When Do Probiotics For Children Make Sense?

Probiotics For ChildrenWith all the positive attention probiotics are receiving in the medical community, it naturally begs the question, “Should children take probiotics?”

Although there hasn’t been a ton of studies testing the benefits of probiotics for children, there is some evidence that probiotics may help children with certain conditions.

Namely diarrhea and colic…

Let’s  start with diarrhea (a lovely mental picture indeed!)

In 2011, Yale University researchers looked at a ton of studies on probiotics and concluded that they were definitely helpful with a few conditions.

Two of these conditions were viral diarrhea in children and antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

Probiotics were shown in one study top reduce the duration of diarrhea by a full day in kids.  That may not sound like a lot, but if you’ve ever dealt with it before, it’s actually quite significant.

The strains of probiotics that show the most promise in this are Lactobacillus GG, S. Boulardi and L. Reuteri.  And the effective dose required was at least 10 billion CFUs (which isn’t as large as it sounds).

The takeaway from this research is probiotics may be considered in cases of diarrhea in children and anytime antibiotics are going to be administered.

Now let’s move on to the more controversial use of probiotics for children.

This one involves colic, which is an infantile condition where a baby cries more than 3 hours a day, 3 days a week for 3 weeks or longer.

This crying occurs in otherwise healthy, well-fed babies and is thought to affect approximately 20% of all newborns.

The support for using probiotics to treat colic stem mainly from an Italian study done a few years ago and published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The comprehensive study involved nearly 600 babies, half of which were given probiotics with the Lactobacillus Reuteri strain.  The pother half were given a placebo.

At the end of the study, the results showed that supplementing with probiotics during the first 12 weeks of life significantly reduced the pain, writhing, gas and other signs of infantile colic.

The amount of time spent crying in the control group was cut in half and the number of times these babies spit up was also cut in half (compared to the [placebo group).

Even though the results of this study seem promising, other studies have shown no benefit treating colic with probiotics.

The most prominent of these was a 2014 study published in the British medical Journal (BMJ).

It’s not clear why this particular study showed no benefit treating colic while many others have in the past.

It seems whenever a new idea is presented to the medical community, studies always seem to contradict each other.  It can be maddening to say the least!

It’s really up to you to decide if probiotics make sense for your children.

Overall, probiotics seem to be a very promising treatment for a variety of conditions.

For now, the use of probiotics for children seems limited to treating diarrhea and colic.

However, that doesn’t mean probiotics don’t provide other benefits for kids.

It’s just a matter of the medical community doing more testing and discovering the best uses and dosages for the many different strains of probiotics.

For now, be sure to talk to your pediatrician or doctor before giving your kids probiotics for any reason.  And be especially careful with children who are chronically or severely ill and have compromised immune systems.

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