Thanks to the advertisements on TV, probiotics are quite popular for their varied health benefits. They are usually used by adults to prevent gastrointestinal problems. But are probiotics good for children? If yes, how does it help kids to stay healthy? Here’s more on what are probiotics and how they help.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are living organisms (microbes), which are beneficial for our health when consumed in large quantities. Most probiotic foods and supplements include bacteria such as lactobacillus or a strain of yeast known as Saccharomyces boulardii. When taken orally, these microbes reach the intestine, colonise the gut lining and suppress the growth of harmful pathogens. This helps our gut to maintain a healthy balance of good microbes.
Some of the natural sources of probiotics are foods including yogurt (curd), raw sauerkraut (fermented cabbage), kimchi (fermented vegetables), kefir (fermented product made from goat’s milk), kombucha tea (fermented black tea) and buttermilk. However, if your child is suffering from digestive problems like loose motions and vomiting, you might need to use different sources of probiotics to help them recover quickly.
Health benefits of probiotics for kids
Most kids these days indulge in processed foods like chips, burgers and canned foods which have an adverse effect on their digestive health and increase the risk of diarrhea and indigestion. Here are few benefits of probiotics for kids:
Improve digestion: Probiotics help in the absorption and assimilation of vital nutrients in the body, which helps in the uptake of nutrients by the intestinal lining. They also aid in the production of certain compounds that alter the pH, thereby helping in the growth of beneficial bacteria. As the microbial load of good bacteria increases, the key function of probiotics, which is to ensure proper digestion, is achieved.
Treat antibiotic-related diarrhea: Antibiotics are medicines used to destroy harmful bacteria. However, these drugs kill the good bacteria along with the bad bacteria, which affects digestion and leads to diarrhea. Consuming probiotics not only increases the good bacteria in the gut but also favours the growth of beneficial bacteria, aiding in the treatment of diarrhea.
Moreover, yeast, which is present in certain probiotics also helps treat diarrhea. It protects the gut lining from the attack of harmful pathogens and clears toxins from the body. Hence, if your kid is suffering from diarrhea or has been prescribed antibiotics, you may be advised to give probiotics.
Boost immunity: Probiotics can improve the of production of substances that have antimicrobial action and also help in the modulation of the immune system to produce protective cytokines and antibodies. All of this helps you develop a healthy immune system and lowers the risk of infections.
Tips to follow while including probiotics in your child’s daily diet
-The best natural source of probiotics is yogurt. You can reap the benefits of curd by encouraging your kids to eat two servings of yogurt every day.
-Instead of opting for the ones available in the market, use homemade curd (dahi). It is best to eat plain curd than having sweetened yogurt.
-Make sure you also include fibre-rich food in your kid’s diet because probiotics thrive on fibre whereas harmful microbes use sugars for energy.
-Make sure you include regularly include probiotics in their diet to improve digestion and prevent problems such as diarrhea.
–Probiotics are usually consumed in large quantities as the microbes have to pass the gastrointestinal tract and survive the acids in the stomach to reach the intestine. So to know the right dose, consult your doctor or read the description on the pack when you are using supplements.
-If your kid is suffering from any illness or has low immunity, then it is advised to not give probiotics in any form including fermented foods like idli, as it might worsen the condition. Hence, ask your doctor about the pros and cons before you give probiotics to your sick kid.
1. Hojsak I. Probiotics in Children: What Is the Evidence? Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition. 2017;20(3):139-146.
2. Kelesidis T, Pothoulakis C. Efficacy and safety of the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii for the prevention and therapy of gastrointestinal disorders. Therapeutic Advances in Gastroenterology. 2012;5(2):111-125.