How to choose the best probiotic for your child
Probiotics are a hot topic these days, among parents and doctors alike! Once thought to only influence gut heath, we now know that maintaining a healthy population of gut bacteria (a.k.a. microbiota) is essential to good health. There are many influences on our gut bacteria ranging from how we enter the world (vaginal vs. c-section) to the foods we eat and keeping them happy and healthy is important!
Confused about which probiotics to use? You’re not alone! While we’d like to find a “one size fits all” probiotic, that’s probably not going to be the case as diversity is key to having a happy healthy gut. But, there are some strains that may be more useful in certain conditions.
First, let’s talk about how to choose a probiotic:
Probiotic foods vs. capsules and powders
- Foods like yogurt and kefir naturally contain probiotics, but sometimes not enough to provide a distinct clinical benefit. And, depending on how the food was handled and stored, may not contain enough to produce a noticeable effect. But do include a variety of fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir as part of your child’s diet.
- Most kids probiotics are offered in a liquid or powder form, but some are also available as a chewable tablet. All of these are ok, as long as they contain the strain(s) you’re looking for and the correct amounts.
Refrigerated vs. shelf-stable
- Refrigerated products are usually superior to shelf-stable products, so always look for those. There are some shelf-stable products that are clinically effective, but they often only contain 1 or 2 strains, and in lesser amounts than those found in the refrigerated section.
Research into the use of probiotics for treating specific conditions is ongoing. Here’s a summary of what we know.
Antibiotics can indiscriminately kill bacteria, including the “good guys” resulting in diarrhea, and research strongly supports the use of protiobiocs for treating this common side effect (1). If you or your child experience this common side-effect, you should look for a probiotic that contains one or all of the following:
- Lactobacillus reuteri protectis
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
- Saccharomyces boulardii
The above strains are found in several commercially available probiotics. But, in my experience most available probiotics should help alleviate diarrhea due to antibiotics.
Several studies and reviews have looked at the role of probiotics in preventing and treating atopic dermatitis. While some of the research has provided mixed reviews, many studies have found that infant at risk for developing eczema have benefited from taking probiotics with the Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG strain (2). Other beneficial strains include Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus acidophilus (3)
And, the protective effect of probiotics may be strongest when given to pregnant mothers. Three studies using Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG given to pregnant women for 2-4 weeks before labour and continued treatment post-birth found significantly lower rates of eczema/atopic dermatitis during the first 2 years of life(4,5,6) so we probably want to make sure that Moms are getting a good supply of these beneficial bacteria before baby is even born.
Colic is difficult to understand, and even more difficult to treat. As a parent who has lived through colic, I know and understand the desperation in trying to find a solution. One treatment which has been shown to be effective is using a specific strain of bacteria, Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938. A recent Canadian study of 52 infants found that using this probiotic significantly reduce colic symptoms and crying (7). So, if you’re baby has colic, it’s well worth trying a probiotic.
As parents, we’re always looking for ways to reduce the number of colds and flus that find their way into our lives! Maintaining a healthy population of gut bacteria, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle may be key to staying healthy during cold and flu season. A recent meta-analysis of probiotic use in children and adults revealed significantly fewer numbers of days of illness per person, shorter illness episodes by almost a day, and fewer numbers of days absent from day care/school/work (8).
These are just a few of the many reasons to include “good bacteria” in your child’s diet. If you have specific concerns about the types and amounts of probiotics to give your children, talk to a Naturopathic Doctor for guidance.
- Johnston BC, Goldenberg JZ, et al. Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;11:CD004827.
- Kalliomaki M, Salminen S, et al. Probiotics in primary prevention of atopic disease: a randomised placebo controlled trial. Lancet. 2001;357:1076–1079.
- Gerasimov S. Probiotic supplement reduces atopic dermatitis in preschool children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2010; 11(5):351-61.
- Doege K, Grajecki D, et al. Impact of maternal supplementation with probiotics during pregnancy on atopic eczema in childhood—a meta-analysis. Br J Nutr. 2012;107:1–6.
- Rautava S, Kalliomaki M, Isolauri E. Probiotics during pregnancy and breast-feeding might confer immunomodulatory protection against atopic disease in the infant. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2002;109:119–121.
- Boyle RJ, Ismail IH, et al. Lactobacillus GG treatment during pregnancy for the prevention of eczema: a randomized controlled trial. Allergy 2011;66: 509–516.
- Chau, Kim et al. Probiotics for Infantile Colic: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial Investigating Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 The Journal of Pediatrics , Volume 166 , Issue 1 , 74 – 78.e1
- King, Sarah et al. “Effectiveness of Probiotics on the Duration of Illness in Healthy Children and Adults Who Develop Common Acute Respiratory Infectious Conditions: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” The British Journal of Nutrition 112.1 (2014): 41–54. PMC. Web. 4 Mar. 2016.
elrenemeds1970October 16, 2018 at 10:00 am
Hey Kim, my son had a very similar issues. We chose the UP4 probiotics combined with a daily dose of apple cider vinegar diluted in water. That seemed to help. Additionally, making drinking water into a game also helped – using a chart with stickers. He was abig eater of carbs and we recently found out it takes a lot of water to digest them.
Stephanie ColeSeptember 18, 2018 at 7:34 pm
There are ways to check what specific strain of probiotics you need. Doctors are always there to help you. Discussing them your concerns about the probiotics intake that you may want can be a great way..
DesMay 14, 2017 at 6:50 am
What is the best probiotic that contains no animal products that will correct constipation problems in a 15 month old baby? We eat a plant-based diet which means we do not consume any animal products. Since I first started introducing solid foods to my daughter at 1 years old (I exclusively breastfed her until age 1) she began becoming constipated. It doesn’t matter what I feed her, she automatically becomes constipated. I have tried giving her: pears, papaya, sweet potato, butternut squash. I just recently learned that sweet potato and butternut squash are constipating. I have tried giving her prunes and prune juice, apple juice, pear juice to relieve her constipation but she hates it and I can’t get her to take it willingly. She hates sweet fruits and sour fruits. What foods do you recommend I give her? My daughter’s pediatrician keeps informing me to not focus on the constipation and to give her a variety of foods instead of restricting her and to just give her every day the medicine he prescribed which is Constulose (AKA: Lactulose). I really don’t want to rely on medicine. I have been trying to figure out what my daughter is allergic to that is causing the constipation so I now have been slow to give her food and she is underweight. I am still breast feeding her 4-5 times a day for 15-20 minutes. Please help. I can’t get the help i need from our pediatrician.
ChristyJuly 26, 2017 at 5:29 pm
I give my kids a fantastic chewable probiotic. I believe it doesn’t have any animal product but I would call the company before just to make sure. I buy them on Amazon and they’re kosher which certainly means that they’re of high quality. The name is Zahler Kidophilus Plus https://www.amazon.com/Zahler-Kidophilus-Probiotics-Acidophilus-Certified/dp/B01G43Z9CU/ref=sr_1_26_s_it?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1501090151&sr=1-26&keywords=kids%2Bprobiotics&th=1 Kids love it and always beg me for more!!
KimJune 7, 2018 at 6:57 pm
I wish there was a reply from a member of Naturopathic Pediatrics to your question. I am currently struggling to find an answer to my daughter’s constipation issues that doesn’t involve medicine. I see that your post is from 2017, I was wondering if you were able to find a probiotic that helps your daughter? We are currently on the same boat as you were last year, thankfully she likes prunes and will happily drink pear juice, but I am concerned it might be too much sugar. If someone could help us out with an answer I’d be so grateful!