Are Probiotics Safe For Kids? Here’s What You Need To Know
Published June 25th, 2020 / Updated Oct 17, 2021
From the moment your child is born, they encounter a new, unsterile world way different from the womb. They are exposed to different kinds of microbes which can cause various illnesses. As a parent, the last thing you’d want is for your child to get sick. This is probably why you’re worried whether giving your kids probiotics will benefit or harm them. And with many exaggerated claims about the merits of probiotics for kids, we can understand your concern.
But before we dig deep into whether probiotics are good or bad for your child, let’s first refresh our knowledge about probiotics.
What Are Probiotics?
Dubbed as the “good bacteria”, probiotics are live microorganisms that are beneficial to our health. We usually get them from supplements or from the foods we eat like kimchi, kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut. But some probiotic strains are also naturally found within our bodies, particularly in our guts. Together with the harmful bacteria, they make up our body’s microbial population – also known as the microbiome.
Studies show that keeping a healthy balance of bacteria in our microbiome is key to various aspects of human health. This helps the good bacteria to easily keep their harmful counterparts in check. But when there are more bad bacteria than good ones, it creates an imbalance we call dysbiosis. With fewer good bacteria, the bad ones can easily proliferate and conquer your microbiome. This can disrupt your normal bodily processes and can lead to various health issues.
This is why we need probiotic foods and supplements. It helps repopulate your body with good bacteria to bring back the healthy balance of microorganisms in your microbiota. This, in turn, helps your body resume its normal functions leading to better health.
The Best Probiotic Strains For Kids
Just as there are different strains of bacteria, there are different strains of probiotics too. Though all probiotic strains have their own health benefits, some strains may not have much effect on children. So if you want to ensure that your child is getting the most out of their probiotic supplements, look for those with the following strains:
1. Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
Rhamnosus has numerous benefits for your health, especially towards digestion and “tummy troubles”. This particular strain may be able to:
- Help treat diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Aid IBS symptoms
- Aid gut health
- Protect against cavities
- Help prevent UTIs
- Promote weight loss
2. Lactobacillus sporogenes
Sporegenes has many names, but it more popularly goes by “Bacillus coagulans.” It is similar to Lactobacillus in its usage as a beneficial bacteria.
Bacillus coagulans can treat many of the same problems as L. rhamnosus. Like L. rhamnosus, this strain can treat diarrhea, IBS, and inflammatory bowel disease.
Many use this strain to treat respiratory problems and boost their immune system. It also has abilities to prevent cancer by combatting cancer-causing agents.
3. Saccharomyces boulardii
Saccharomyces boulardii is a type of yeast. People linked it to being a strain similar to baker’s yeast. But Saccharomyces boulardii is used almost exclusively as medicine.
There’s a recurring pattern with the presented probiotics. They address many problems involving our bowels. Saccharomyces boulardii is no different, as its uses also cover diarrhea and diseases caused by antibiotics. More importantly, it can fight off rotaviral diarrhea in children.
4. Lactobacillus acidophilus
More commonly referred to as “acidophilus,” this strain of bacterium can be found in yogurt. Acidophilus as a supplement comes in many forms, such as capsules, tablets, and wafers.
Aside from treating diarrhea, one of its main benefits for kids is against lung infection. Acidophilus might play a key role in reducing respiratory problems in children.
5. Bifidobacterium lactis
Bifidobacteria live in our intestines. You can take this bacteria by mouth, though, as a medicine.
This bacteria generally addresses problems caused by antibiotics. While there are no doubt antibiotics can be beneficial to us, they can also kill off some “good” bacteria to die. The theory is that bifidobacteria can prevent the death of much of the good bacteria within us.
Also able to treat diarrhea, bifidobacteria can fight common colds and the flu.
