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We know that gut health is important for our kids’ health. One way to support gut health is with probiotics. But when it comes to probiotics for kids, it can get a little confusing. There are so many options out there on the market!
That’s why our head naturopath Jess has brought together what you need to know about probiotic supplements and foods for your kids.
Watch the video below or keep reading to learn more about probiotics for kids.
Why is gut health so important?
There are many reasons why we focus on gut health as a cornerstone of your child’s wellbeing. Your child’s gut health will influence:
- How well they absorb nutrients from their food
- How well they eliminate waste and toxins from their system
- The strength of their immune system, protecting them against infections
- The balance of their immune system, protecting them against allergies, intolerances and atopic conditions
- Their sleep
- Their mood and behaviour
Gut health is the foundation of what we work on for general wellbeing.
What makes a healthy gut?
At this stage, the microbiome is still being researched. So we don’t have a crystal-clear idea of what the healthiest version of the gut looks like.
What we do know is that diversity in the gut flora is key to wellbeing. The greater the variety of species in the gut, the healthier it is. A lack of diversity is linked to chronic conditions including allergies, atopic conditions, digestive issues, ADHD and autism. Of course, these conditions have multiple factors, but the state of the gut plays a big role.
Compared to thousands of years ago, our gut diversity is half of what it used to be. There are many factors that have caused this, as well as different ways to address it. To learn more about these, make sure you download our free Gut Health ebook here.
One way to measure whether the gut is healthy or not is with microbiome testing. This can be helpful to uncover information about the gut flora. Ideally, the gut’s dominant species will be no more than 12%.
People who are healthy will typically have good levels of 6 core bacteria strains. These strains have a higher capability of breaking down fibre to produce short-chain fatty acids such as butyrate in the gut. Butyrate maintains a healthy gut lining, reduces inflammation in the gut and supports enzyme production to keep transit time healthy.
But if there isn’t enough fibre and short-chain fatty acids in the gut, some species of gut bacteria will utilise the gut lining itself as fuel. This can lead to leaky gut. We want to keep plenty of healthy food sources within the gut to prevent this. By ensuring that your child has plenty of good bacteria, fibre and short-chain fatty acids, you help them to build a healthy gut.
Probiotics for kids: Fermented foods
When it comes to probiotics for kids, fermented foods can be a good support option. Fermented foods will have a wider variety of species, which can help diversify the gut flora. But we also don’t know which species are being introduced, so it’s less specific.
The best approach with fermented foods is to include it in their diet as often as possible. Try adding in:
- Yoghurt – this is the easiest to get into kids. Even if they are dairy intolerant or allergic, there are options such as coconut and almond yoghurt.
- Kefir – this can be made using milk or coconut milk if they can’t tolerate dairy.
- Sauerkraut and fermented veggies
Fermented foods are an acquired taste, so you need to be persistent. Put some in the middle of the table or add a couple of strands of sauerkraut to dinner.
You can also try different flavours and types of fermented foods. For example, kids often love an apple and dill sauerkraut, as the apple sweetens it. At farmers markets, you can often find a cultured cashew cheese. Check out your local markets and wholefood stores to see what’s available in your area.
Another good option is an Australian company called Kultured Wellness. They have cultures so you can make your own fermented food and drinks at home. You can make coconut yoghurt, coconut kefir and even fizzy apple juice!
Probiotics for kids: supplements
A probiotic supplement can be useful to use alongside fermented foods. As a supplement has known species and strains, it can be used to target specific concerns.
So how can you choose a good probiotic for your kids? You want to make sure it has strains that have a beneficial effect on the 6 core bacteria strains found in the gut.
By choosing a supplement that nourishes those 6 strains, you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
When it comes to the cheaper options in the supermarket, you’re probably using strains without much research behind them. With probiotics, you get what you pay for. But a good rule of thumb is to look for an option with 10 billion or more organisms (cfu) per serve.
When choosing a probiotic, more species isn’t always the best option. It does make sense that having a variety promotes diversity. But some specific strains have been found to promote multiple species in the gut. Some have specific functions such as supporting immunity or reducing overgrowth of bad bacteria.
Let’s take a look at some of our favourite species.
Lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG)
LGG helps to promote the growth and function of 5 out of the 6 core bacteria strains. It’s a great option for immune regulation, with benefits for allergies, sensitivities and atopic conditions such as asthma and eczema.
This is a well-known probiotic species. But specific strains have more research to back up their benefits. At Natural Super Kids, we use L. acidophilus (NCFM). The research suggests this strain is good for reducing pain and bloating in the gut, boosting immunity and restoring gut health after antibiotic use.
This species has many of the same benefits as L. acidophilus. At Natural Super Kids, we use the researched strain B. lactis (Bi-07).
This species is beneficial for use after antibiotics. It rebuilds and restores the microbiome. But it is also useful for balancing the gut flora and addressing conditions of overgrowth such as candida, gastro infections and travellers diarrhoea.
A comparison of kids probiotic options
Not all probiotics are created equal. To give you an idea of how different they can be, let’s compare a common supermarket probiotic with two practitioner-level probiotic supplements.
Nature’s Way Probiotic Chocolate Balls
This is a popular brand you can find in the supermarket.
It contains two species of probiotic – L. acidophilus and B. lactis. But there are no numbers or letters to indicate the strain, so we don’t know if the strains are well-researched.
Each serve contains 1 billion organisms. Since we want at least 10 billion per dose, that means your child would need to have 10 serves!
Another problem with these balls is that the first ingredient is milk chocolate. They contain sugars, flavours, emulsifiers and a glazing agent. Since sugar is a contributing factor to a lack of diversity, it doesn’t make sense to combine chocolate and a probiotic supplement.
Metagenics FloraCare For Kids
This contains L. rhamnosus (LGG), L. acidophilus and B. lactis. The strains are well-research strains that have been shown to have therapeutic benefits.
Every serve has 11 billion cfu, with 6 billion of rhamnosus and 2.5 billion each of acidophilus and lactis. As it’s in a powder form, it’s easy to add to smoothies or breakfast.
Metagenics Ultraflora LGG
This contains just one strain, so is best used for conditions that specifically benefit from LGG. There are 10 billion cfu per capsule. You can open the capsule and sprinkle the supplement over meals easily.
Considering a supplement for your child? Want access to the highest-quality probiotics for kids?
Book an express consult with one of our naturopaths. You can access practitioner-only brands and get professional advice about foods and supplements that suit your child’s specific needs. Click here to book your appointment.
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