Did you know that they make probiotics for kids? More importantly, did you know they offer a heap of benefits for your little one? Here, Hunter, our resident health and exercise expert, breaks down how for you!
Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few years, there is no doubt that you have heard about probiotics. You know, that revolutionary group of supplements that are claimed to help cure practically any ailment on the planet?
Yep, those little guys.
Probiotics have fast become one of the most well-regarded (and heavily-researched) supplements in the world. But what about probiotics for kids?
Are probiotics safe for kids to take? Do they offer them any real benefits or are they just another fad?
Let’s find out together!
- What Are Probiotics?
- Can I Give Probiotics to My Child?
- How Can Probiotics Help My Child?
- Are Probiotics Safe for Kids?
- What Strains of Probiotics Should Kids Take?
- Can My Child Get Probiotics from Foods?
- What Should I Look for In a Probiotic for My Child?
- Can Probiotics Have Side Effects in Children?
- Top 10 Best Probiotics for Kids
- Take Home Message
What Are Probiotics?
Did you know that your entire body (inside and out) is completely covered with little microorganisms? Yep, literally covered in a unique collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
Now, I should note that this is not a bad thing.
In fact, these little guys are absolutely meant to be there. Collectively known as your microbiota, this group of bugs helps your body to function on a daily basis. They have all kinds of health benefits — helping you maintain physical and mental health, digest the food you eat, and even supporting your immune system.
They are, honestly, pretty amazing!
Learn more about probiotics from a biochemist in this article: What are Probiotics Benefits, Dangers, and Best Sources?
However, it is also important to note that your body also plays host to bad bacteria — i.e. microorganisms that work against your body. As a result, if the balance between good and bad bacteria gets out of whack, then your health can decline at a rapid rate.
And this is exactly where probiotics enter the discussion.
Probiotics are essentially a group of supplements (pills, powders, capsules, or food) that contain microorganisms naturally living within your microbiota. Most probiotics might contain just one species of bacteria but some contain several types of bacteria or fungi.
Therefore, probiotics bring healthy microorganisms right into your body, basically increasing the number of good bacteria you have. Once in your body, these little guys start working hard to keep you healthy and functioning well.
Can I Give Probiotics to My Child?
So, what about probiotics for kids?
I guess the first thing to point out here is the fact that kids — just like adults — have a microbiota that helps their body function.
Kids, amazingly, start to develop their microbiota in the womb and its development progresses throughout their childhood. It has actually been said that poor development of the microbiota may be a driver for a number of diseases during childhood.
With this in mind, the microorganisms found within probiotic supplements are already present in and on your children. Therefore, if you give your child a probiotic, you are merely supplementing the good bacteria they already have with more good bacteria.
In short, yes, you can give probiotics to your child.
How Can Probiotics Help My Child?
Probiotics have garnered a lot of attention in the research world for their ability to improve health. However, at least initially, the bulk of this research was performed in adults.
Fortunately, over the last few years, we have seen more evidence demonstrating the positive impacts that probiotics can have for kids, as well. These include:
- boosting immunity
- helping fight asthma
- reducing allergies
- treating diarrhea
- easing the symptoms of the stomach flu
Probiotics and Kids’ Immunity
The good bugs that make up your kid’s microbiota help fight off invading bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They pretty much act as the first line of defense against any nasty contagious diseases or illnesses.
But that’s not all!
Amazingly, the good bacteria in their gut microbiota have also been shown to produce little compounds (known as “short-chain fatty acids” or “SCFAs” for short) that actually boost the function of your child’s immune system.
Via each of these mechanisms, probiotics offer a very effective way of keeping your kids free of the bugs making their rounds at school or daycare.
Probiotics and Kids’ Asthma
Asthma is a disease that results in inflammation of the airways. This inflammation can restrict breathing, which is obviously not a good thing!
Interestingly, research suggests that when children with asthma take probiotics, they tend to have fewer asthma attacks. While this is a far cry from a cure, it certainly suggests that if your child has asthma, probiotics can help.
Probiotics and Kids’ Allergies
There is a growing body of research demonstrating that the microbiota may also play an important role in preventing allergic reactions. As a result, boosting microbiota health in children with allergies can have some interesting effects.
Probiotics and Kids’ Diarrhea
Diarrhea is hands down one of the most unpleasant issues to face adult and child alike. Uncomfortable, unpleasant, and often embarrassing, it is one of the things that you want gone as quickly as possible.
And probiotics can help.
Supplementing with probiotics has been shown to help in the treatment of diarrhea, reducing both its duration and severity. They can literally help your kids get rid of a bout of diarrhea as quickly as possible.
Probiotics and Kids’ Stomach Flu
Speaking of uncomfortable illnesses, stomach flu (also known as gastroenteritis) is one of the worst. Caused by short-term inflammation or infection of the digestive system, the stomach flu can lead to cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Supplementing with probiotics appears to speed up the healing of stomach flu and reduce the intensity of the symptoms — which can only be a good thing!
