Monday, March 16, 2009

Probiotics for kids

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Probiotics are getting more and more attention these days but it is hard to separate fact from fiction. Are probiotics necessary for healthy children? Will probiotics help to prevent illness? Is it safe for a child to take probiotics? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the answers are sometimes, possibly, and yes. Read on to learn more...

More and more studies are supporting the use of probiotics to treat and prevent GI (i.e. stomach) problems in kids.

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are harmless microbes that live in our body. These microbes are helpful because they take up space that could otherwise be used by harmful microbes. When we have plenty of 'good' microbes in our body, there is no room for the 'bad' microbes that could cause illness and disease.

How can we increase the number of probiotics in our bodies?

Probiotics are found in dietary supplements or in some of the foods we eat. Probiotics are naturally found in fermented foods, such as buttermilk, yogurt and sauerkraut. However, it is hard to get high enough doses just from eating these foods. Dietary supplements provide higher doses of probiotics and are usually more effective in treating/preventing illness.

Which are the best probiotics to take?

Lactobacillus GG, Bifidobacterium, and Saccharomyces sp.

What diseases/illnesses can probiotics help treat/prevent?

Studies show that probiotics may help to prevent and treat many different GI disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, acute gastroenteritis, and antibiotic-related diarrhea. They may also help with constipation, eczema and pancreatitis.

What are some common side effects of probiotics?

So far, studies have not revealed major adverse effects of probiotics in healthy individuals, and long-term consumption also appears to be safe and well tolerated. However, there are case reports of severe side effects in severely debilitated, immuno-compromised children and in neonates.

Is it safe for my child to take probiotics?

Studies show that L acidophilus, Lactobacillus GG and Saccharomyces sp are safe for use in children if administered in appropriate doses. Studies have been done on children as young as one month of age (although I would wait until your child is older than that before starting him/her on probiotic supplements!)

How much should I give my child?

Studies have looked at doses from 1 million to 300 billion CFU units per day. Unfortunately, there is significant discrepancy in the literature as to the appropriate doses for children and doses vary between the different probiotics. Further, variations within the same product are broad because production usually is not standardized.

When should I give my child a probiotic?

Some doctors recommend giving a child a probiotic supplement daily. Other doctors suggest starting a probiotic when a child begins taking an antibiotic.

Why should I consider giving my child a probiotic when my child begins an antibiotic?

Antibiotics are useful because they kill the bacteria that cause infections and make us sick. Unfortunately, they also kill the 'good' bacteria (probiotics) that live in our bodies. Without these 'good' bacteria, our body is susceptible to infection from yeast and other harmful microbes. Giving a probiotic supplement when starting an antibiotic helps to replenish the supply of 'good' microbes that are being killed off by the antibiotic. Probiotic treatment should be continued for one to four weeks after resolution of symptoms from the initial infection.

How should I store my probiotic?

Be careful because some probiotics must be refrigerated and others should not be. Read the label carefully.

Should I give the probiotic with food?

Again, this varies based on the type of probiotic and the brand. Some can be sprinkled on food or dissolved in drinks but others must be given on an empty stomach.