Q: I’ve started seeing probiotic supplements geared toward kids in my local health food store. Can they really help keep my child healthy?
A: It’s no secret that kids love bugs. What you may not know is that bugs love kids! But the bugs I’m talking about aren’t caterpillars and ladybugs. They are the beneficial bacteria known as probiotics that can help kids stay healthy. Probiotics help balance the friendly bacteria in the digestive tract, improve immune function and support healthy digestion and the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
A growing number of studies show probiotics can benefit kids in several ways. For example, a study of 105 schoolchildren ages six to 12 who were diagnosed with asthma and hay fever found that those taking a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus gasseri had better lung function, less inflammation and milder symptoms than the kids taking a placebo.
A recent clinical trial reported that another probiotic, Bifidobacterium longum, reduced the frequency of upper respiratory illnesses in 219 preschoolers and shortened the duration of symptoms like fever, cough and runny nose in those who did get sick. Tummy troubles may also be lessened thanks to a probiotic called Bifidobacterium bifidum that studies show can help suppress a harmful digestive bacteria called Helicobacter pylori.
The lead author of a recent report for the American Academy of Pediatrics has noted that studies of healthy infants and children have found probiotics are safe and well tolerated. Discuss introducing probiotics to your little one’s diet with your doctor or health care practitioner.
Look for a chewable probiotic supplement providing 1 billion CFU of well-studied beneficial bacteria like the types mentioned above. It’s also smart to opt for a product that doesn’t require refrigeration. To get the most benefit from your child’s probiotic, pick one that is heat stable and stomach acid resistant. Ensure the probiotics are alive and viable through the expiration date on the product, not just when they are manufactured.