Research Shows Probiotics Benefit Children

Gut health is as important for kids as it is for adults--and even more so, since their bodies are growing. Their brain development, their immunity and their assimilation of important nutrients all depends on the health of their gut flora. While I believe probiotics are just one piece in the puzzle of gut health, I do think that the right kind of probiotics (such as those that naturally occur in fermented and cultured foods) can be beneficial to kids when part of a balanced, nutritious diet. Research is starting to agree:

  • One study found that children who consumed probiotics experienced less flu and cold symptoms, recovered more quickly from illness, and required less antibiotics to treat colds and the flu. As a result, children who took probiotics also missed less school (or daycare) than those who didn't.  
  • Researchers recently reported that probiotics reduced the symptoms of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) in children in this study.
  • Another study in Finland showed that infants with eczema who were given probiotics had fewer outbreaks and showed more improvement than infants who received no probiotics.
  • Yet another study conducted in Italy found that probiotics in fermented milk reduced the severity of hay fever symptoms in young children. Researchers noted that children who received probiotics also experienced less diarrhea.

Of course, it helps to keep a balanced perspective when it comes to probiotics for kids. More is not necessarily better and there's no need for everything in our (or our children's) diets to be full of probiotics. The addition of a few key probiotic foods is the right approach for most. Once you find a few fermented and cultured foods your family enjoys, you can start making them part of your regular meals.

A Word on Probiotic Supplements:

Thinking about giving your kids a probiotic supplement? It's tempting, but not necessarily the best route for most. Supplements, in general, are poorly regulated and often contain additives we don't want in our bodies. While many probiotic supplements claim to have a certain count of live bacteria, by the time it gets to you, you really can't know for sure what you're getting.

While high quality supplements can have their place in short-term therapy, generally the best way to get probiotics is through food. And I don't mean those cute little yogurt cups (which are mostly dyes and additives anyway, with a few live cultures thrown in to make them appear healthy). I'm talking about good old-fashioned fermented foods. Like sauerkraut, kimchi, lacto-fermented ketchup, yogurt, and kefir. Making these at home is simple and inexpensive.

If you want to learn everything there is to know about fermenting and culturing food at home, I highly recommend taking a look at the Get Cultured! E-course by Jenny McGruther. Her instructional videos are phenomenal and her recipes are timeless. If you want to get a taste of what you'll receive in this comprehensive course, check out the free bonus lesson on making healthy french fries and ketchup! Otherwise, go take a look at the complete lesson plan, or the FAQ page if you have any questions about the course.

Don't forget to try these probiotic recipes:

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