Today, we’re going to be talking about one of the questions that I commonly get asked as a Naturopath. And that is, Probiotics – do my kids need them? And if so, which ones should I be giving them?
As I mentioned in previous episodes, there are three main ways that we can top up that healthy beneficial bacteria in our kids’ gut microbiome. Eating fermented foods, environmental exposure to microbes and probiotic supplements. This what we’re going to focus on today.
I’ll be talking in depth about certain strains of good bacteria and what they can do to help our kids’ health, such as:
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG – to help improve allergic tolerance
- Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium – to reduce pain and bloating in the gut, for boosting immunity and restoring gut health after antibiotic use
- Saccharomyces boulardii – to balance gut flora and address conditions of overgrowth
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Hello, hello! Hope you are doing well. Welcome back to the podcast!
I just want to say, I’m so honoured to be in your ears, whatever you’re doing today. Maybe you’re doing some housework, going for a walk, or whatever it is that you’re doing. I’m just thrilled to be coming to you in this podcast!
Today, we’re going to be talking about one of the questions that I commonly get asked as a Naturopath. And that is, Probiotics – do my kids need them? And if so, which ones should I be giving them? I understand that this is confusing. You walk into any pharmacy, supermarket, any health food store, and the range of probiotics is pretty overwhelming. It’s hard to choose which one, when we don’t know exactly what we’re looking for. So I want to explore these questions with you today.
In an ideal world, our kids would not need probiotic supplements, just like they would not need any nutritional supplements. But we don’t unfortunately, live in an ideal world. So when it comes to probiotics, or gut bacteria, which is what our probiotics are benefiting when it comes to our kids. The diversity of our kids’ gut microbiome has halved compared to what it used to be back in the hunter-gatherer days. It was a long, long time ago that we were comparing. But we know that lack of diversity, or the lack of different microbes within our kids gut microbiome, is not doing them any favours in terms of the incidence of allergies, eczema and kids being diagnosed with autism and ADHD.
We know that lack of diversity is part of the picture in all of these conditions and symptoms that we’re seeing in our kids so prevalently these days. We also know that a broad diversity within our kids’ microbiomes is a good thing. So in an ideal world, our kids wouldn’t need probiotic supplements. But there are so many factors within our modern diet and our modern lifestyle that lead to the depletion of this healthy beneficial bacteria in our kids gut microbiomes. And some of these things include things like, high sugar in the diet, lots of processed food in the diet, antibiotics and other medications that deplete gut bacteria. And a higher use of these kinds of medications.
Lots of toxins and chemicals within our environment can negatively affect the microbiome and deplete a lot of that beneficial bacteria. In that way, it’s a good idea to top the good bacteria up, and that’s where probiotic supplements can come in really handy. They can be a way to top-up our kids healthy bacteria within the gut that can have so many benefits to their overall well-being. I’ve talked about this in previous podcast episodes. That are our kids’ microbiome and their gut health in general has an impact on their immune system. Their mood, sleep, their behaviour, allergy tolerance, and so much more. So when we’re looking at that diversity as being really important when it comes to our kids’ overall well-being, we can also look at probiotics as a way to top-up and improve and support that diversity within our kids’ gut microbiomes.
To give you a bit of a personal insight into my own children, I have two kids. One just hit the teen years. Oh! He’s turned into a teenager, very much a teenager. It’s crazy how quickly that just kind of changed for him. Anyway, that’s a whole another subject! I have a 13-year-old and an almost 11-year-old. My kids are both in pretty good health. They have robust health. They don’t have any allergies, no eczema, and no any ongoing tummy issues. They’re pretty healthy. So I don’t have a particular therapeutic action that I need a probiotic supplement to achieve for them. Because for me, we have a fairly varied diet.
We have lots of good other sort of lifestyle and diet habits that support good gut health. I will give my kids a probiotic supplement, generally a couple of times a week. Sometimes less and as we’re heading into winter, I’ll definitely up that. Just to give you a bit of an idea if your kids have got good health, they don’t have any chronic health issues. Then a probiotic supplement used from time to time can be a good way to top-up that healthy bacteria.
If on the other hand, your kids do have chronic health condition – eczema, constipation, allergies, or food sensitivities. They’re on the autism spectrum, been diagnosed with ADHD or they have mood, sleep, behavioural issues. Then a probiotic supplement more consistently, can be a really great thing as well. It can be really important part of a naturopathic protocol to help support kids with these kinds of conditions. I just wanted to really give you that comparison. And of course, there’s probably a lot of situations that are in the middle. This is why it’s always a good idea to get professional help if you’re unsure when it comes to any sort of supplements or dietary changes from a Naturopath. Or someone else that has specific experience in kids’ health.
