Probiotics.

You hear of them and see them advertised everywhere – your mom is taking one daily, your doctor may have recommended taking one and the yogurt aisle in the grocery store is screaming about all the probiotics it contains. What’s all the hype? Is it worth giving my baby one? Let’s dive in!

What is a probiotic anyway?

Probiotics are defined as live micro-organisms (a.k.a bacteria!) that survive in the digestive tract and promote gut health. We have trillions of bacteria living in our guts that are naturally existing – some “good” and some “bad”. The good bacteria keep the bad ones at bay, and strengthen the gut’s mucosal barrier so that foreign materials and germs cannot bind to it. They can also work by lowering the pH of the intestine (making it more acidic) so that it would be an unattainable environment for unfavourable materials and germs to live. In other words – having lots of good bacteria keeps us healthy! Our bodies are very smart!

Probiotics are not there to stay in your gut forever. They are somewhat water soluble, which means they enter and then they leave. Millions of probiotics are lost in one simple diaper change! And even though the gut is constantly hosting new probiotics, it is important to ensure that the balance between the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria is not offset. In other words, we always want the ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ to be very high

Probiotics come in different forms – naturally occurring in some foods, or, as a supplement (available in chews, powder or drops for your little ones!) Some examples of the more common friendly probiotic strains include lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and staphylococcus (1).

Probiotics come in different forms – naturally occurring in some foods, or, as a supplement (available in chews, powder or drops for your little ones!) Some examples of the more common friendly probiotic strains include lactobacilli, bifidobacteria and staphylococcus (1).

When would my child need a probiotic supplement?

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An infant’s gut will begin to populate with different bacteria immediately after birth (making up their “microflora”). Different factors, such as the type of delivery, the infant diet, and other factors such as the environment and presence of antibiotics, influence the composition of gut microflora.

For example, according to a study done in 2009, infants acquire different types of bacteria during their first months via breastfed milk compared to formula feedings. Those infants that were fed mom’s milk have a high level of Bifidobacterium species that dominate in the gut while on the other hand, formula fed infants have more Enterobacter microbes in the gut. The difference is due to the makeup of the breast milk – it contains immunity passed from the mother (2).

As previously mentioned, sometimes medication our babies need to take, such as antibiotics, can upset the gut’s balance by whipping out all the bacteria – not only the bad stuff. This can significantly decrease the body’s ability to protect itself against germs and unwanted foreign materials (intruders!) – meaning your kids are at risk for things like antibiotic-associated diarrhea. So, in times like these, a probiotic is often recommended. Probiotics can also be recommended for a variety of other reasons, such as constipation, eczema, functional abdominal pain, infectious diarrhea, colic and even the prevention of allergies – to name a few.

A probiotic will put trillions of ‘good’ bacteria back in your gut and regain the balance of good over bad bacteria– exactly what we want! If your child has been sick for an extended period of time, has digestive issues, or is taking antibiotics, this may be an especially good time to introduce a probiotic supplement into your child’s routine. Remember, the health benefits of probiotics are strain specific (meaning a specific type of bacteria must be present in a specific quantity). Furthermore, probiotic supplements have not been proven to be completely safe for the immunocompromised (e.g. premature babes). Always be sure to consult a doctor or dietitian before giving your baby or child any probiotics supplements. They can help you determine the best one to take under specific conditions.

If you have any questions or are looking for more information on the type of probiotics best for your child, contact me for a free 15 min discovery session anytime! 

What about foods containing probiotics?

Many foods contain naturally occurring probiotics that give us an extra boost of good bacteria for general digestive health and immune function. Day to day, it’s great to be eating a variety of these foods and giving these foods to your little one. In the world we live in, it’s much harder to be getting good bacteria into our systems, especially as we are no longer accustomed to eating things like fermented and cultured foods (as we once did before refrigerators existed). To top it off, the use of antibacterial hand soaps and sanitizers, being outside less, and even consuming antibiotic containing meats, decreases our exposure to healthy bacteria.. That’s why getting back to regularly consuming more of these probiotic rich foods is always a good idea.

One of the most familiar probiotic containing foods is yogurt. Look for ones with “live active cultures” in the ingredient list. Other fermented dairy products such as kefir (a fermented milk drink) also contain a myriad of probiotics that you can try in place of milk over cereal, or in a smoothie!. Non-dairy alternatives such as soy milk contain probiotics as well. Beyond this, fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, tempeh, and kombucha are all delicious and excellent sources of probiotics. Some of the probiotic-containing foods listed above can be easily made at home, and also tweaked to your and your child’s liking!

Kid-Chi – Kimchi for Kids

This recipe, found at mountainfeed.com, adopts a kimchi recipe and makes it a little less spicy, something many kids will be sure to appreciate! It includes many ingredients, most of which you will probably already have on hand. It is a quick recipe to make, however needs 7 hands-off days to ferment.

Give it a try!

Ingredients

  •       2 lbs napa cabbage, cut in ¼ inch slices
  •       2 tsp. sea salt
  •       2 medium carrots, peeled and coined
  •       1 tsp ginger, minced
  •       1 tsp garlic, minced


What to do

  1. Core and cut cabbage
  2. Massage cabbage with sea salt, about 2 minutes
  3. Peel and coin carrots
  4. Mince fresh ginger and garlic
  5. Add remaining ingredients to massaged cabbage and massage again, about 2-5 minutes or until juice can be easily squeezed out of the vegetables
  6. Pack mixture into a jar while pressing down lightly until the brine rises and covers the vegetables completely
  7. Secure lid on jar and store out of the sun in room temperature for 7 days to allow for fermentation.
    8. Store kimchi in the fridge once opened for two months!

Enjoy!

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