When I was a kid, the vitamins that we took most often were the chewable kids’ multivitamins. All “good” parents gave these to their children daily. The commercials for them were cute, and the vitamins tasted kind of like candy.
These days a lot of parents still give their children multivitamins. (After all, they grew up taking them.) But, my children don’t typically take a multivitamin. Actually, the only thing they take regularly right now is something that wasn’t even available when I was a kid: probiotics.
Regardless of what else I do or don’t remember to give them, probiotics are the one consistent thing that they take. This has been true for a few years and will always be true, as long as I have something to say about it.
Why My Kids Take Probiotics
Why are probiotics so important?
Probiotics impact a whole lot of things, health-wise. Probiotics are responsible for gut health — which is responsible for whether or not we get sick, if we are overweight or not, and even if we have a tendency towards autoimmune. Gut health controls food allergies, eczema, and more.
If you have a healthy gut, then most everything else will be okay. It doesn’t mean you’ll never get sick, but it will minimize the severity and frequency of illness.
Benefits of probiotics:
- Reduce or eliminate eczema
- Improve digestion
- Reduce or eliminate diarrhea or constipation (source)
- Reduce or eliminate food allergies
- Fewer and milder illnesses
- More likely to maintain a healthy weight (source)
- Reduce or eliminate colic (source)
- Reduce likelihood of developing diabetes (source)
- …and more!
Right now, researchers are just starting to really discover the ways that probiotics can benefit human health. They are so important!
Best Probiotic Strains
There are a ton of different probiotic supplements on the market. How do you know which one is best?
There are certain strains to look for when choosing a probiotic type for children. These are some of the ones I look for specifically.
B. infantis is a type of bacteria that is found naturally in the gut of breastfed babies. It’s specifically beneficial because it reduces inflammation in the gut, which can eliminate diarrhea, help to heal leaky gut, and even reduce or eliminate Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms. (source) B. infantis also impacts brain function, reducing depression and anxiety. (source)
This is a strain in the same family as B. infantis. It’s part of a healthy gut in breastfeeding infants. This strain may help to prevent eczema. (source) It’s also been shown to prevent or kill colon cancer and reduce inflammation. (source) In children, it’s especially good at reducing constipation and related abdominal pain. (source)
This strain helps to heal damaged guts, and actually reduces pro-inflammatory factors and increases anti-inflammatory factors in children with celiac disease. (source) This strain has also been associated with sepsis (a rare but serious blood infection) in a very small number of cases. I would choose this one only for children with chronic constipation.
This strain has been shown to help increase weight gain in poorly nourished children, as well as reducing iron-deficient anemia. (source)
This is another family of bacteria that are commonly found in healthy guts in children. Notably, this strain helps to end rotavirus infection in about half the time as patients untreated with probiotics, and re-colonizes the gut in a healthy way. (source) It can also prevent or reduce colic in breast-fed babies, but not formula-fed babies; and can reduce or eliminate reflux. (source) This is probably the *most* important strain.
This strain may reduce respiratory illnesses in children. (source) It may also reduce the bacteria that causes tooth decay, leading to fewer cavities. (source) It’s also beneficial in reducing the risk or severity of rotavirus infection. (source) This, too, is an important strain.
These are the strains to look for in kids’ probiotics. An ideal product will contain between 4 and 10 different strains; it’s best to mix them up and even change products occasionally to get a good mix.
It’s also important to look for probiotics that don’t have any extra additives or additional ingredients if at all possible. The culture base is fine; cellulose and other fillers and binders are not great.
Ideal potency is no less than 3 billion CFU; 10 billion CFU is even better.
Which Probiotics to Choose?
So, now you know how to evaluate products. But just to make this easier, which ones are actually good?
ProBiota Infant Powder — I purchased this for my 4-month-old recently. It contains 10 different strains, 10 billion CFU. It has no additional ingredients, and no allergens. (It’s cultured on chicory root.) We’ve only used it for a few days, but it already seems to be helping (he poops more regularly).
Klaire Labs Infant Therbiotic — I have used this for previous babies. It also has 10 different strains, 10 billion CFU. It’s very similar to the previous product, but a little more expensive. The advantage is that some doctors’ offices carry it so it can sometimes be found more easily. It’s also allergen-free.
Bio Amicus Probiotics — This contains only the l. reuteri strain, but most formulas don’t have that strain. After doing all this research, I chose to buy this product to add to our regimen. We haven’t tried it yet. It does have sunflower oil and a couple other ingredients, which is not ideal, but it’s worth it to get this important strain.
Hyperbiotics Pro-Kids — This is what we have been using for a few months now with the older kids, but I’m rethinking that. It has only 4 strains, 3 billion CFU (but claims a time-release formula that makes it more effective), and several extra ingredients. But, they’re affordable and easy to take and the strains that are there are good ones.
The majority of the options out there have low potency, few strains, and a lot of extra ingredients. These are the only ones I can recommend fully.
How to Take Probiotics
To get the most benefit from probiotics, they should be taken just before or at the beginning of each meal. Once a day, this should be a supplement (I usually do this before breakfast, but sometimes not until later if I forget). The rest of the day, it should be some type of probiotic food or drink.
We incorporate Bubbies’ pickles for snacks (their sour dill pickles; but you can choose whatever you prefer, they are all probiotic). We also make water kefir to drink, and the boys enjoy milk kefir. Kefir is particularly important and not hard to make. Milk kefir is available at most stores. Look for whole milk plain kefir and run it through the blender with some fruit and honey for a smoothie if you don’t like it plain (I don’t).
Taking probiotics daily is very important. Small, regular doses is what helps to colonize the gut and improve overall health.