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Probiotic supplements have become just as much of a wellness staple as vitamin supplements. You’ll often see them next to each other on store shelves. As families become more health-conscious, more and more are incorporating probiotics into their daily routines to keep bad bacteria at bay in their gut microbiomes.
While probiotics are well-loved by many adults for their digestive tract benefits, the idea of giving them to kids is relatively new. Parents realize how good probiotics make them feel, and it only seems logical to want their children to experience the same health benefits.
If you’re considering adding a probiotic to your child’s wellness routine, here’s what you need to know about when to give your kids probiotics and how they can support your child’s body.
There are millions of bacteria. Some of these bacteria can cause illness or infection, and these are the types of bacteria you need to keep in check through good hygiene and proper healthcare. They’re why it’s important to ensure your kids know how to wash their hands properly and cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze.
Probiotics are a completely different group of bacteria. Probiotics are bacteria that the human body needs. Within your body are microbiomes of bacteria and other microbes fulfilling important functions. Probiotics are good bacteria that play a role in keeping the human body balanced, especially within the digestive system.
A single serving of probiotics contains several billion CFUs, or colony forming units. Billions might seem excessive, but your body needs and uses many healthy bacteria and microorganisms in your gut throughout the day.
The food your family eats is full of nutrients that your body has almost entirely absorbed by the time that food becomes waste. Gut bacteria are one of the most valuable players in this process.
Your body uses good bacteria to help digest food and keep your bowels moving. Probiotics are live, active bacteria that assist in this process. By introducing more good bacteria to your gut, you can help to support its efficiency.
Probiotic supplements often also contain prebiotics. Prebiotics aren’t live and active bacteria. The bacteria already in your gut will work and thrive better when fed the things they need to stay healthy and active. Prebiotics are naturally derived ingredients that encourage the growth of healthy bacteria by acting as food for those bacteria.
The two work together as a dream team for gut health. The probiotics fill in the gaps while the prebiotics give the gut the support it needs to work as it should.
There are hundreds of different strains of probiotics. When most people talk about probiotics, they’re referring to the “lactobacillus” family of probiotics. Lactobacillus bacteria are healthy bacteria that naturally occur in the human gut microbiota. These probiotics break down carbohydrates in the digestive system and turn them into lactic acid, which is exactly what happens when the body naturally converts food into energy.
Lactobacillus does the same thing that a healthy digestive system would do on its own. If the body isn’t efficiently breaking down carbohydrates in the digestive system, this can lead to constipation or diarrhea. Introducing more lactobacillus bacteria into the gut can improve the body’s ability to digest food.
There’s nothing about probiotics that would be considered unsafe for most healthy children. Even so, you should always ask your pediatrician before introducing new vitamins, supplements, or probiotics into your child’s routine.
The same probiotic safety rules for adults apply to kids. Probiotics may not be a good choice for kids with conditions that impact their immune systems, kids who have had surgery that impacted their gastrointestinal systems, and kids with other types of chronic illness. You won’t know until you talk to your pediatrician. Give the office a call or mention probiotics at your child’s next checkup.
Just like with multivitamin supplements, not every child will benefit from probiotics. Children with great digestive health may be able to rely on their own bodies to keep things running smoothly. Children who need a little extra help, like those dealing with bloating or general poor gut health, may want to use probiotics. You should always ask your child’s pediatrician before giving them probiotics, especially if they are dealing with conditions that impact the intestine or digestive tract, like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).
Sometimes, antibiotics are necessary for your child’s health. Antibiotics destroy the bacteria responsible for causing serious illness or infection, but they don’t discriminate — antibiotics have no way to tell the difference between the bacteria that are helping your child and the bacteria that are hurting your child. They’ll destroy all bacteria, including the beneficial bacteria in your child’s gut.
Digestive issues are a common side effect of antibiotics. Many people find that using probiotic supplements after antibiotics can help the body return to normal much sooner. Since probiotics supplement and re-establish healthy gut bacteria, they help to keep the body’s digestive engine going when it needs extra support.
Constipation occurs when bowel movements are incomplete, difficult to pass, or infrequent. It’s normal for a child to go up to three days without having a bowel movement. If your child isn’t bloated or uncomfortable during this time, it’s usually not a sign that something is wrong. If your child goes longer than three days without having a bowel movement and experiences discomfort, it’s time to call the pediatrician.
A lot of things can contribute to constipation in children. While probiotics might be a part of the solution, they won’t work to uncover the root cause of constipation. Probiotics can’t resolve issues that might arise from a low fiber diet, food intolerance, or dehydration. Your pediatrician will need to examine your child, identify the cause, and devise a plan to prevent your child from becoming constipated again.
While you’re talking to your pediatrician, you can float the idea of incorporating a probiotic supplement into your child’s wellness routine. When probiotics are used with a balanced diet and proper hydration, they can safely help promote bowel regularity in people of all ages.
Diarrhea is characterized by frequent, loose bowel movements. Diarrhea can be very serious in children. It can quickly lead to dehydration if left untreated. If your child has diarrhea, it’s best to call your pediatrician. If your child has a fever with diarrhea and vomiting, treat the situation as an emergency. Keeping your child hydrated and treating any underlying illness or infection can also help ease diarrhea.
If your child occasionally experiences diarrhea that isn’t accompanied by a fever or an infection, the issue likely relates to gut health. Your pediatrician may need to test your child for conditions like irritable bowel syndrome. It’s just as important for your pediatrician to determine if the diarrhea is related to malabsorption, a condition where your child might have difficulty absorbing nutrients from food.
Probiotics can be a helpful gut health booster for children who need a little help getting their gut biome healthy. Ask your pediatrician if probiotics would be beneficial for your child.
Probiotics work in the gut. It’s best to use probiotics at mealtime. Taking a probiotic right before eating can help the probiotic integrate into your child’s digestive system. It’s best to use probiotics with a morning meal. Probiotics pair best with breakfast, which gives them plenty of time to get to work throughout the day.
Probiotics are intended for daily use. Consistency is key. If you only give your child one or two probiotic supplements every month, they’re unlikely to have any meaningful effect. Probiotics start to work quickly, but the full extent of their benefits takes 2 to 3 weeks to become apparent. After that, daily use maintains the benefits.
In some cases, your pediatrician will recommend only using probiotics for a short time. If your child recently used antibiotics, your pediatrician might suggest using probiotics for about a month. If you want to continue giving your child probiotics, ask your pediatrician. If they’re significantly benefitting your child, your pediatrician will likely sign off.
Hiya’s chewable Kids Daily Probiotic and prebiotic blend contains ten billion CFU of gut-healthy lactobacillus bacteria to support digestive health, nutrient absorption, and immunity. If you see the signs that your kids need probiotics, mention them to your pediatrician. If your pediatrician agrees that your child would benefit from probiotics, Hiya is the perfect fit.
Bacterial Microbiome - an overview | ScienceDirect Topics
Lactobacillus Species: Taxonomic Complexity and Controversial Susceptibilities | Clinical Infectious Diseases | Oxford Academic
Lactic acid bacteria and the human gastrointestinal tract | PubMed
Constipation in children - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic
Diarrhea in Children: What Parents Need to Know | HealthyChildren.org