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Why are probiotics important for kids?

Posted on03 Sep 2019
They have been there since birth, when your baby's GI tract became colonized with good, bad, and benign bacteria (known as flora) as he passed through the birth canal and picked up some of your microbes. Because babies delivered by C-section miss out on this, they initially end up with a different collection of flora, explains Mary Ellen Sanders, Ph.D., a microbiologist and the executive director of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics. (Scientists suspect that this difference in colonization may be behind the higher incidence of allergies and asthma in C-section babies, but more research is needed.)

If you nurse, you help your baby build up more good bacteria, because breast milk contains substances known as prebiotics that promote the growth of healthy bugs. "By shaping the content of an infant's gastrointestinal tract, breast milk also helps 'educate' the developing immune system," says David Mills, Ph.D., a University of California, Davis microbiologist. (Prebiotics are also found in high-fiber foods like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.) Once your child weans and starts on solid foods, his gut microflora will change, and then remain pretty much constant throughout his or her lifetime. But there are outside forces that may throw off the balance. Antibiotics, for instance, can kill both bad and good bacteria in your child's gut flora -- and that can lead to gastrointestinal distress.

"About 20 to 30 percent of kids develop diarrhea when they take antibiotics," says Daniel Merenstein, M.D., director of research in the department of family medicine at Georgetown University Medical Center, in Washington, D.C. Various diseases, too, can disturb this otherwise fixed amount of microflora. Some research has shown that consuming probiotics through foods or supplements can positively affect your child's balance of bacteria, and consequently, his health. Each child (and adult) has trillions of different microbes living in him/her, and no two kids have the same mix of bacteria.

Two of the most common categories of beneficial bacteria that naturally occur in our body are called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. The marketplace is rife with specific strains of each of these bacterial groups (such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Bifidobacterium lactis). - All found in #lactokids_probiotics "Like antibiotics, probiotics are confusing to people because each one is different," says Dr. Merenstein.

The antibiotic that will treat your child's ear infection won't necessarily treat her pneumonia. The same holds true for probiotics -- one strain does not prevent or treat all ailments. And it's not just the strain that's important, but the dose. Some food product labels list strain names along with the amount of live bacteria, usually cited on labels exponentially as 1 billion) or 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units).

Survivability of probiotic strains are key to high efficacy of a probiotic brand and with studies are the only way to determine how many probiotic bacteria remain alive after travel and shelf time. "Without them, we really don't know how well -- or how many -- live bacteria survive in products by the time they're consume," says Dr. Merenstein. (Supplements, on the other hand, are usually freeze-dried and packaged so that they retain their bacteria.) Whatever the benefit, it's important to note that probiotics' infection-fighting effects are only temporary. This is because the probiotics don't build up in your child's gastrointestinal system.

"Once you stop taking any probiotic, whether it's in food or in medicinal form, it disappears from the GI tract and your microflora levels return to what they were," says Frank R. Greer, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a coauthor of the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) report on probiotics.

This is why probiotics must be consume daily to achieve and maintain a strong and balanced digestive system.

Lactokids + Probiotics is available at: Guardian Pharmacy and Watsons Pharmacy