Most of the time we see bacteria as disease-causing organisms, but bacteria and humans also can share an intensely symbiotic relationship. Probiotics, for example, have a much needed beneficial effect on our health. Probiotics benefit not just adults but children as well. If you are wondering how to enhance digestive function, help increase nutrient absorption, and help support the immune system of your growing child, probiotics may hold the answer.

About 160 different bacterial species live naturally in your child’s intestinal tract. Many of these are probiotic bacteria; they serve as a natural barrier to the colonization of germs1, may help prevent certain illnesses2,3, and enhance the immune system4,5. In a healthy child, he or she is said to have the right balance of good bacteria in his or her’s GI system.

Benefits of Probiotic Supplements for Children


There are many types of probiotic bacteria but some of the common ones are Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) and Bifidobacteria. Lactic Acid Bacteria can assist the digestion of milk sugar by producing the enzyme lactase, therefore helping to improve your child’s lactose tolerance6,7

Colonies of good bacteria are formed as a result of consuming probiotics and help re-establish a harmonious balance in the gut.  They may also provide natural digestive assistance8,9.

When your child gets ill and takes antibiotics, these antibiotics destroy good bacteria in your child’s gut along with the bad bacteria causing diarrhea. When you have an empty forest (assuming bacterial colonies are like the trees), you want to re-colonize with the beneficial bacteria. Probiotic supplements help repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria, thus helping your child to stay healthy and active.  Probiotics can also help your child with occasional irregularity or constipation10,11.

Over the last two decades, the incidence of allergic issues has increased in industrialized countries. According to a theory called ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’, excessively clean hospitals and houses make children more prone to allergies, asthma and eczema. Current research suggests that probiotics may be beneficial to modulate immune response and help to downregulate allergic issues caused by an overactive immune system at an early age12,13.

Atopic dermatitis is a common allergic inflammation of skin among infants. The use of probiotics in different forms, such as supplemented formula, supplemented water, probiotic drinks and capsules may help reduce occasional rashes14,15.

Another medical condition that may be helped by supplementing with probiotics is Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC). NEC is a medical condition seen in premature infants where sections of their bowels die. One cause of NEC is thought to be because of enteric pathogens16. Probiotics can increase colonization of favorable types of micro-flora, help in reducing enteric pathogens and help improve gut structure and function17,18.  Various studies conducted on premature infants who weigh less than normal healthy babies, have shown significant reduction of NEC and reduced severity when supplemented with Bifidobacteria and/ or Lactobacillus19,20.

How Safe are Probiotic Supplements for your Child?


Probiotic strains have been used in food products for hundreds of years and these Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria strains are extremely safe.  In the history of Natren, there have been no serious side effects in infants attributed to Natren’s probiotics.

When administering probiotic supplements to your child, be it through powders or mixed with a drink, ensure that the bacteria consumed will survive through the acid in your child’s stomach and make their way to the intestinal tract. Natren Inc. micro-enrobes its probiotic bacteria to survive the GI tract. Some of their probiotics products for pregnant and nursing women, babies, and children include Life Start and Yogurt Starter.

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2Bin-nun, A.; Bromiker, R.; Wilschansk, M.; Kaplan, M.; Rudensky, B.; Caplan, M.; Hammerman, C. Oral probiotics prevent necrotizing Enterocolitis in very low birth weight neonates. J of Ped 2005: 192-196

3Lee, M.C., Lin, L.H., Hung, K.L., and Wu, K.Y., Oral bacterial therapy promotes recovery from acute diarrhea in children, Acta. Paediatr. Taiwan, 2001; Sep-Oct;42(5):301-305.

4O’Mahony, L., McCarthy, J., Kelly, P., Hurley, G., Luo, F., Chen, K., O’Sullivan, G.C., Kiely, B., Collins, J. K., Shanahan, F., Quigley, E. M. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in IBS: symptom responses and relationship to cytokine profiles. Gastroenterology, 2005; 128(3): 541-551

5DePalma, G., Cinova, J., Stepankova, R., Tuckova, L., Sanz, Y. Pivotal advance: Bifidobacteria and gram-negative bacteria differentially influence immune responses in the proinflammatory milieu of celiac disease in children, Journal of Leukocyte Biology 2010, 87: 000-000.

6Kim, H. S., and Gilliland, S. E.  Lactobacillus acidophilus as a dietary adjunct for milk to aid lactose digestion in humans, J. Dairy Sci. 1983, 66: 959-966.

7Effect of the microbial lactase (EC activity in yoghurt on the intestinal absorption of lactose: an in vivo study in lactase-deficient humans.  B J Nutr. 1990, 64: 71-79.

8Chebbi, N.B., Chander, H., Ranganathan, B., Casein degredation and amino acid liberation in milk by two highly proteolytic strains of lactic acid bacteria, Acta Microbiol. Pol., 1977; 26(3):281-284.

9Pescuma M., Whey fermentation by thermophilic lactic acid bacteria: evolution of carbohydrates and protein content. Food Microbiology 2008;25:442-451

10Arunachalam, K. D. The organic acids produced by Bifidobacteria are thought to stimulate the intestinal peristalsis and help a normal bowel movement (pg 1575) 1999. Nutr. Res., 19(10): 1559-1597.

11Vivatvakin, B.; Kowitdamrong, E. Randomized control trial of live Lactobacillus acidophilus plus Bifidobacterium infantis in treatment of infantile acute watery diarrhea. J Med Assoc 2006.

12Bjorksten, B.; Sepp. E.; Julge, K.; Voor, T.; Mikelsaar, M. Allergy development and the intestinal microflora during the first year of life. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2008 Vol. 108: 516-520

13Ozdemir, O. Various effects of different probiotic strains in allergic disorders: an update from laboratory and clinical data. Clinical and Exp Immunology 2010. 1-10

14Gruber, C. et al. Reduced Occurrence of Early atopic Dermatitis. The Journal of Allergy and clinical Immunology 2010, 126(4): 791-797.

15Lee, J. et al. Meta-analysis of clinical trials of probiotics for prevention and treatment of pediatric atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2008, 121: 116-121.

16Hoyos, A.B. Reduced Incidence of Necrotizing Enterocolitis Associated with Enteral Administration of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium infantis to Neonates in an Intensive Care Unit. Int J Infect Dis 1999 Vol. 3: 197-202.

17Picard C., Fioramonti J., Francois A., Robinson T., Neant F., and Matuchansky C., Review article: bifidobacteria as probiotic agents – Physiological effects and clinical benefits. Ailment Pharmacol Ther 2005; 22: 495-51

18Arunachalam, K. D., Role of bifidobacteria in nutrition, medicine and technology, Nutr. Res., 1999; 19(10): 1559-1597.

19Lin, H.C.; Su, B.H.; Chen, A.C.; Lin, T.W.; Tsai, C.H.; Yeh, T.F.; Oh, W. Oral Probiotics Reduce the Incidence and Severity of Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Very Low Birth Weight Infants. Pediatrics 2005 Vol. 115(1).

20Caplan, M. S., Jilling, T. Neonatal enterocolitis: possible role of probiotic supplementation. J Ped Gastroenterology and Nutr. 2000; 30:S18-22.


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