Probiotics are “good” bacteria that keep junior’s gut healthy. Learn how they help, plus, which foods are good sources.

Our digestive system has billions of bacteria. Some types of bacteria provide health benefits, including Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus, which are present in the gastrointestinal microflora. In contrast, others like Escherichia coli (E coli) and salmonella can be harmful.

Occasionally, to maintain a healthy digestive system, we add probiotics to our diet, so as to balance the “good” and “bad” bacteria in our body.

How are probiotics different from prebiotics?

Both prebiotics and probiotics work to bring about health benefits in the body by increasing the “good” intestinal bacteria in different ways. Prebiotics are nutrients that provide nourishment for “good” bacteria like probiotics to flourish and grow in the digestive tract.

On the other hand, probiotics are live bacteria that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. These travel into the digestive tract to increase the ratio of “good” bacteria to “bad” bacteria. Because they help to keep your gut healthy, probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria.

Do bear in mind that the body should already have “good” bacteria (from the probiotics) for the prebiotics to work on.

Common misconceptions about probiotics

Myth: The strain doesn’t matter.
Fact: Yes, it does. As your child’s gut is a hostile place, only certain strains of bacteria can survive in this harsh environment. Each unique strain has its benefits and drawbacks, so make sure you are giving the right one to your child. Look out for Bifidus strains.

Myth: Probiotics ― the more the better?
Fact: It depends ― different types of probiotics perform different functions. The real question is: What kind of probiotics are you giving your child and how much? Do check with your doctor which type of probiotics they would recommend giving your child to improve their gut health. Different types of probiotics will require a child to take varying amounts to ensure their effectiveness.

Several factors could give rise to an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. This includes the child‘s diet or if they are taking antibiotics, which might destroy the “good” bacteria.

Does my child need probiotics?

A good balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria is important for a healthy digestive tract as it may help to reduce intestinal discomfort such as diarrhoea and flatulence.

Every child has a different mix of bacteria both “good” and “bad” in their intestinal tract at birth. However, several factors could give rise to an imbalance of “good” and “bad” bacteria. This includes the child‘s diet or if they are taking antibiotics, which might destroy the “good” bacteria.

This imbalance may increase a child’s likelihood of falling ill or developing allergies as there are lower levels of gut microflora and their immune system is not at its peak. Therefore, giving probiotics helps to increase the population of “good” bacteria.

Where can I get probiotics?

A baby first comes into contact with probiotics from the mother during a vaginal delivery, followed by their diet, such as breastmilk. Breastmilk contains all the goodness of nutrients including probiotics.

When weaning starts, your child can get probiotics from certain formula milk, fermented foods and beverages, and even some supplements. Probiotic-rich foods include yoghurt, cheese, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kefir, buttermilk and sourdough bread.

Mothers are strongly advised to breastfeed their children exclusively in the first six months and continue breastfeeding for as long as possible.

Milk becomes a dietary supplement when a child turns 1. Ask your healthcare professional for advice if your child requires formula milk to supplement their diet after breastfeeding. Milk featuring added probiotics may benefit your child as it’ll help to maintain a desirable balance of protective “good” bacteria in your child’s gut.

Brought to you by Nestlé Baby & Me.

Photo: Nestle

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