Why Kids Need A Multivitamin And Probiotics
  /   Dr. John Snow

Why Kids Need A Multivitamin And Probiotics

A child’s gut microbiome contains trillions of bacteria and microbes that develop and mature throughout childhood. A healthy gut plays a crucial role in nutrient absorption and digestion, helping kids get the nourishment they need to thrive, grow, and develop. 

While we always encourage eating a whole-food diet to get all the nutrients your little one needs, gut health may influence nutrient absorption and digestion. As a result, many parents wonder whether probiotics could improve digestive health and vitamin absorption.

What Are Probiotics?

In recent decades, gut health research has grown significantly. Traditionally, research on the gut focused more on specific diseases and conditions. But in recent years, there’s growing recognition of the impact of overall gut health and its potential to affect so many aspects of well-being. As scientists learn more, we’re seeing an increase in research on the role of the gut microbiome in digestion, immune systems, and even mental health. 

So, what are probiotics, and what do they have to do with gut health?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide health benefits to the host (i.e. you!). These microorganisms are usually bacteria or, in some cases, yeast. You will likely hear probiotics referred to as “good” or “friendly” because they help to maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut microbiome. Probiotics seem to work by colonizing the gut and helping to stop the growth of harmful bacteria, supporting digestive health, immune function, and overall health. 

You can find probiotics naturally in some fermented foods like: 

  • Yogurt 
  • Kefir 
  • Kimchi 
  • Sauerkraut 
  • Miso 
  • Pickles 
  • Kombucha 
  • Tempeh
  • Sourdough bread 

Probiotics are also available in dietary supplements, including capsules, powders, chewables, and liquids. In probiotic supplements, you will come across colony-forming units or CFU, which measure how many viable bacteria cells are in probiotic supplements. Many probiotic supplements contain between 1 and 10 billion CFU per dose.

Research suggests that the composition of the gut microbiome affects health from the prenatal period throughout childhood. This composition is constantly changing from birth to adulthood. Factors like diet, birth delivery method, and antibiotic exposure all appear to influence gut microbiome development in kids. As children get older, the diversity and stability of their gut microbiome increase, but still not as much as in adults.

One study even highlights that the gut microbiome is emerging as an important factor in toddlers to influence weight gain later in life. While further research is needed, researchers found that an imbalance of certain bacteria may play a role in the development of obesity in the future. You can see why more parents are talking about the potential of probiotics for toddlers and kids of all ages. 

Understanding Gut Health and Nutrient Absorption

Before we go further into the world of probiotics and multivitamins, let’s break down how gut health may impact nutrient absorption.

A balanced gut includes the following: 

  • A diverse population of beneficial bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms
  • Optimal ratios of beneficial bacteria compared to harmful bacteria 
  • A stable and resilient microbial community 

Both probiotics and prebiotics can play a role in supporting a healthy gut. Prebiotics are the non-digestible fiber in foods that essentially fuel all the beneficial bacteria in the gut. They promote friendly bacteria that’s already in the gut, and can be found in foods like fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. 

Evidence suggests that the gut microbiota affects how we harvest, store, and use energy obtained from food. Probiotics may influence the production of short-chain fatty acids, promoting gut barrier function. By supporting gut barrier integrity, probiotics contribute to better nutrient absorption, as a healthy gut barrier allows for efficient absorption of nutrients from food. 

Probiotics can help support the growth of beneficial bacteria in a child’s developing gut by promoting a balanced gut microbiome. A healthy and balanced gut environment is vital for efficient nutrient absorption.  

The problem with poor absorption is that even if you’re encouraging plenty of healthy and real foods, your child may not be getting key nutrients. Research shows that probiotics may improve a child’s growth by helping to prevent infections and micronutrient deficiency. Other research has shown that probiotics improve the absorption of specific nutrients, especially vitamin B12, calcium, and zinc.  

The Science of Digestion

Let's take a closer look at how gut imbalances can affect the way our bodies absorb important vitamins and nutrients by exploring the digestive process.

Most of us eat food without even thinking about what’s happening inside our bodies. But, with every bite, there’s a fascinating story to tell. 

Naturally, digestion starts as your child takes a bite and starts chewing their food. Saliva mixes in with their food as they chew. After swallowing, food travels down the esophagus to the stomach. Enzymes begin to break down proteins and fats in the food. As food continues to be broken down, it moves into the small intestine. This is where some of the magic happens. Food breaks down further into tiny particles that the body can absorb. The small intestine's inner lining acts like a big sponge, soaking up all those broken-down nutrients from food into the bloodstream. Any leftovers head to the large intestine, where water is absorbed back into the body, and any waste material becomes stool. You can probably guess the final stop. 

While this explanation of digestion sounds simple, digestion is complex. Many factors can impact or disturb the process, which could affect nutrient absorption and gut health. Different areas of the body work together to turn food into fuel that keeps our kids going. 

The Role of Probiotics on Nutrient Levels

The impact of probiotics on nutrient levels in children is a growing area of research with promising possibilities. Bacteria produce enzymes that help break down food into smaller molecules for easier absorption. 