The Best Probiotics for Kids
To give your child the probiotics they need, here are some of the best probiotic foods and supplements you can check out:
Benefits: Digestive and immune health
Probiotic strain: Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. gasseri, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus casei
CFU: 5 billion
Benefits: Immune and digestive health
Probiotic Strain: Lactobacillus acidophilus, gasseri, paracasei, and plantarum as well as Bifidobacterium (Bifidobacteria) lactis, breve, infantis, and bifidum
CFU: 5 billion
Benefits: Digestive balance, prevent and treat upset stomach
Probiotic Strain: Lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium lactis, bifidobacterium breve, lactobacillus salivarus, lactobacillus salivarum
CFU: 3 billion
Benefits: immune and digestive health
Probiotic Strain: Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
CFU: 5 billion
Benefits: improve digestion and treat bowel problems like diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome, relief from constipation, no added sugars
Probiotic Strain: Lactobacillus reuteri
CFU: 100 million
Benefits: boosts immune system, restores digestive balance, works even during antibiotic treatment
Probiotic Strain: saccharomyces boulardii
CFU: 500 million
Benefits: reduces abdominal discomfort, bloating, and even diarrhea; overall health support
Probiotic Strain: Bacillus coagulans BC30
CFU: 500 million
Benefits: better digestive health
Probiotic Strain: S. thermophilus, L. bulgaricus, L. acidophilus, Bifidus, and L. paracasei
CFU: not indicated
Benefits: supports gastrointestinal health and healthy immune system function
Probiotic Strain: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium lactis, Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus paracasei, Bifidobacterium breve, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus salivarius, Bifidobacterium longum
CFU: 2 billion CFU
Should You Give Your Child Probiotics?
In general, probiotics are safe for people of all ages. Unless your child has a severe illness or is immuno-compromised, you can safely give them probiotics.
In fact, your child is already exposed to probiotics from the moment they were born. Studies show that probiotics in mothers build the foundation for their children’s microbiomes.
Shortly before birth, some species of bacteria migrate from the mother’s body to her baby’s. This good bacteria helps the baby’s body distinguish between what is “good” and what is “bad” for it. A study in 2018 also showed that probiotic supplementation in pregnant and breastfeeding mothers helps restore their baby’s microbiome. This, in turn, lessens their babies’ risk of developing immunological diseases.
Aside from being generally safe for kids, probiotics are also associated with various health benefits.
Health Benefits of Probiotics For Kids
A child’s microbiome is obviously different than that of an adult. As such, they may react differently to probiotics. Unfortunately, the studies investigating the effects of probiotics on children are currently limited. But according to the few studies we found, these are the probable benefits of probiotics for kids:
1. Better Digestive Health
Since most probiotic colonies are found in our guts, they’re typically linked to gut health. The same can also be said for kids.
A randomized controlled trial in Bolivia suggests that probiotics may help prevent the duration of rotavirus diarrhea in children. The results of this study are echoed in a 2010 clinical review which concluded that probiotics can help reduce the duration of infectious diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome in children by up to 4 days.
The Association of American Family Physicians (AAFP) also found that probiotics help treat and prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea in children. It does this by restoring the good bacteria that the body loses during antibiotic treatment.
2. Improved Immunity Against Diseases
Not a lot of people know this but your gut plays a crucial role in your body’s fight against various diseases. According to studies, the bacteria living in your gut help regulate immune homeostasis. You see, the cells lining your guts are producing massive amounts of antibodies every single day. Your gut bacteria help the gut to better absorb them and distribute them all throughout the body through the bloodstream. This is how probiotics can help boost your child’s immunity against diseases.
3. Better Allergy Management
As mentioned, gut bacteria play a crucial role in your body’s immunity. That’s why probiotics are recommended for children suffering from seasonal and food allergies.
Several studies on the prevention of atopic diseases in children suggest that probiotics can help reduce their risk of eczema. A clinical trial also concluded that a combination of lactobacillus rhamnosus and lactobacillus reuteri probiotic strains can help in managing the symptoms of atopic dermatitis in children. While another controlled trial found that probiotic supplementation in pregnant mothers can help lower the incidence of eczema in their children’s first year of life.
4. Enhanced Growth and Development
A 2015 review of twelve clinical studies shows that probiotics have the potential to improve growth and development in children. However, results from trials conducted in developing countries showed a more significant impact on child nutrition than those conducted in developed countries. This suggests that probiotic supplementation is more effective for undernourished children.
Probiotic Foods vs. Supplements: How Should My Kid Get His Probiotics?
There has been debate about whether letting kids take supplements is safe. For kids, it’s better to get probiotics from their food instead of supplements. However, some researches suggest that supplements are perfectly safe for kids to take.
One advantage that supplements have over food is their concentration in probiotics. Supplements generally contain more probiotics than in food. When choosing the right supplements, you should consider two key factors. These factors are the specific strain of probiotics and the CFU (colony-forming unit). CFU refers to the number of viable live bacteria found in a product.
Before supplementing, we always recommend checking first with your local pediatrician for medical advice diagnosis or treatment options.
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This Content Has Been Reviewed For Factual Accuracy
About The Author
Judy Ponio is a professional writer based in the Philippines. Her commitment to communicating factual content in when writing is unmatched. She works hard to cross check reputable sources to ensure her work uses accurate facts.