Have you heard about probiotics? There's a lot of buzz surrounding the health benefits of probiotics right now, and it got me thinking. If I keep hearing that I should be intaking probiotics daily, what about H? Are probiotics beneficial to babies, toddlers, and kids as well as adults?
In short - yes!
According to WebMD, probiotics are naturally occurring "live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system." I know what you're thinking - bacteria? Isn't that what makes me sick in the first place? Our bodies are full of bacteria, both 'bad' and 'good'. The 'bad' bacteria can make you sick and cause things like UTIs and diarrhea, but there are also millions of 'good' bacteria that also live in your body, like probiotics, which help to keep your gut healthy.
When you take antibiotics, for example, you lose 'good' bacteria in your body. Probiotics can help to replace those beneficial strands that you lost, and they can help to lower the amount of 'bad' bacteria in your gut that may lead to infections or other health problems. In short, probiotics work to help keep your body working like it should!
There are many types of bacteria that can be classified as probiotics, and while they have many different benefits, most 'good' bacteria comes from two groups: Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Lactobacillus may be the most common probiotic. It’s the one you’ll find in yogurt and other fermented foods. "Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help with people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk". (source) Bifidobacteria are a group of bacteria that belong to a group of bacteria called lactic acid bacteria and normally live in the intestines. You can find it in some fermented foods such as yogurt and cheese, and it may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).(source)
"Breast-fed children and children born vaginally tend to have more of both groups of beneficial bacteria [Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium] in their guts than formula-fed children and those delivered by C-section" (meaning breastfeeding has been shown to foster the growth of 'good' bacteria, and babies who are delivered vaginally are exposed to a healthy dose of beneficial bacteria as they pass through the birth canal). (source)
Other than naturally occurring in our bodies, you can also find probiotics in supplement form (the same 'good' bacteria packaged in powder, capsule, or liquid form) as well as in certain foods, like yogurt, cheese and even chocolate!
So what do these probiotics do for us?
Along with balancing your 'good' and 'bad' bacterias that naturally occur in your gut, probiotcs help to move food through your gut. There is still a lot we don't know, and researchers are still trying to figure out which strands are best for particular health problems, however in 2010 scientists reached a consensus that probiotics can reduce the risk of diarrhea from antibiotics and reduce deadly bouts of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature babies. In 2014, an updated consensus showed the evidence backs probiotics for supporting a healthy digestive tract and a healthy immune system. There’s also some evidence of efficacy in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). (source).
- Keep harmful bacteria in check. Probiotics work to help prevent the overgrowth of bacteria in your intestines to keep your 'good' and 'bad' bacteria balanced and help keep your body working like it should.
- Keep you regular. Everybody poops, right? But in order to have regular bowel movements, there needs to be a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut. Daily probiotics have been shown to help support that balance, which in turn promotes regularity and helps prevent bloating, discomfort, and an upset stomach. (source)
- Healthy Digestion. Probiotics produce digestive enzymes and support regular, balanced digestion.
- Help antibiotic-induced diarrhea. According to Dr. Sears, probiotics should be used during, and for at least two weeks after, antibiotic treatment. "Antibiotics kill the bad germs that can cause infections throughout the body, but they also can kill the beneficial bacteria in the bowels. Probiotics replenish the healthful bacteria that may have been killed by the antibiotics and restore the balance between healthful and harmful bacteria in the bowels. (source)
- Work as preventive medicine. Studies have shown that probiotics can lessen the spread of diarrhea outbreaks in daycare settings. Probiotics seem to significantly decrease the shedding of viruses in the stools of affected children. (source)
- Produce good fats. These healthful bacteria ferment the soluble fiber in food, producing healthful short-chain fatty acids that nourish the cells of the large intestine, thereby promoting healing of infected intestinal lining. These protective fatty acids are also thought to reduce the development of intestinal cancer and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and they travel to the liver where they can decrease the liver's production of excess cholesterol. (source)
Probiotics also may be effective in easing the symptoms of non stomach related problems, such as:
- skin conditions, like eczema
- maintaining urinary and vaginal health and preventing yeast infections
- preventing allergies and colds
- maintaining oral health
- respiratory infections
- colic in babies
- lung infections in children
- skin problems in children who are allergic to milk
- lactose intolerance
- Crohn's disease
- obesity (sources: 1, 2)
Teaching our children about good nutrition is incredibly important, especially with all of the research that proves a well-balanced diet benefits more than just their growing bodies. With the prevalence of quick and easy processed foods, many kids fall short when it comes to getting the essential nutrients they need, and it is impacting their health in the long run.
Up to 80% of the immune system is found in and around the digestive tract, but the high-sugar, low-fiber diet that many kids have today can deplete the amount of good bacteria in your child’s gut. This can lead to upset and bloated stomachs, poor digestion, and a decrease in healthy immune function. Probiotic supplements for kids are a safe and gentle way to help replenish the balance of good bacteria in the digestive tract and support the developing immune system. (source)
Are you convinced yet?
The easiest way to ensure you have a healthy gut is to get your probiotics in daily. Most likely you already have probiotics in your every day diet if you eat yogurt. Many yogurts contain the probiotics acidophilus, bifidus, and bulgaricus, but be sure your label says "live and active cultures" when purchasing your yogurt. This is the official statement of the National Yogurt Association signifying that healthful probiotic bacteria have been added after pasteurization.
Because we're still staying away from most dairy due to H's (now more mild) reaction to cows milk, we all take probiotic supplements. I buy mine from Amazon, and have been really happy with how much of a difference they've made in my overall health the last few months! Even after eating pasta for dinner, I don't get as bloated and tired as I used to, which I'm attributing to the probiotics helping me digest my food properly, and helping to keep everything moving properly, and I know if I'm experiencing the benefits, so is H.
If you are looking for a supplement for your children, to help support better digestion and a healthy immune system, the probiotic that I personally have is Zahler Kidophilus Liquid!
Zahlers Kidophilus uses Lactobacillus acidophilus, the 'good' bacteria with important health benefits that I mentioned above that has been used in many scientific studies. Kidophilus is particularly beneficial for kiddos 4 and up after antibiotic use, as antibiotics kill off all bacteria indiscriminately. Zahlers Kidophilus effectively halts the growth of disease-causing bacteria, such as salmonella and shigella-caused dysentery, diarrhea, and even virus-caused flu. It also clears up yeast infections, reduces bad breath and flatulence, aids in digestion and reduces the incidence of constipation, thanks to a healthy intestinal flora. As an added bonus, the all-natural fruit punch flavor actually tastes like fruit punch and doesn't leave any sort of bad taste or film in your mouth! Manufactured and bottled in a state of the art GMP certified facility and is also dairy free, soy free and gluten free!
So, do you take a probiotic? If not previously, would you consider them now?
So, do you take a probiotic? If not previously, would you consider them now?
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Zahler for Kidophilus and contains affiliate links. Regardless, all opinions are my own and I would never promote anything for my readers that I hadn't personally tried and believed in!