It seems like summer just started, but before you know it you’ll be at the store shopping for back-to-school supplies. While you’re stocking up on pencils, paper, and glue, you might want to consider tossing some probiotics in your cart, too!
Probiotics contribute to the good bacteria that live in our bodies. They are part of the human microbiome — a catch-all term that encompasses the microorganisms (bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses and others) that live in our gut, on our skin, and even in our mouths. The human microbiome is important for proper functioning of our bodies including digestive, cardiovascular, central nervous, and immune systems. This is why it’s so important to keep the microbiome hardy and robust with a good diet, sleep, exercise, and probiotic rich foods and supplements. These steps can help keep our microbiome balanced so we can stay healthy.
Scientists have been studying the immune-supporting properties of probiotics for some time. Previous research suggests that regular use of probiotics by children keeps them healthy. They provide a source of good bacteria, the wholesome kind children need to contribute to positive microflora in their bodies. With 70% of immune cells located in the digestive system, the challenge isn’t getting probiotics to work – its’s getting children to take them.
Recent studies confirm that probiotics may be effective at supporting the immune system. A study published in 2010 found that a probiotic supplement containing a blend of Bifidobacterium infantis Rosell-33, Lactobacillus helveticus Rosell-52, Bifidobacterium bifidum Rosell-71 and a prebiotic consumed for 3 months allowed more children to maintain respiratory and GI health, and have better school attendance, as compared with a placebo group.
Gastrointestinal health is also important for young children. A 2017 study found that infants who received a probiotic supplement experienced significantly healthier bowel movements and other indicators of GI health, as opposed to a placebo group. Another group of researchers using an animal model found that a strain of Bifidobacterium provided similar effects, supporting the positive findings in infants.
Early life colonization of the human microbiome, particularly the gastrointestinal tract, is critical for normal development and regulation of the immune system during childhood and beyond. Besides dietary and other lifestyle choices that can help children develop a healthy microbiome, probiotic foods and supplements can also contribute to this goal. Probiotics from the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus categories are by far the best studied probiotics, especially for gastrointestinal and immune system support in children.
Probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and probiotic supplements seems to be linked to an increase in of good bacteria (in the digestive tracts) of children who consume them. However, getting kids to ingest fermented foods could be difficult. In addition, eating only one type of probiotic-rich food, such as yogurt, may not fully deliver the digestive support kids need, because these foods on their own are often not sufficient in organism quantity or strain variety. Specially formulated kid-friendly probiotic supplements are a great way to provide children with the microorganism “gut” support they need to maintain a healthy immune system and promote optimum digestive function every day.
Probiotics are generally considered safe for use by most people, but always check with your health care practitioner before giving your child supplements.