Probiotics may contribute to better digestion. Healthy digestion is key for optimal nutrient absorption and breaking down nutrients for your body to absorb. Probiotics can increase beneficial bacteria, promoting a healthy gut microbiome. 

Why Multivitamins Pair Well With Probiotics

As our knowledge of gut health continues to grow and its importance in overall health is clear, there’s still much to learn. By targeting different aspects of health, a kids' multivitamin and probiotic look to be a complementary pair. Children’s multivitamins aim to fill nutritional gaps in the diet, while probiotics focus on supporting a healthy gut microbiome. 

Some studies also suggest that micronutrient deficiencies may impact the gut microbiome. So, not having enough of certain nutrients may also influence gut health, with acute vitamin A deficiency having the largest impact on the bacterial community. 

If you spot any warning signs of a vitamin deficiency, it’s important to try to pinpoint the root cause. Poor gut health can impact nutrient absorption alongside other factors like diet, stress, and certain medications, so it’s crucial to speak to your pediatrician if you have any concerns. 

Probiotics and multivitamins are never a replacement for a well-rounded and healthy diet, but they could be complementary approaches to supporting your child’s health. 

Remember that the best multivitamins and probiotics for your little one should be developed just for kids with an age-appropriate dose. Like any changes to your child’s regime, speak to your doctor before giving any supplements to ensure they are safe for your child’s specific situation and dietary requirements. 

Some Kids Need A Multivitamin And Probiotics

Not all children need a probiotic and multivitamin, but there are some situations where it could be beneficial: 

  • Support Gut Health: Probiotics help promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is essential for digestion and immune function. 
  • Digestive Support: Probiotics can aid in digestion and help relieve symptoms of digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, or bloating.
  • Immune Function: By supporting a healthy gut, probiotics may promote healthy immune function, helping to defend against infections and illnesses.
  • Balanced Nutrition: A multivitamin can help to ensure that children receive adequate levels of essential vitamins and minerals, which are important for growth, development, and overall health.
  • Convenience: Pairing probiotics with a multivitamin provides a convenient way to support both gut health and overall nutritional needs at the same time. 
  • Picky Eaters: Children who are picky eaters or have limited diets may benefit from a multivitamin and probiotic to fill nutritional gaps and support their digestive systems.
  • Antibiotic Use: Probiotics can help replenish beneficial gut bacteria that may be depleted while taking antibiotics

A daily probiotic supplement is not a magic solution for proper gut health, but it can be part of the toolkit to support a healthy gut and digestion, encouraging effective nutrient absorption. Alongside a fiber-rich diet, staying hydrated, managing stress, and getting regular exercise and sleep, you can start to incorporate healthy habits into your child’s routine and create a foundation for a happy and healthy gut. 


Gut microbiota in various childhood disorders: Implication and indications | NIH

Gut microbiome development in early childhood is affected by day care attendance |  NPJ Biofilms and Microbiomes 

Effects of Gut Microbes on Nutrient Absorption and Energy Regulation | NIH 

Role of the gut microbiome in chronic diseases: a narrative review | EJCN

Role of the normal gut microbiota | NIH

Colonization Ability and Impact on Human Gut Microbiota of Foodborne Microbes From Traditional or Probiotic-Added Fermented Foods: A Systematic Review | NIH 

Probiotics | NIH

Childhood Development and the Microbiome-The Intestinal Microbiota in Maintenance of Health and Development of Disease During Childhood Development | NIH

Factors influencing Microbiome development throughout childhood | NIH 

A toddler’s gut bacteria predict whether they will be overweight at 5 years old | Eureka Alert

Diversity, stability and resilience of the human gut microbiota | NIH

Effects of Gut Microbes on Nutrient Absorption and Energy Regulation | NIH 

Short-Chain Fatty-Acid-Producing Bacteria: Key Components of the Human Gut Microbiota | MDPI 

The role of short-chain fatty acids in the interplay between gut microbiota and diet in cardio-metabolic health | NIH 

The intestinal barrier: a fundamental role in health and disease | NIH 

Effects of Gut Microbes on Nutrient Absorption and Energy Regulation | NIH

Effects of probiotics on child growth: a systematic review | NIH

Gut microbiota in various childhood disorders: Implication and indications | NIH

Your Digestive System & How it Works | NIH

A review on the food digestion in the digestive tract and the used in vitro models | NIH

How Bacteria Turn Fiber into Food | NIH

Targeting gut microbiota and metabolism as the major probiotic mechanism - An evidence-based review | Trends in Food Science & Technology 

The effects of micronutrient deficiencies on bacterial species from the human gut microbiota | NIH

Pro-Biotics, Gut Microbiome and Nutrient Absorption | IPA

The Effects of Psychological and Environmental Stress on Micronutrient Concentrations in the Body: A Review of the Evidence | NIH

Food-Drug Interactions | NIH

Gut microbiota in various childhood disorders: Implication and indications | NIH  

The Interplay between the Gut Microbiome and the Immune System in the Context of Infectious Diseases throughout Life and the Role of Nutrition in Optimizing Treatment Strategies | NIH