Probiotics - To Give or Not to Give?

Does my child need probiotics and if so, when do I give them? And, which ones?

I get this question often, so I figured it was worth a review of what probiotics are for and why your kids may or may not need them.

Probiotics are healthy bacteria naturally found in foods such as yogurt, kefir, fermented pickles, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh and miso soup.

Bacteria are naturally found in your gut. Tummy issues can arise when the balance of good to bad bacteria is off. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that help keep your gut healthy. They have been shown to help with gas, lactose intolerance and diarrhea as well as being able to boost immunity. Probiotics help to restore the balance in your gut when it is off. This can occur from an unhealthy diet or taking antibiotics (whose job is to kill off bacteria). Unfortunately, with antibiotic use, there is no differentiating between killing the bad bacteria or the naturally occurring good bacteria in your gut.

My first recommendation is always to get things from food first. So, adding foods such as those mentioned above, to your child’s diet is a great way to make sure they are getting healthy bacteria in their diets. Eating a yogurt or a kefir pouch daily provides the amount he or she needs. But, for times when your child is taking antibiotics or having an episode of tummy troubles, I often recommend a probiotic supplement.

When buying a probiotic supplement, the most important thing is to look for the words “Live and active cultures”. The amount can vary from product to product. Aim for 1 - 10 billion live bacteria cultures.

Brands to try:

-Culturelle - available in Kids Chewable or Powder

-Florastor - available in Kids Powder

A few NOTES:

-Avoid use in children under 2 without discussing with an RD or MD.

-Read ingredient lists as some probiotics contain allergens.

-Some brands for kids (not mentioned above) have ingredients that may make stomach issues worse, so read the ingredient label closely and discuss with an RD or MD if you have questions.