive System?

Everything your child eats can impact their digestive system. Although the occasional treat is a necessity of life, it’s important to provide your child with a varied and balanced diet most of the time. What you feed your child is just as important as what you don’t feed your child, especially when you’re trying to support their digestive health.

Foods To Feed Your Child

Probiotics are only one part of the bigger picture. Ideally, your child should be getting a sufficient amount of gut-healthy probiotic foods in their regular diet. Try adding these foods to the menu:

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sourdough bread
  • Swiss cheese
  • Tempeh
  • Yogurt

Some parents might read this list and automatically know that many of these foods are out of the question. Getting kids to enjoy foods like yogurt with fresh fruit and the occasional sour pickle might be easy. Switching your household sandwich bread to sourdough is a no-brainer.

Adventurous kids might be excited to try foods like kimchi or tempeh. Picky eaters are unlikely to be receptive to the idea of eating fermented foods. Give your child the option to try them. Explain to them why you like them. Acting like it’s weird that your child won’t try them may serve as positive peer pressure to get them interested in new foods. 

If your child tries a probiotic food and genuinely doesn’t like it, don’t force the issue. Move on and try something else. 

Even if your child likes a few probiotic foods, it can be difficult to incorporate significant amounts of them into your daily menu. You might want to be cautious about serving up foods like pickles, sauerkraut, and olives which are often high in sodium. 

Probiotic supplements are a great way to make up the difference. When your child uses a probiotic, you won’t have to be hypervigilant about the amount of probiotic foods they eat. You can always give them probiotic options and happily serve the ones they like. You don’t have to feel defeated attempting to explain the merits of kimchi to a four-year-old. 

Foods You May Want To Avoid

Diarrhea and constipation can be indicative of food intolerances. Lactose intolerance is very common. Lactase production, the enzyme required to diagnose lactose, significantly declines around age 5. Children who weren’t born lactose intolerant may become lactose intolerant later in life.

Have your child checked for lactose intolerance. Other foods, like eggs and gluten, are also common culprits for dietary intolerances. If you suspect your child might have a food intolerance, you can eliminate those foods from their diet while waiting for an appointment with your pediatrician.

Keeping Your Child’s Gut Healthy With Hiya

If your pediatrician agrees that your child would benefit from a probiotic supplement, Hiya has the perfect solution. Hiya was designed with your kids in mind. Each tablet contains 10 billion colony-forming units of live probiotic bacteria and prebiotics to help the good bacteria thrive. 

Our children’s chewable daily probiotic is vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, eco-friendly, and made right here in the United States. Hiya is the perfect fit for most children in most households. It’s a probiotic for every kid. 

 

Sources:

Q&A: Constipation in children | Mayo Clinic Health System

Lactose intolerance | MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

Food Intolerance: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment Options | Cleveland Clinic

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