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Probiotics and kids, what you need to know

Update: July, 20/2020 - 10:30

Dr Maria Santos. — Photo courtesy of Family Medical Practice

Dr Maria Santos*

As a parent, you want to give your baby the best start in life. You are conscious of your baby’s health and development and want to ensure they grow up happy and healthy. There is a lot of talk today about a healthy gut being the foundation for a healthy child and how probiotics can build up your baby’s gut health. 

If you didn’t know, probiotics are defined as live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host. In plain language, probiotics are 'good microbes' that are meant to help the person taking them. As a parent, however, it can be difficult to navigate the recommendations heard from families, friends, relatives, and media and it’s not easy to choose with so many probiotics available on the market.

So as a parent, what should you know about probiotics for your kids?

What are the health effects of probiotics for kids?

Research keeps uncovering more ways probiotics can positively affect the health of adults and children. So far, they have shown to prevent or lessen the severity of these conditions:

  • Digestive problems like diarrhoea, constipation, and IBS
  • Allergic reactions like eczema and hay fever
  • Colic in babies
  • The common cold
  • Certain infections, like yeast and urinary tract infections
  • Autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Asthma

Are probiotics safe for kids?

Probiotic supplements are safe for most kids, though they might have mild tummy troubles like bloating or gas for the first few days. Though rare, kids with serious immune system problems can have a reaction to these supplements. So if you have any doubt about whether it’s okay to try them out with your kids, make sure to talk to your child's paediatrician first.

Factors to consider before buying probiotics for kids

Probiotic supplements for kids range in ingredients and strains that could impact your child’s overall health. Before picking a probiotic for your child, there are a few key factors to consider.

  • Ingredients – Each probiotic for kids includes different probiotic strains and ingredients, so be sure to research each for your child’s safety. Some probiotics for kids include dairy, gluten and other common allergens, and some include sugar and are made with artificial colours. You’ll want a probiotic supplement that’s sugar-free and without fillers to give your child the best healthy choice possible.
  • Paediatrician recommendations – Before shopping, talk to your paediatrician about the best probiotic for your kids. You’ll want to keep a few factors in mind including your child’s diet, allergens, and any digestive or immune system changes. You’ll also want to ask about probiotics that include prebiotics to stimulate good bacteria. While some probiotics may seem helpful, your paediatrician will be able to determine if probiotics are necessary for your child specifically.
  • Number of CFUs –  Probiotics are measured in colony-forming units (CFUs), or the number of bacteria bodies. According to the American Family Physician, kids should take 5 to 10 billion CFUs a day for a healthy immune and digestive system, and any good probiotic should have at least 1 billion CFUs per serving. Most gummy or tablet probiotics for kids have at least 3 to 5 billion per serving and can help to reach the recommended daily intake.

How to pick a probiotic?

Dietary probiotic supplements are available in capsules, tablets, powders, and liquid extracts, and they each contain a specific type of probiotic. You can find these products at health food stores, vitamin shops, and your local pharmacy or grocery store.

If you’re wary about your child taking a probiotic in supplement form, you can opt for foods that contain probiotics instead. Yoghurt is one of the best sources of probiotics — just make sure the label says 'live or active cultures'.

Other foods that contain a healthy dose of probiotics include sauerkraut, soft cheeses (like gouda), pickles, tempeh and buttermilk.

Whether you decide to give your child probiotics in supplement or food form, again, remember to consult with a paediatrician first – and do your own research. Probiotics won’t cure any of your child’s ailments, but the supplement can provide major health benefits — making it worth the consideration.— Family Medical Practice

*Dr Maria Santos attained her medical degree from the University of the East Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, the Philippines, and undertook her paediatrics training at the Philippine Children's Medical Center. She worked as a school physician and hospitalist in Manila before joining the FMP team in September 2011 as a general paediatrician.

Family Medical Practice was the first foreign-owned primary healthcare provider in Việt Nam, and has consistently remained at the forefront of international-standard medicine since 1995. It offers extensive healthcare and emergency medical services nationwide to Vietnamese, expatriate and corporate customers.

For more advice on any medical topics, visit Family Medical Practice Hanoi at: 298 I Kim Mã, Ba Đình. Tel: (024) 3843 0748.  E: hanoi@vietnammedicalpractice.com.

FMP’s downtown Hồ Chí Minh location is: Diamond Plaza, 34 Lê Duẩn, District 1; 95 Thảo Điền, District 2. Tel: (028) 38227848. E: hcmc@vietnammedicalpractice.com

FMP Đà Nẵng is located at 96-98 Nguyễn Văn Linh, Hải Châu District, Đà Nẵng. Tel: (0236) 3582 699. E: ~danang@vietnammedicalpractice.com.

Family Medical Practice was the first foreign-owned primary healthcare provider in Việt Nam, and has consistently remained at the forefront of international-standard medicine since 1995. It offers extensive healthcare and emergency medical services nationwide to Vietnamese, expatriate and corporate customers.

For more advice on any medical topics, visit Family Medical Practice Hanoi at: 298 I Kim Mã, Ba Đình. Tel: (024) 3843 0748.  E: hanoi@vietnammedicalpractice.com.

FMP’s downtown Hồ Chí Minh location is: Diamond Plaza, 34 Lê Duẩn, District 1; 95 Thảo Điền, District 2. Tel: (028) 38227848. E: hcmc@vietnammedicalpractice.com

FMP Đà Nẵng is located at 96-98 Nguyễn Văn Linh, Hải Châu District, Đà Nẵng. Tel: (0236) 3582 699. E: danang@vietnammedicalpractice.com.

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