So we want to top-up that good bacteria for our kids microbiome. By the way, we want to do that for ourselves, as well. Our microbiome diversity as adults has halved as well. So this is very much relevant for both kids and adults. There’s three main ways that we can top-up that healthy beneficial bacteria in our kids’ gut microbiome. One of them is fermented foods. Number two is probiotic supplements, which is what we’re really going to focus on today. And number three is through environmental exposure to microbes.
I’ve talked about the environmental exposure quite a bit on the last podcast episodes. We talked about the hygiene hypothesis, and we talked about the forest floor research. I’ll link those episodes in the show notes if you missed those. So that is definitely one way to improve that diversity to get our kids exposed to different microbes which benefit both their gut and their immune function. Today we’re going to focus on the probiotic supplements, but I do want to mention fermented foods as well.
Fermented foods are a great way to also top up our kids, beneficial bacteria. But there is some definite differences between using fermented foods and probiotic supplements. I definitely like to use both because they both have their strengths and weaknesses.When it comes to fermented foods I’m talking about, there’s a whole range. There’s things like yogurt at the very sort of basic level. Then we can go to things like kefir, coconut kefir, milk kefir, sauerkraut, and other fermented vegetables. Kombucha, we can make cultured cashew cheese, fermented sourdoughs. There’s so many different ways that we can get these beneficial bacteria into our kids food sources through fermented foods.
Of course, we can make our own when it comes to these fermented foods. They’re very cheap to produce generally. They make a really great project to do with kids because it’s really incorporating science into what we’re doing when we’re making fermented foods. We certainly do quite a bit of this at home. If you are a Natural Super Kids Klub member, you have a whole heap of fermented recipes that you can make at home with your kids and other resources to do with this. Check out the membership site if you have missed any of that. If you are a Klub member.
FYI! If you’re not a Klub member, we are going to be opening the Natural Super Kids Klub very soon. If you’re listening to this, as we are releasing it, we’re going to be having an opening and welcoming new members to the Klub in March. So make sure you’re on the waitlist. It’s central place where you can get all the resources, inspiration, naturopathic support and motivation to help keep your kids healthy and boost their nutrition. If that sounds good to you, then the Klub is something that you will really enjoy. You can pop your name on the waitlist. There’s a link in the show notes for you to be able to do that.
Sorry, back to fermented foods! I kind of digressed a little bit there. When it comes to the difference between fermented foods and probiotic supplements, this is general. But generally, fermented foods will have a wider variety of different species at a lower level. A probiotic supplement will have a narrower variety of species, but at a higher more therapeutic level. So both can be really handy depending on what your goals are with your child. If we want a specific outcome, for example, probiotics can be really great for eczema. And if we want to make sure we’re using the best probiotic strategy for our kids for eczema, then fermented foods can be really great.
We also want to be looking at specific strains of probiotics that have been researched to show to be beneficial in eczema. So yes, we can use fermented foods. But I would encourage you to look at some specific probiotic supplements that are great for eczema as well. Fermented foods have that wide variety of species. We generally have less control over specific species. If we do want that therapeutic action and we’re looking to get in a particular species of probiotic, then a probiotic supplement might be better for that particular sort of scenario.
You can make your own fermented foods, and you can buy a great range of fermented foods. I love to get mine from the farmers market. There is some research to suggest that fermented foods that are produced within your local area are going to be most beneficial for you. So that is definitely something you want to think about. Just supporting local, and there are just lots of small batch fermented food suppliers and producers popping up all over the place. If you aren’t that way inclined of making your own and you have a lack of time, then you might want to look at buying some sauerkraut. Some cultured cashew cheese or an already made kefir.
The other option is you can buy a culture. We have a fantastic company here in Australia, called Kultured Wellness with a K. I’ll link to them in the show notes. They provide cultures so you can make your own ferments at home. Their cultures have specific species of bacteria in them. They use species that are really well-researched to have good therapeutic actions. Their starter cultures are a great option if you’re getting started with fermented foods. And for that really, really, really therapeutic kind of action from fermented foods. So definitely check out Kultured Wellness!
We love their coconut kefir. They have sparkling juice and ferments as well. They’ve had sparkling apple and sparkling orange juice that you just add the startup culture to your juice. Let it ferment on your bench for a few days. That can be a really great option for kids, particularly if you know that your kids are not going to eat sauerkraut or other fermented veggies. There’s a lot of different options. If you’ve tried fermented foods in the past with your kids, I would say keep trying. Keep trying different types of fermented foods. Kultured Wellness cultures can be a great option too. As I said, I’ll link to those in the show notes.
