In the last decade, there’s been a lot more talk about probiotics, but what are they and can they help your overall health? Probiotics are the healthy (hence the ‘pro’) bacteria that live within the gut. Research has indicated that an imbalance of bacteria in the gut is connected to inflammatory diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, and allergies among other things, which probiotics can help to combat. As a parent, you may be wondering, “How can I feed my little one probiotics too? Is it effective and safe?” We decided to look into these questions to find out for ourselves.
How to Get them:
- Breast Milk– If you nurse, breast milk is an easy way that your little one can gain healthy nutrients known as ‘prebiotics’. These foundational compounds are said to promote the growth of good bacteria. And if you don’t breastfeed, no worries. There are supplements that can be mixed with formula.
- Yogurt– Yogurt is made with milk that has been fermented by healthy bacteria, therefore making it chalked full of probiotics (make sure you check the label for “live cultures”). Other dairy products, such as some cheeses and ice cream, can also be a source.
- Supplements– These come in all forms including drops, chewable tablets, and regular pills. It’s recommended that parents looking for supplements choose a product that contains anywhere from 5 to 40 billion live cells. Note* Many of these require a specific temperature for storing to ensure that the live cells stay alive!
- Other food products– Some companies produce everyday foods with the intention of adding probiotics. Think of nutrition bars and fruit juice drinks.
Are they effective and safe?
In the realm of probiotics for babies, some studies have shown that they can aid with symptoms of colic, diarrhea, intestinal problems, and eczema. Though there have been studies that show a correlation between probiotics and the improvement of these conditions, experts say that more studies need to be done before they’re universally recommended. That being said, foods that naturally contain probiotics such as Yogurt and Cheese are perfectly safe for healthy children. As the studies develop in the future, probiotics are definitely worth discussing with your pediatrician if you see fit.