WRITTEN BY Dr. Stephanie Rubino, BSc. ND- 31 July 2012
Webber Naturals expert, Dr. Stephanie Rubino, explains the Benefits of Probiotics for Children.
Probiotics refer to “friendly” bacteria that offer numerous health benefits for humans. The most common probiotics that you often hear about are Lactobacillus, Saccharomyces and Bifidobacterium, however there are many species that exist.
The gastrointestinal tract of a baby at birth is free of any bacteria. During vaginal birth, bacteria from the mother help to colonize the infant's gut and over the first few weeks of life, the good bacteria in the child grows and starts to build the immune and digestive systems. Children born by C-section, however, are not exposed to the mother’s gut flora and therefore, the child may have abnormal flora for the first few months of life.
There is continual research being done to show that probiotics are valuable in a variety of pediatric conditions including:
- Diarrhea associated with antibiotic therapy
- Ear and respiratory infections
- Infectious diarrhea
- Preventing milk protein allergy
- Tooth decay and periodontal disease
- Yeast and urinary tract infections
In a recent double-blind randomized controlled trial, the use of a two-strain probiotic (Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum) was examined in children (aged 8-13 years), twice per day for 3 months. Of the 40 children in each group, 77% in the probiotic group, compared to 95% in the placebo group, developed at least one symptom of cold. Children in the probiotics group had significantly lower risk of fever, cough, runny nose, school absences and school absences related to the common cold compared to children in the placebo group. The researchers concluded that a two-strain probiotic combination was able to reduce the symptoms of the common cold and school absenteeism in schoolchildren (Rerksuppaphol, 2012).
In another double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, a combination of Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacilluscasei, and Lactobacillus salivarius strains were evaluated in the treatment of atopic dermatitis in 40 pediatric patients. The researchers found probiotics to be effective in reducing certain inflammatory mediators and atopic dermatitis patient scores (Yeşilova et al, 2012).
A study at Johns Hopkins University was conducted with 55 infants (aged 5 to 24 months), treating acute diarrhea. Infants were fed either a supplemented formula containing bifidobacteria or a control formula. Of the infants receiving the control formula, 31% developed diarrhea, while only 7% of infants receiving the supplemented formula developed diarrhea. Furthermore, the probiotic-supplemented formula reduced the rate of rotavirus-associated diarrhea as well as decreasing rotavirus shedding (Saavedra 2000). A 2011 review which assessed the efficacy and safety of probiotics for the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (ADD) in children reported that overall evidence suggests a protective effect of probiotics in preventing AAD (Johnston et al, 2011).
Although encouraging, research on children and the benefits of probiotic use is still developing. Therefore, researchers are continuing to discover which strains work best and in what dose. It is important to speak to your health care provider to help you choose a probiotic and provide information on the dosage required.
- Johnston BC, Goldenberg JZ, Vandvik PO, Sun X, Guyatt GH. Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011 Nov 9;(11):CD004827.
- Rerksuppaphol S, Rerksuppaphol L. Randomized controlled trial of probiotics to reduce common cold in schoolchildren. Pediatr Int. 2012 Apr 16.
- Saavedra, J. Probiotics and Infectious Diarrhea. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2000: 95(1);S16-S18.
- Yeşilova Y, Çalka Ö, Akdeniz N, Berktaş M. Effect of probiotics on the treatment of children with atopic dermatitis. Ann Dermatol. 2012 May;24(2):189-93.
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