So that covers fermented foods. Now, I want to move on to probiotic supplements. Probiotic supplements will generally have less different strains and species of bacteria within them. That can definitely be variable, depending on the probiotic supplement that you’re looking at. Some probiotic supplements will have only one strain, others will have sort of 12, 15 strains. So we’ll talk a bit about that in a moment. There is a big, big difference between a good probiotic supplement for kids. And one that’s probably more of a waste of your money, if we’re honest. If it can’t, when it comes to the cheaper options in the supermarket, you’re probably using strains without a lot of research behind them.
With probiotics like any other supplement, you really do get what you pay for. A good rule of thumb option if you’re needing to just pick something up from your pharmacy or your health food store, is to look for an option that has 10 billion or more organisms in it. That will generally have a CFU in brackets. We want to look for those probiotic supplements that have 10 billion or more. A lot of the cheaper options will have one or 2 billion for kids, that is just not enough to have a beneficial effect on our kids’ immune system, and gut health. So we want to be looking for a probiotic supplement that has more than 10 billion organisms per serve.
We also want to make sure that we’re using strains that are well-researched. Again, as always, I’m saying it’s really good to get some professional advice around this. Because as a mom, it can be confusing in terms of which one’s going to be best for your particular child. Different species of bacteria have different therapeutic benefits. If we are wanting to give our kids a probiotic supplement to boost their immune system, that is going to be a different supplement than if we want to give our kids a probiotic supplement to improve their allergic tolerance. Because they have allergies, sensitivities, or atopic conditions like eczema. We do want to be getting professional help if we can around this.
Here at Natural Super Kids, we do offer a variety of consultation options with Naturopaths. One of the options we offer is an express consultation.If you’re just wanting some advice around which probiotic is going to be best for your child, then an express consultation is a great option. It’s just a quick 20-minute chat. This is to talk through your needs for us to make some recommendations based on what you’re trying to achieve. Sometimes we can kind of pinpoint things that are important that you wouldn’t have even thought of. With our express consultations, you also get access to high quality practitioner-only supplements.
You don’t have to go to the supermarket or the health food store and try and guess which is going to be best for you. Or ask the person who’s working in the shop that might not be qualified or might not have a lot of experience in kids’ health, what’s going to be best. So it’s really important that you’re careful what advice you listen to. If you want any information about our consultations, you can head on over to naturalsuperkids.com. You’ll find all the details over there. In a practical sense, let’s have a look at some of our favourite strains here at Natural Super Kids that can really help with your kids’ needs. No matter what they are.
If you’ve been listening to me for any length of time and definitely, if you’re a Klub member, you would’ve heard me talk about Lactobacillus rhamnosus, LGG, one of my all-time favorite probiotic strains. When we’re talking about strains of probiotics, it will be a series of letters and numbers in brackets at the end of the big long, scientifically sounding name. So lactobacillus and LGG in brackets is the species. Not all Lactobacillus rhamnosus strains are the same. There’s different species within these strains. Some of those species have been researched and some haven’t. And this is where the confusion creeps in because it can just be really confusing trying to figure this out on your own. Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG is one of my favourite strains, because there’s so much research to back it up.
There was a study done here in South Australia. Actually, a few years ago on kids that were anaphylactic to peanuts.This was done in a very controlled environment. I don’t have the details of the study in front of me, but basically these kids were given peanut flour. They were anaphylaxis to peanut. Tiny amounts of peanut flour with this particular strain of probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG. Over time, their tolerance improved. They were able to cope and be fine with more and more of the peanut flour because it was being given with the LGG probiotics. So that was a really promising study.
Anyone with kids with anaphylactic allergies or any sort of allergies or sensitivities want to think about this strain. There’s a lot of good research to show how beneficial it can be. It’s about improving that allergic tolerance so that the immune system doesn’t overreact as it does in anaphylactic responses. But of course, we don’t want to be trying to give this to our kids at home who have anaphylactic reactions to foods. Just a little disclaimer there. This was done in a controlled environment, but it just shows you the promising results of this species. Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG helps to promote the growth and function of lots of different beneficial bacteria strains within the gut.
This is something that is often confusing to think about. When we look at probiotic supplements, we assume that ones with a whole heap of different strains and species in there is going to be better. Because we know about this diversity and how important diversity is. But our theory and understanding of this has really changed in recent years. So when we’re taking a well-researched strains such as the Lactobacillus rhamnosus, is a great example. We know that particular strain goes into the microbiome, and it almost acts like a sergeant. It helps to promote the growth of lots of beneficial bacteria strains within the gut. It’s not just working on that particular strain of probiotic. It has an overall beneficial effect on the microbiome, and I think that’s really important to understand.
