Almost everyone’s heard about how yogurt can aid in digestion and benefits gut flora for nutritional absorption. In fact, even kefir is becoming more popular as a tasty probiotic culture that you can find in a fruity and refreshing “drinkable” form, or you can make it yourself from a starter kit.
Probiotics are live microbial food ingredients which are reported to be effective in the treatment of Irritable Bowel Disorder, diarrhea, and constipation. Probiotics, such as Bifidobacteria (B.) and lactobacilli (L.), both produce lactic, acetic, and other acids resulting in a [decreased] pH in the colon. A lower pH enhances peristalsis (which is the smooth muscle mobilization of waste particles) of the colon. They subsequently decrease waste matter transit time in the colon which is beneficial in the treatment of constipation.1
But, how many of you know about the benefits of probiotics for babies and children?
Before you gasp and protest, “But, they’re too young! Babies don’t need any vitamins or supplements as long as they’re still receiving breastmilk,” consider some of the latest research on probiotics and how they could possibly benefit your young’uns.
The latest research in several journals reveals how probiotics can help children who suffer from diarrhea, constipation, or eczema, and they can even help boost immunity among children.
“Probiotics are safe for healthy children, and [they are] effective in reducing the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and the duration of acute infectious diarrhea. Probiotics may also be effective in preventing community-acquired diarrheal infections, in reducing the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis in premature infants, and in the prevention and treatment of atopic dermatitis (or eczema).”2
There is a high level of evidence for positive effects of some probiotics to alleviate constipation, to treat [liver disease]. Probiotics may be used to alleviate lactose intolerance, antibiotic-associated intestinal disorders, and gastroenteritis. Probiotics may also assist in the prevention of recurrence of inflammatory bowel diseases.3
Last fall, a study conducted at the Department of Paediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam, The Netherlands was published. The study specifically studied the benefit of probiotics containing containing bifidobacteria and lactobacilli in treating childhood constipation. For four weeks, twenty children, ages 4 – 16 (50% male, and average was 8 years) received a daily mix of the probiotics, and outcomes assessed were frequency of bowel movements per week and stool consistency. Additional measurements considered frequency of fecal incontinence per week, abdominal pain, and side effects.
The study concluded that the probiotics mixture containing different strains of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, increases the frequency of bowel movements in constipated children presenting with a defecation frequency of less than 3 times per week. This probiotic mixture was also effective in decreasing the number of fecal incontinence episodes and in reducing the presence of abdominal pain. No side effects (such as bloating, increased flatulence, and vomiting) were reported. Probiotics are much safer than laxitives to administer to constipated children.1
In 2003, a study from Copenhagen, Denmark’s Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University found probiotics were beneficial in treating atopic dermatitics (or eczema) in children. For 6 weeks, children ages 1 to 13 were given 2 probiotic lactobacillus strains (Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri). After active treatment, 56% of the patients experienced improvement of the eczema, and the treatment response was more dramatic in patients who tested positive for allergies in at least one skin prick test.4
Okay, so where does a parent find probiotics safe for babies and children to consume? Although children 5 years of age or older can probably safely consume most probiotics manufactured for adults (although varying the serving size dependent on the child’s age, weight, etc.), until more research is done, it’s probably best to stick to a probiotics mixture created specifically for babies and young children.
To date, the only formula that I’ve found is created by MMS Pro:Entrin for Children. The nice thing is that you don’t have to be a health care professional to order this product, so any health conscientious parent can place an order for it. MMS Pro doesn’t sell directly, rather, they have a few distributors. Personally, I’ve only purchased the Entrin from Levine Health who ship it with reusable ice bags to preserve the integrity of the product (which is sensitive to heat!).
My 7-month-old son has definitely benefited from the probiotics. His stool is regular, several times a day (instead of twice a week!) and the consistency is normal as opposed to hard as a rock. I give him 1/4 tsp. once a day mixed in with his solids at lunchtime. And, I’ll probably keep him on probiotics for several months to assist with the development of gut flora and peristalsis.
- Bekkali NL. et. al. The role of a probiotics mixture in the treatment of childhood constipation: a pilot study. Nutr J. 2007; 6: 17. Published online 2007 August 4. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-6-17.
- Kligler B, Hanaway P, Cohrssen A. Probiotics in children. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2007 Dec;54(6):949-67; xi.
- Marteau P, Boutron-Ruault MC. Nutritional advantages of probiotics and prebiotics. Br J Nutr. 2002 May;87 Suppl 2:S153-7.
- Rosenfeldt V. et. al. Effect of probiotic Lactobacillus strains in children with atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Feb;111(2):389-95.