• Katie Ramirez

The Truth About Probiotics and Children


So many health fads, and just as many questions about their true effectiveness. I am all about natural health and wellness. However, I am also a skeptic. I tend to employ more of a "skeptic until proven effective" point-of-view.

I dug into the research on probiotics for children hoping to find a solution for my daughter's eczema which, on a mild day is super itchy, and on a bad day can be painful. Although I didn't uncover a solution for her eczema, I found some super solid research that caused me to go out and get some probiotics for my kids!

If you take nothing else away from this article, please take this...

1 - Probiotics have been shown to help prevent or treat particular ailments when specific probiotics are used - although you must use the right probiotic for that ailment

2 - Probiotics have not been shown to improve overall heath

3 - Not everyone needs to take probiotics

4 - Be sure to check out the dose needed to get the results you want (I have them listed below)

Choosing The Correct Probiotic

Research has shown that probiotics can be super helpful in a variety of ways. However, which probiotic you use depends on what you are preventing or treating. It is kind of like antibiotics. Your doctor does not prescribe the same antibiotic for an ear infection as he does for a pneumonia. Similarly, you should not use the same probiotic to prevent colic as you would for treatment of diarrhea.

The good news is, these over-the-counter gut-changing gummies (or tablets, or powder, or drops) can help with common ailments that most of our children will experience at one time or another. Check out the many ways probiotics can be used effectively and which probiotics to choose.

Eczema

I mentioned above that probiotics were unfortunately not a solution to prevent/treat my daughters eczema. That's because there is a relatively small window that probiotics may help reduce the risk of eczema in children.

The good news is, research shows that when probiotics are taken during the last trimester of pregnancy, used by breastfeeding mothers, or given to infants, they decrease the chance that your baby will have eczema! I wish I knew this when I was pregnant/breastfeeding!

Which Probiotic Do I Buy to Prevent Eczema?

Look for probiotics with the following strains:

Common Cold (Upper Respiratory Tract Infection)

Kids gets colds a lot. They are around other snotty nosed kids and are constantly putting their hands in their mouths, which is a recipe for non-stop coughs and runny noses. We know washing your hands can help prevent spreading germs, but I had no clue there were other ways to prevent the never ending runny noses that my kiddos seem to have.

Even more than preventing runny noses... I have always been under the impression that when you are cursed with a cold, you just need to let it run its course. I believe the rest of the medical community has too!

I am totally blown away by the research on how probiotics can both prevent and shorten the common cold. Get this, probiotics have been shown to...

  • Prevent upper respiratory tract infections by 38%

  • Decrease the length of the respiratory tract infection by almost a day

  • Reduce the risk of ear infections by 24% - (makes sense... stuffy noses often cause ear infections in kiddos - so if there are less stuffy noses, there are less ear infections)

Which Probiotic Do I Buy to Prevent the Common Cold?

Look for probiotics with the following strains:

Which Probiotic Do I Buy to Treat the Common Cold?

Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea

When we treat an infection with antibiotics, it can disrupt the normal bacteria in our gut, leading to diarrhea. About 1 in 3 kids will get diarrhea when using antibiotics. Because having a kiddo who is sick enough to need antibiotics isn't enough, right?

To prevent the dreaded post-antibiotic diarrhea, you can give your kiddo probiotics at the same time you give them antibiotics. This helps prevent your kiddo from getting antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Probiotics for the win!

Which Probiotic Do I Buy to Prevent the Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea?

Look for probiotics with the following strains:

Gastoentertitis (GI Virus)

The GI bug is the worst! For parents and kiddos alike.

I have always felt relieved that, from my many years of experience as an ER nurse taking care of sick kiddos, I knew how to help minimize my own kiddos GI bug symptoms (focus on hydration, then introduce BRAT diet, then slowly advance diet). However, I am super excited to know that there is something in my control to help shorten this dreaded virus (because even just one less day of overnight trips to the bathroom is worth anything!).

Here's the good news... research shows that use of probiotics when your kiddo has the GI bug can reduce diarrhea by one day and frequency/day by 14%. Yes!

Which Probiotic Do I Buy to Prevent the Infectious Diarrhea?

Look for probiotics with the following strains:

Just as an added bonus, some other things you can do to help your kiddos get through this virus without a trip to the ER...

  • Zinc supplements (20 mg/day for 10-14 days, or 10 mg for babies under 6 months)

  • Oral rehydration solutions (like Pedialyte) - addition of sugar and electrolytes to water helps prevent trips to the ER

  • No food or drink for 2 hours after vomiting

  • Advance diet as tolerated (clear liquids, then any liquids, then BRAT diet, then normal diet)

Colic

There are few things sadder (or more exhausting or frustrating) than a colicy baby.

What is colic? If your (well fed and healthy) baby cries for more than 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days a week, and for more than 3 weeks, then your baby may have colic.

There is actually a product on the shelf that most desperate parents who think their baby may have colic have probably tried (Gerber Soothe Probiotic Colic Drops). It is nice to know that (although research was previously mixed as to whether or not probiotics are helpful in babies with colic), the most recent research has shown than this product is actually effective in breastfed babies! In fact, it reduced crying in breastfed babies by almost an entire hour each day! Unfortunately, there has been no noted benefit for babies who are formula fed.

Which Probiotic Do I Buy for Treatment of Colic in Breastfed Babies?

Look for probiotics with the following strains:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a disorder of the GI tract that can affect up to 20% of children and teenagers. It can cause a variety of symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, gas, and more. Sounds miserable and annoying and sad!

Although probiotics have not been shown to improve diarrhea associated with IBS, they have been proven to improve the abdominal pain associated with IBS and improve quality of life.

Which Probiotic Do I Buy to Treat Pain with IBS?

Look for probiotics with the following strains:

For so many reasons, I am now in love with probiotics!

Cheers to healthy and happy kiddos!

Primary Reference:

Hojsak, I. et al (2018). Guidance on the use of probiotics in clinical practice in children with selected conditions and in specific vulnerable groups. Acta Pædiatrica. 2018 107, pp.927–937.

Katie Ramirez, RN, BSN, CLC

Born Happy, Owner and Coach

Katie Ramirez is a Registered Nurse, Certified Lactation Counselor, and Coach for parents of babies and toddlers. She has spent more than a decade serving patients at major university hospitals such as Vanderbilt University and Penn State University Medical Centers. Katie now spends her time supporting and empowering parents of babies and toddlers as owner and Coach for Born Happy.

Katie is the proud mother of two beautiful children, Roberto (age 6), and Veronica (age 4). She has a passion for health, wellness, and happy children, and believes that, with the necessary knowledge and support, all parents can live happy.

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