You have probably heard of the microbiome and healthy gut flora and how probiotics have an impact on children's health.
But are they safe for toddlers? Are they really effective?
Here is what you need to know about what, when and how to use probiotics with your children.
What is a probiotic?
Within our bodies, we have a dynamic ecosystem of microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) called a microbiome that naturally lives in our bodies, especially in the gastrointestinal tracts. These microorganisms are both helpful and potentially harmful. They coexist in balance, but if any of these sides increase or decrease, the body may become more susceptible to disease.
This is why the human microbiome may play a key role in your toddler's health. Their bodies need certain bacteria to stay healthy. These bacteria are known as probiotics.
Why give probiotics to my toddler?
Probiotics are good bacteria that help your child digest, absorb nutrients, and fight disease (as they support the immune system).
They may also help with specific concerns such as improving constipation, preventing and reducing diarrhea duration, and reducing colic symptoms and acid reflux.
Which probiotics are best for toddlers?
There are many probiotic strains, and all of them have different effects on the body. Therefore, selecting a single or multi-strain probiotic should depend on what your toddler needs.
The benefits of a probiotic actually depend on the strain, so it is important to choose a strain that is appropriate for those specific needs. For example, some strains may be more effective for improving digestion, while others may be more effective for supporting the immune system.
Here is a summary of the most studied strains in children:
Lactobacillus Rhamnosus GG
This is one of the most studied probiotic strains in the world. These studies have shown how beneficial probiotic supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG can be in reducing the duration and severity of acute diarrhea. In addition, it may also help to reduce the duration and severity of certain types of infections, such as upper respiratory tract, gastrointestinal and urinary tract infections.
Research suggests that supplementation with B. Lactis may have numerous potential benefits for children's health. The most recognized is improving bowel movement, which may help alleviate persistent constipation.
This strain is highly effective in supporting digestive health as it improves constipation and reduces the incidence of gas and inflammation in children.
It also supports the immune system and has a beneficial effect on children's upper respiratory tract infection symptoms. The supplementation with this strain significantly decreased the incidence of nasal congestion, bloody nasal mucus and itchy nose, and the duration of headache, red eyes, and fatigue.
Bacillus coagulans is commonly added to foods and beverages for children as it can survive harsh manufacturing processes and reach the digestive system without harm.
Lactobacillus acidophilus is effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome, colic in infants, lung infections, or skin problems in children who are allergic to milk.
Ask your healthcare professional for advice if you're unsure about the type of probiotic or dosage your little one needs.
How much probiotic should I give my toddler?
Recommended dosages vary based on the strain, but standard dosages range from 5 to 10 billion CFU (Colony-Forming Units) per day for children. Check the label before buying any probiotics supplement; you will be surprised to see that many brands do not contribute even a quarter of this amount per serving.
Be sure to choose a probiotic appropriate for a toddler's age and weight. Then, follow the dosing instructions on the label or as directed by a healthcare provider.
How often should my child take a probiotic supplement?
The frequency of use can vary depending on the specific strain and the reason for taking it. For example, some probiotic supplements are intended for daily use, while others may be taken less frequently. Therefore, it is important to follow the product label's dosage instructions and consult with a healthcare provider if you have any questions.
Side effects of probiotics
Probiotics are generally considered safe for most children and are usually well tolerated. However, like any dietary supplement, probiotics can sometimes cause side effects. Probiotics' most common side effects are mild and may include bloating, gas, and upset stomach. These side effects are usually temporary and resolve on their own within a few days.
If your toddler develops these side effects, consider lowering their dose or taking it less frequently and contact your healthcare provider.
If your child has a compromised immune system or cancer, please avoid probiotic supplementation unless your Doctor recommends it.
One Last Note
If you are considering using a probiotic to help with constipation in a child, it is a good idea to consult your healthcare provider. They can help determine the appropriate dosage and determine if a probiotic is suitable for your child's needs.
It is also important to note that probiotics should not be used as a sole treatment for immune system support, diarrhea, constipation or infection and should be used in conjunction with other measures.
Dietitian & New Mom
Bachelor's degree in Nutrition
Master's degree in Food & Dietetics
Health Coach Certification