What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live microorganisms, typically bacteria. When people consume enough probiotics, they provide health benefits.
Research shows that probiotics may benefit people suffering from certain medical conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), eczema, dermatitis, high cholesterol, and liver disease.
Most probiotics belong to one of two kinds of bacteria —Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.
Why are probiotics important for kids?
Probiotics are a popular natural remedy for kids. According to the 2012 National Health Interview SurveyTrusted Source, probiotics are the third natural product most used by children.
Benefits of probiotics on your child’s brain
Thousands of species of bacteria call the human body home, primarily in the intestines. In general, these bacteria are good for our health and may even impact brain health.
Did you know that the gut is often referred to as “the second brain?” This stems from all of the ways the gut and brain are connected and communicate with each other.
The gut and brain are in constant communication, hence the term “I can feel it in my gut,” through something called the enteric nervous system. This special system of neurons regulates parts of the gastrointestinal system, the immune system, the endocrine system, just to name a few. It also sends many signals to the brain, impacting how the brain functions.
The gut microbiome plays a leading role in the enteric nervous system because the balance of bacteria influences the communication that is sent from the gut to the brain. When there is not a sufficient amount of good bacteria, this communication will break down and become dysfunctional. This leads to depression, irritability, anxiety, hyperactivity, brain fog, poor attention, and chronic headaches in children.
Probiotic Benefits for children
- Fewer infections and illnesses: The bulk of the immune system is in the gut, so good microbiome balance is imperative for fighting off colds, cases of flu, and other sicknesses.
- Improved mood and behavior: Research has shown that mood and behavior are linked to the gut microbiome. That probiotics can support enhanced mood and emotional and behavioral regulation in children.
- Faster recovery from antibiotic treatment: Since antibiotic medications kill good bacteria along with the bad, taking probiotic supplements during and after a course of antibiotic therapy works to help the gut microbiome get back into better balance. It is best to space out probiotics and antibiotics by at least a couple of hours.
- Healthy bowel habits: Children should have at least one (if not more) soft, formed, easy to pass bowel movements daily. Unfortunately, many kids get constipated, don’t go to the bathroom frequently enough, and have stools that are painful to pass or overly stiff. Some kids may also struggle with diarrhea or loose stools that happen too often and may cause painful cramping. Probiotics can help restore bacterial balance in the gut so that kids can achieve normal, healthy bowel habits.
- Healthy weight and metabolism: A healthy gut microbiome can impact weight and metabolism in several ways. Probiotics help the body digest and absorb nutrients from the food allowing kids to grow and maintain a healthy weight and high energy levels.
- Better brain function: Because of the gut-brain connection, children with unhealthy gut microbiomes may experience more learning, attention, and memory problems. When good bacteria levels in the gut are improved, it allows for more neurotransmitters to be produced, positively impacting the function of the brain. Kids can focus, learn, and remember things better when they have a healthy gut microbiome.
Giving probiotics to kids
There are several ways to give your child their probiotics, including in a kids chewable probiotics, a delicious and easy way to ensure your kids get sufficient probiotics.
Giving your kids a probiotic supplement regularly helps boost their good bacteria levels and supports healthy brain function. We recommend a product that contains Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria strains, as these have been shown in research studies to be the most significant for supporting healthy gut bacteria levels. Avoid probiotic products with sugar or artificial ingredients like dyes or flavorings because these ingredients work to cancel out the benefits of taking probiotic supplements in the first place.
Other ways to give probiotics to kids:
- probiotic yogurt,
- unpasteurized sauerkraut in a sandwich or as a side,
- kefir as a breakfast, dessert, or snack,