That one strain in a probiotic capsule or supplement can have a more of a wide reaching positive effect on the microbiome as a whole. If that makes sense. The real benefit of the Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG is it has an effect on immune regulation. It’s very beneficial for kids with allergies, sensitivities, atopic conditions like eczema and asthma. It’s one of my go to treatments or part of a treatment protocol for all kids with eczema. The LGG strain of probiotic, and it works really well.
Another really common strain is Lactobacillus acidophilus. This is a really well known probiotic species. But different specific strains of the Lactobacillus acidophilus have different amounts of research to back up their benefits. Here at Natural Super Kids we generally use the Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM of strain. Because the research suggests that this strain is good for reducing pain and bloating in the gut. For boosting immunity and restoring gut health after antibiotic use. So it’s really important that we do look at the strain and get that professional support if we’re unsure about which strain to give to our kids.
That Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM are really good one to incorporate after antibiotic use. One of the must do’s after we give our kids antibiotics is to make sure that we’re replenishing that bacteria that has been negatively affected by the antibiotics. Then there is a whole heap of different Bifidobacterium strains of probiotics. Bifidobacterium strains of probiotics are the predominant species that we find in babies’ guts. We definitely want to be choosing probiotic supplements for babies, if we’re giving them to them. The ones that are reaching the Bifidobacterium strains. Because under one, a baby’s gut is predominantly Bifidobacterium strains. That’s a really interesting kind of side note.
But the Bifidobacterium lactis strain that we use a lot here at Natural Super Kids has many of the same benefits as that Lactobacillus acidophilus. It helps to reduce pain and bloating in the gut. It has a beneficial effect on immunity, and is another good one to use after antibiotic use for restoring those healthy gut bugs. We use the strain Bi-07 because again, that is a really well-researched strain. Another one that I want to talk to you about is Saccharomyces boulardii. It might sound like I’m talking another language here. Probiotics tend to have these really long scientific names but Saccharomyces boulardii is a really great strain for balancing gut flora and addressing conditions of overgrowth.
Like when the nasty bacteria has overgrown in the gut, Saccharomyces boulardii is great to use. Candida, or gastro infections or diarrhea. Those yucky tummy bugs that our kids get, the Saccharomyces boulardii strain is a really good one for optimising the beneficial strains within the gut. But also, addressing that overgrowth of pathogenic or nasty bacteria that can cause some yucky tummy symptoms. Or other overgrowth kind of conditions like Candida.
Saccharomyces boulardii is good for use when there’s any sort of parasites. And again, we want to be seeking professional help, because we want to get the balance of the different strains right. There’s a lot of other obviously different strains and types of probiotic supplements that we can use. I wanted to use those for as a good example of how they have different therapeutic uses and different benefits within the gut. We want to make sure that we’re using the right one for the right use in our kids.
A bit of a recap, what we want to be thinking about first is the amount of organisms per probiotic serve. We want to look for something that is 10 billion or more organisms, or CFU per serve. If you’re looking at a probiotic supplement in the supermarket and it’s only one or 2 billion, I know that sounds like a lot but we want to look for the 10 billion or more organisms. Particularly if we’re wanting a specific therapeutic action for our kids. Even if our money is much better spent on something with a higher amount of organisms per serve. We want to make sure that we’re using the right strain of probiotic for the right use. Depending on what we’re trying to achieve with our kids.
We want to look at probiotic supplements as a way to replenish the good bugs in our kids’ guts. Because of the negative effects that our modern diet and lifestyle has. So in kids that have fairly robust health, we might just want to look at a probiotic supplement like a couple of times a week with some regular fermented foods in the diet always. For kids that have a particular condition that we know probiotics will benefit, then we want to look at giving those kids a probiotic supplement daily. And getting some professional advice about the best probiotic kind of combination for them.
That pretty much sums up everything that I wanted to talk about today! So probiotic supplements can be quite confusing. There’s a lot of information, it can be quite overwhelming. Remember to get professional help if you’re at all unsure. Our express consultations that can be done online here at Natural Super Kids are a great option for that. Or finding a practitioner that has some good knowledge in kids’ health and kids’ gut health is really important too.
I would love to hear from you after listening to this episode! Send me a message on Instagram, and let me know how you found this episode. One thing that you learned, I’d love to hear from you. You can share it in an Instagram post or a story, or a Facebook post. Make sure you tag us at Natural Super Kids so that we can see it.
I will be back next week with our next episode!