Are Probiotics Safe for Kids?
One of the most important things to consider when giving your children any type of supplement is safety. Are they safe? Do they have any associated side effects? Can they cause my children harm?
These are all very important questions, and fortunately, when it comes to probiotics, they come with some rather positive answers.
For the most part, probiotics are extremely safe and well-tolerated by humans. There have been practically no cases of them causing any adverse effects in adults or children at all and none of the ones reported were particularly nasty — just general digestive discomfort.
I should note that for some people with specific issues, however, probiotics can pose a bit of a risk.
- In people with a weakened immune system, there is a risk that probiotics can cause an infection.
- For people with a current autoimmune attack going on in their gut, there is a risk of developing an infection.
- In people who have kidney disease, there is a risk that probiotics may cause changes in the ability of the kidneys to filter urine and lead to increased levels of kidney-damaging chemicals (like uric acid) in the blood.
As a result, if your kid has one of these conditions, seek medical advice before using probiotics! Otherwise, probiotics pose hardly any risk to your child!
What Strains of Probiotics Should Kids Take?
Arguably the most challenging thing to consider when it comes to probiotics is the fact that they can contain a number of different bacterial strains. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, there are certainly some bacterial strains that appear to work a little bit better than others.
With this in mind, six of the more effective probiotic strains to look for in probiotics for kids are:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus: this bacterial strain has been shown to help with allergies and eczema in children.
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus: is another great strain that has been shown to help with digestive health and in the treatment of diarrhea, stomach flu, and food allergies.
- Bacillus coagulans: this strain has been shown to help in the treatment of digestive dysfunction (including irritable bowel syndrome) and may boost immune health.
- Bifidobacterium lactis: this strain has been shown to help with immune system function and to help treat diarrhea.
- Bifidobacterium longum: is a probiotic strain that has also been shown to help with asthma and allergies.
- Saccharomyces boulardii: is a strain that has been shown to help with stomach flu and diarrhea.
In short, if you are after a probiotic supplement for a specific reason, look for those that contain at the very least one of these strains.
Can My Child Get Probiotics from Foods?
While probiotics have certainly become popular as supplements, it is also important to note that there are certain foods (namely “fermented foods”) that contain probiotics.
Fermented foods are simply foods that have undergone a process of fermentation, during which probiotic microorganisms have been added to them. While these microorganisms are typically put into food to change flavor and texture, they do provide another great way to get in some good quality probiotics!
Some of my favorite fermented foods include:
There are a couple of positives that fermented foods have over probiotic supplements.
Firstly, as they are derived from whole foods, they also provide you with an abundance of healthy vitamins and minerals.
Secondly, they taste great!
However, it is really hard to establish how much of a specific probiotic is contained in specific fermented foods. They rarely list the types of microorganisms that were added, let alone how many bacteria will still be alive when you pick up the food from the supermarket. As a result, this can make things a little tricky.
Moreover, some picky kids may not like the flavor of many fermented foods, which obviously poses its own set of challenges!
Therefore, in some scenarios, probiotic supplements may definitely offer a better choice.
What Should I Look for In a Probiotic for My Child?
While there is certainly less research on probiotic use in children than in adults, there is still enough to make some pretty good recommendations.
First and foremost, you want to make sure that the probiotic supplement you choose contains bacterial strains that have been shown to have an effect on children. I should note that any of the six recommended earlier in the article is a great place to start.
Secondly, you want to check the dosage. Probiotics are measured in what is known as colony-forming units (or CFUs for short). A common recommendation is that kids should take around 5 to 10 billion CFUs per day. With this in mind, make sure that your probiotic supplement has a good dosage and it is clearly listed on the label.
Lastly, choose the one that your kids actually enjoy taking! Many probiotics now come in gummy, liquid, a capsule form. Some of these taste a whole lot better than others, so choose something that you think your kids will like.
Can Probiotics Have Side Effects in Children?
I am pretty happy to keep this section short and sweet.
For the most part, probiotics don’t really seem to cause any nasty side effects. In fact, the only real side effects worthy of mention are gas and bloating, which appear to clear up on their own after a few weeks.
However, there are a couple of very specific scenarios where giving your kid a probiotic may not be the best idea. These are:
- If they have a really weak immune system or an autoimmune disorder, then there is a risk that probiotics can cause an infection.
- Or they have an ongoing autoimmune attack in their gut, there is also a risk of your child developing an infection.
- If your child has some form of kidney disease (or an abnormality) then there is a potential risk that a probiotic could damage their kidneys even further.
So, if your child falls into one of these categories, it may be best to avoid probiotics entirely. Otherwise, probiotics are likely very safe for your child.
Top 10 Best Probiotics for Kids
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Taking all of the above into consideration, I know you’re interested in finding a probiotic supplement for your child! And I wanted to give you some great options to do just that!
