By Beth Aldrich
There’s been plenty of talk about probiotic supplements lately, but are they good for children? The answer at any age is yes. Probiotics are healthy bacteria in the gut that help make vitamin K and keep the digestive system healthy, which in turn keeps the immune system strong—offering extra defense this fluseason and all year long.
The human intestinal tract is home to millions of friendly bacteria whose job it is to make substances that help keep the cells in the intestinal tract healthy and to keep unfriendly bacteria, yeasts and molds in check. Sometimes the good bacteria and unfriendly bacteria (yeast and mold) become imbalanced—often because due to stress, antibiotics or an unhealthy diet including refined carbohydrates and little fiber.
The antibiotics that you take for killing an infection will also kill the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. After antibiotic use, it is extremely important to replenish beneficial bacteria by taking a quality probiotic supplement over the following two weeks.
Allergies can also indicate that the immune system is under-functioning, and probiotics are thought to be ideal remedies. Acne and digestive disorders such as acute diarrhea, colic, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic constipation or Chrohn’s disease are also indications that the immune system is strapped and can benefit from probiotic supplementation.
For health reasons, because of the high pH of the stomach, the most efficient way to get probiotics into your child’s system is through supplements. The goal is to insure that the live bacteria are delivered to the intestines alive, happy and ready to grow, proliferate and serve towards overall health. The most common strains of probiotics include Lactobacillis and Bifidobacterium families of bacteria, however, there are many different types and strains of probiotics, and they come in many dosages, so it’s best to consult with a certified nutrition consultant or dietitian to find the best combination for you and your child.
For general good health, you can find probiotics in specifically marked infant formulas, yogurt and fermented products. When you eat probiotic-rich foods, you naturally add healthy bacteria to your intestinal tract. This supports a healthy immune system, along with a balanced diet, including fiber, complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables and whole grains), protein, healthy fats and fresh water.