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Is it worth giving your child probiotics?

Posted on16 Jan 2020
What were Lactobacillus anyway, not even touching bifi and other strains & why does one small box of cost an average $50-$70?" "Probiotics are becoming immensely popular: Americans spent $1.4 billion on them last year, almost triple what we spent on them five years ago.

Many brands are marketed specifically for kids. After my baffling purchasing experience (I ended up buying a brand a friend of mine recommended), I continued to wonder about what I had bought and was feeding my daughter. Was it worth the hefty price? What kind of benefits would it provide? And if I wanted to buy more, how could I pick the right kind on my own?"

"There’s good reason to think probiotics could be useful for kids. A child’s microbiome—the complete collection of commensal microorganisms that live on and inside her body—starts to develop when she is in the womb and solidifies during infancy and early childhood.

These bacteria help to digest food and synthesize vitamins; they also shape the development of the intestinal mucosal defense system, a complex immune network that helps to ward off infection and disease. A number of conditions—including allergies, asthma, Type 1 diabetes, and autoimmune diseases—have been linked to problems within this system, which suggests that an out-of-whack microbiome in childhood could affect one’s health throughout life.

It’s actually a challenge to find a disease that hasn’t been connected in some way to the microbiome." "But knowing that the microbiome is important for our kids’ health and knowing how to enhance it are two very different things. The latter requires a much deeper level of scientific understanding—one that, as yet, we don’t really have. The one thing scientists do know about the microbiome is that its workings are incredibly complex. And while your kid might stand to benefit from a bacterial boost, it’s tough to know what microbes he or she needs right now, in what amounts, and for how long.

So no, you can’t just walk into a health food store as I did, pick a perfect product, give some to your kid every day and expect it to stave off illness, because “there’s not a universal probiotic that improves health,” explains Allan Walker, founder of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital."

"That said, it may be possible to find a probiotic to help in particular situations. First, clinical studies have shown that certain probiotics can shorten the duration of diarrhea associated with stomach viruses. Probiotics have also been shown to half the chance that a child on antibiotics will suffer diarrhea. Among underweight and premature babies, probiotics can also reduce the risk of a potentially deadly intestinal condition called necrotizing enterocolitis. Another condition that probiotics could help with is colic, which some researchers posit is tied to gastrointestinal problems.

It makes sense that probiotics could help with tummy problems—the bugs set up shop in the gut, after all. But some research suggests that they could prevent respiratory infections in kids, too. The trials in these reviews tested different probiotics, so it’s hard to know which one and which dose work best. Because details are so hazy, many doctors don’t recommend the routine use of probiotics to prevent respiratory infections." "Allergic diseases are another promising but tricky area.

According to the “hygiene hypothesis,” allergy, asthma, and autoimmune disease rates have been growing in developed countries in part because children are being exposed to fewer of the right kinds of good bacteria early in life. The shift in exposure is thought to be due to ongoing lifestyle and environmental changes: improved sanitation, reduced exposure to bacteria-carrying livestock, increases in cesarean-section rates, and antibiotic use, among other things. (Babies swallow microbes on their way out of the birth canal, an experience they don’t get when they are born surgically—although they may get some microbial exposure if mom’s membranes break before surgery, as often happens in emergency C-sections.) "

"Research does suggest that kids who grow up on farms have a low risk of some allergic diseases and that kids who are born via C-section or who get antibiotics early in life are at a higher risk. Without the microbes needed to guide proper immune development, the thinking goes, kids’ immune systems begin to misguidedly attack innocuous environmental substances such as peanuts, ragweed, and pollen. This theory is not universally accepted, but it has garnered support in recent years." "The obvious follow-up question is whether probiotics could fix that problem by restoring proper microbial balance.

Studies have shown that probiotics can reduce the risk of eczema in babies, but they have not yet found that probiotics prevent other allergic diseases, such as asthma and food allergies. " "This may be because studies have not yet assessed the right types of kids—they haven’t specifically tested whether probiotics can reduce allergy risk in babies born by C-section or those given antibiotics, for instance—but the point is that for now, there’s little evidence to support giving kids probiotics to prevent allergies. Even so, Walker, the doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, made sure that his own C-section–born grandchildren took children probiotics as babies."

Bottom line is this: There are many research done on children probiotics and there are specific strains that do help children with their digestive system and immune function. So investing in a good and effective probiotic for your child is critical to building a strong and good gut. As the saying goes "Prevention is always better than cure." So start early and build up a strong gut for your child! We live in a crowded and dense population, where viruses and bad bacteria thrive, building a gut defense in your child would be worth more than anything.
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