A Quick Guide to Probiotics for Kids & Toddlers

Nov 17 2019     /     , , , , , , ,

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are good bacteria that can be found in food or supplements. Among others, these good bacteria can help with things like:

  • Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
  • Regurgitation
  • Constipation, and
  • Colic

Within your body, you have your own community of germs called a microbiome. This germ community, also called microbiota, is made up of good and bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

When the balance of good to bad bacteria in your microbiome gets tipped, infection or illness can occur. For example, let’s say your toddler is sick and needs to take an antibiotic. Using antibiotics will kill infection-causing bacteria, but it also eliminates some of the good bacteria that keep the bad bacteria in check. This leaves the door open for other bad organisms to multiply and take over, which may cause secondary issues.

Are Probiotics Safe?

Since probiotics are naturally occurring and found in the body of live organisms (including us humans), Health Canada treats probiotics as a food ingredient rather than a medication. However, probiotics are generally safe, and doctors often suggest them to help with digestive problems.

The most commonly used strain of probiotics contain lactobacillus, bifidobacterium or saccharomyces – or sometimes, a combination of the three.

Does Your Child Need Probiotics?

You may be wondering if your child really needs probiotics, and in general, most doctors would say yes, they can be a great supplement, but aren’t mandatory.  Since most of the science surrounding how probiotics impacts children has been observed in relation to tummy issues – it is best to take a probiotic for a digestive issue (colic, diarrhea, regurgitation, etc.) and to consult your family doctor or pediatrician if you are considering using a probiotic to treat a different condition.

How to Pick the Best Probiotic

A general recommendation is to choose probiotic products containing the genus Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium or Saccharomyces boulardii, some of the most researched probiotics. But you may have to delve deeper, as each genus of bacteria encompasses numerous strains that produce different results.

According to Gail Cresci, PhD, RD, an intestinal microbe specialist with Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, “Ideally, look for a product that’s been tested for whatever you’re looking to address. It might say it helps with IBS, but you wouldn’t take that same product if you were taking antibiotics. You would want a product that helps with immunity. That’s where a lot of people get confused.”

“I’d probably stay away from store brands and pay a little extra for the name brand that’s been studied,” Dr. Cresci adds.

What you should look for is a probiotic that has lots of clinical data to back up that it works, clearly indicates what specific issue it treats (for example, “colic” instead of “gastrointestinal health”), and is produced by a trusted source with lots of experience.

Canada also has its very own clinical guide to help outline what probiotics are safe and effective to use. You can see the full list here.

To learn more about the benefits of probiotics containing the genus Lactobacillus, visit BioGaia.ca.

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