Probiotics and Acidophilus for Kids

Baby feeding himself yoghurt
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Probiotics are products that contain microorganisms (usually specific bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces) that are said to benefit the gut health of people who eat or drink them.

Probiotics are thought to modify the number of bacteria living in our gastrointestinal tract by increasing the number of beneficial gut bacteria and preventing the growth and overgrowth of harmful bacteria.

Babies are born without any bacteria in their intestines, but they shortly become colonized with many beneficial bacteria. Babies born via vaginal delivery, as well as those that are breastfed, tend to have more beneficial bacteria in their intestines.

Breast milk naturally contains probiotics. While probiotics have now been added to many infant formulas, it is not yet known if they have the same benefits.

Probiotics for Kids

There are many products that contain probiotics, including some that are specifically marketed for infants and children. A few examples include:

  • Activa yogurt
  • Align Daily Probiotic Supplement
  • Baby's Only Essentials Probiotic (a powdered probiotic available in packets that can be added to milk or yogurt)
  • Culturelle for Kids with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
  • DanActive yogurt drink (for kids over age three)
  • Florastor and FlorastorKids with Saccharomyces boulardii lyo
  • Gerber Good Start Gentle for Supplementing and Gerber Good Start Soothe are milk-based baby formulas with probiotics
  • Nutramigen with Enflora LGG (an elemental formula with a probiotic
  • Nutrition Now Pro-Biotics Acidophilus)
  • Yo Baby yogurt (includes extra probiotic bacteria)
  • Yoplait Yo-Plus yogurt

While other brands of yogurt have some active cultures and probiotics, they are usually not in high enough dosages to be considered a useful supplement.

Are Probiotics Helpful?

Research on the benefits of probiotic supplements has been mixed, though more studies are being conducted. Of the studies that have been done, the results have indicated that:

  • Early supplementation with the probiotic L. acidophilus does not appear to reduce a high-risk infant's risk of developing atopic dermatitis or eczema. A previous study had suggested that probiotics might have a protective effect from eczema.
  • Probiotics do not appear to have a protective effect against antibiotic-induced diarrhea, though some studies have suggested the possibility.
  • Probiotics have not been shown to improve pain in children with irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Probiotics were more helpful than simethicone (a popular ingredient in gas and colic drops) for relieving symptoms in babies with colic.
  • The probiotic L. acidophilus appears to help children with acute diarrhea get better faster.

Probiotics are also being studied for use in children with chronic constipation, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and Helicobacter pylori infections.

Probiotics do not appear to cause any significant side effects in healthy children without immune system problems, but it's still not clear whether kids benefit from taking probiotic supplements.

What to Know About Probiotics

Parents might assume that even if probiotics don't help, they aren't likely to be harmful. However, there are many types and strains of probiotics to choose from, and the dosages can vary widely between products. It can be hard to figure out how much to take as well as how often to take them.

Keep in mind that except for children with acute diarrhea, there is no proven benefit to giving kids probiotics regularly. If you aren't sure about trying a supplement, you can start by giving your child a serving of yogurt daily or include other probiotic-rich foods in your family's meals.

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Article Sources
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