Probiotics are live microorganisms that work to maintain the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria found in your digestive tract. If the bad bacteria in your gut begin to outnumber the good bacteria, this can lead to diarrhea, infections, and other illnesses. In turn, probiotics act as good bacteria to prevent the bad bacteria from getting out of control.
While taking probiotic supplements is becoming increasingly popular among adults, are they safe to give to your children?
The Purpose of Probiotics
Since about 70% of your immune system relies on your digestive system, in theory, probiotics are good for children since they tend to have weaker immune systems than adults. However, recent research is showing that in the end, any attempts made to change the community of bacteria in healthy children’s stomachs will likely prove to be futile. This is not to say, though, that probiotics cannot be beneficial to children who are experiencing problems with their digestive health, allergies, or immunity.
There are studies that indicate probiotics may reduce the symptoms of infectious diarrhea that is caused by bacteria or a virus. It is also possible that probiotics aid the immune system of young kids who are still developing by preventing certain allergies, or conditions such as eczema or asthma.
However, on the other hand, probiotics have not proven to be beneficial in any way for treating conditions such as chronic ulcerative colitis, infantile colic, Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel disease (IBS).
While the use of probiotics in children may not cause any noticeable health improvements, it is not likely to harm your child either. Studies have shown that high doses of probiotics given to healthy, full-term babies do not appear to cause any dangerous side effects whatsoever.
Though, for children who are preterm babies, have weakened immune systems, or have catheters or other medical devices inside of them, probiotics are not recommended. This is because there have been several cases of sepsis reported in children—and adults—who took probiotics under these circumstances.
Additionally, the FDA is not required to approve any probiotic supplements before they are allowed to be marketed. Therefore, it can be difficult to know which brands are most effective and recommended as safe for your child. To avoid any possible complications, always make sure to talk with your doctor before giving your child any over the counter medications.
There are several different strains of probiotics that are meant to be used for different purposes. Lactobacillus probiotics are the most common and the most studied probiotics, as well as the most effective for treating diarrhea and other digestion problems. On the other hand, bifidobacterium is most commonly used for treating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Make sure you know which strain is recommended for your child based on the purpose for using it, as well as the recommended daily dosage before you purchase anything over-the-counter. Your doctor will be able to tell which, if any, probiotics could be beneficial for your child’s health.