The current trend is to eat "healthy microbes" or "good bacteria" such as probiotics. But is it worth adding them to the child's diet? Do kids need probiotics? "Good bacteria" or probiotics can be found in the supermarket in fermented (fermented) foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut. And if sour milk and pickles aren't your thing, there are plenty of baby foods that contain probiotics, including breakfast cereals, juices, and even baby formula.
Do children need probiotics?
No matter how you consume probiotics, the presence of beneficial bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract can improve your gut microbiota and therefore boost your immune system. And while the promise of better digestion and a stronger immune system is certainly tempting, probiotics for kids have yet to be proven to be the “magic pill.” "At this time, there are no formal recommendations for probiotics for children," said Frank Greer, MD, a pediatrician in Madison, Wisconsin, USA and a former committee member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “But at the same time, no one has confirmed that giving them to healthy children is harmful.”
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are friendly organisms, mostly bacteria (although some are yeast), that help keep the gastrointestinal tract healthy. “We are inhabited by bacteria not only on the outside of our body. They are also found in our airways and intestines and play a vital role in the immune system,” says Vincent Pedre, MD, internist, clinical instructor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and author of Happy Gut. . The two best known strains of probiotics are lactobacillus (Lactobacillus) and bifidobacteria (Bifidobacterium) - they are usually added to foods or supplements (for example, Lactobacillus acidophilus is commonly found in yogurt).
How do they "work"?
“While we are still figuring out exactly how probiotics work in our body, they are believed to dominate gastrointestinal pathogens by generating metabolic products that positively affect the immune system,” says Dr. Greer. "Probiotics create what's called a 'barrier effect', which means there are more of them than there are 'bad bacteria', and probiotics fight bad pathogens in the stomach by preventing them from attaching to the intestines," says Dr. Pedre. “In addition, probiotics can reduce inflammation and control harmful bacteria, parasites, and yeast that often distract our immune systems from fighting viruses.”
Who benefits from probiotics?
As with any new food or supplement in your child's diet, check with your pediatrician before giving your child probiotics. “Probiotics may provide health benefits to most children, but they are not recommended for those children who have chronic illnesses and those who are immunocompromised,” warns Alyssa Ramsey, MD, MS, CSCS, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and dietetics. “There is little evidence that probiotics can prevent disease, but they can shorten the duration of an illness such as acute diarrhea,” says Dr. Greer. These substances also help with antibiotic-induced diarrhea, Ramsey adds. But probiotics have not been proven beneficial (in randomized controlled trials) for conditions such as indigestion, constipation, or chronic inflammatory bowel disease in children. “The widespread use of antibiotics, especially for children’s ear infections, killed a large number of beneficial bacteria in their intestines, and, on the contrary, disease-causing bacteria began to multiply actively.
Therefore, probiotics can help children who have repeatedly taken antibacterial drugs,” says Dr. Pedre. "Probiotic supplements may also reduce the incidence of nasal, ear, and upper respiratory tract infections in children prone to these conditions." In addition, according to a new study, probiotics reduce the risk of allergic eczema.
When do children take probiotics?
Healthy children of all ages can benefit from introducing probiotics into their diet. If a probiotic supplement is needed, your pediatrician will advise you on the dosage and frequency of administration. “Probiotics can be given to children from birth,” Rumsey says. Dr. Greer adds that breastfed babies don't need probiotics because they have enough good bacteria in their gut.
Which children should not take probiotics?
- children who are seriously or chronically ill
- children with a disease that weakens their immunity
- babies born prematurely - children who are undergoing chemotherapy
- children undergoing no steroid treatment.
“These exceptions stem from the fact that the effects of probiotics on these groups of children have not yet been sufficiently studied,” Ramsey explains. Scientists note that parents also need to remember that probiotics, like nutritional supplements, do not undergo preliminary testing and do not receive permission from regulatory authorities. In addition, there is little information to date on which probiotics “work” best and how often they should be taken. Now you know about the peculiarities of taking probiotics - it is up to you to decide whether your child should take probiotic supplements or not. And be healthy!
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