It is important to note that while some of the options listed below do provide less than the 5 million CFUs recommend per serving, this does not mean they will be completely ineffective. They still have the potential to slowly populate your child’s gut with good bacteria, which is essential to health. Moreover, they will do it in such a way that the risk of your child experiencing any negative side effects is almost non-existent.
So, without further ado, I give you the ten best probiotics for kids!
Last (but certainly not least) on this list, we have these delicious berry-flavored probiotic gummies by Lil Critters. Providing 2 billion CFUs of the probiotic strain Bacillus Coagulans per serving, this is a very solid option for easing kids into a probiotic supplement regimen with minimal risk of side effects.
And with over 80% of consumers rating it 4 stars or more (from a total of 65 reviews), you can be sure of its quality!
2 billion CFUs
A single serving provides a safe dose of 1.5 billion CFUs of the probiotic strain Bacillus Coagulans. More importantly, 75% of consumers (from more than 60 reviews) have rated this product with a full 5-stars.
1.5 billion CFUs per serving
This great kid’s probiotic supplement is actually one of the most popular on the market — and for very good reason, too. Providing 3 billion CFUs of a unique probiotic blend that contains both Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis, you really cannot go wrong.
This option comes in the form of a tiny tablet that can easily be taken with water, making it a great choice for tiny kid-sized mouths.
This amazing choice has over 1,300 reviews, of which 67% are 5-stars. Talk about being well-received by consumers!
3 billion CFUs per serving
(including Lactobacillus acidophilus
and Bifidobacterium lactis)
Tasty gummy form? Check.
Seriously, what more could you want?
This delicious probiotic supplement provides a very sensible dosage of Bacillus Coagulans that guarantees 250 million viable bacterial cells reaching the gut per gummy. This makes it a very good option for easing your kids into probiotics.
And with over 66% of reviews giving this great choice 4-stars or more (out of 300+ reviews), you can’t go wrong.
250 million viable cells
This particular supplement boasts 3 billion CFUs of a unique probiotic mix that includes strains of Bacillus coagulans, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, and Bifidobacterium lactis. In short, it is a very well-rounded probiotic supplement.
This is a great choice that has over 600 reviews on Amazon. Even more impressive is the fact that more than 75% of those have rated the product 4-stars or higher.
3 billion CFUs per serving
(including Bacillus coagulans, Bifidobacterium lactis,
and Lactobacillus acidophilus)
OLLY Kids has produced a great option that really meets all of your kid’s probiotic needs. Providing the powerful probiotic strain Bacillus coagulans and a host of essential vitamins and minerals, it is a great choice for your child’s health.
As a bonus, it also comes in delicious berry-punch-flavored gummies, which are genuinely delicious. The hardest part here will be getting your kids to stop eating them.
This great option has more than 650 reviews on Amazon, and 75% of those have given it 4-stars or more — so, you can trust that it works!
1 billion CFUs per gummy
Where this supplement offers a slight point of difference from many others is in the fact that it provides a vast array of probiotic strains, rather than just one or two. Positively, this array includes four of the strains listed above (Bifidobacterium lactis, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, and Lactobacillus rhamnosus).
This great option has over 600 reviews on Amazon, of which more than 75% have rated the product 4-stars or above.
5 billion CFUs
per chewable tablet
(including Bifidobacterium lactis,
and Lactobacillus rhamnosus)
A single gummy provides 1 billion CFUs of the probiotic strain Bacillus coagulans, meaning that around three gummies are enough for a very potent serving. While this particular option only has around 50 reviews on Amazon, more than 75% are 5-stars or more.
1 billion CFUs per gummy
Sliding into second place, we have this great probiotic supplement by Culturelle Kids. This great supplement comes in powder form. The powder is mixed with water (or any other beverage) to create a simple (and tasty) probiotic drink.
This great supplement provides a potent dosage of 5 billion CFUs of Lactobacillus rhamnosus per serving. And with over 1,100 reviews on Amazon (of which more than 75% rate the product 4 or more stars) you can definitely say that it has been well-received.
5 billion CFUs per serving
Landing in first place, we have another great probiotic compound by Culturelle Kids. This amazing supplement provides its great probiotic compounds in the form of berry-flavored chewable tablets. This makes it the perfect option for picky kids, as they are delicious!
Much like the previous option, this supplement provides 5 billion CFUs of Lactobacillus rhamnosus per serving but it is even more highly-rated by consumers. In fact, more than 70% of consumers give this great option a maximum 5-star rating on Amazon!
5 billion CFUs per serving
Take Home Message
Probiotics offer a great way for kids to improve digestive health and boost immune system function. Amazingly, they also offer a great way to treat acute issues such as diarrhea and stomach flu.
If you are interested in giving some kids’ probiotics a go, then I strongly recommend the options listed in this article. And, of course, if you do try them, make sure to let us know!
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