With Australia having one of the highest rates of antibiotics use in the world, probiotics and fermented foods are back in the hot seat.
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We have billions of bacteria in our intestines which contribute to the health of the body (namely our immune system) and adults are readily popping probiotics for health, mood and following courses of antibiotics.
Antibiotics are fabulous at wiping out the ‘bad’ bacteria in our gut which precipitate illness, unfortunately they take with them the ‘good’ beneficial flora which we need to digest food, absorb certain vitamins and minerals and prevent illnesses.
Probiotics are medically defined as organisms in fermented foods that promote good health and re-establish the correct balance of ‘good to bad’ intestinal bacteria.
Probiotic supplements are simply these same beneficial bacteria packaged in powder, liquid or capsule form.
A strong immune system provides the foundation to a healthy childhood and later adulthood. Experts suggest our immune system doesn’t mature until 12-14 years of age but it is significantly developed in the first year of life. For this reason a baby’s immune system should be supported throughout the first phase of life and early childhood so that it can strengthen quickly and strongly.
Probiotic use for children (whether through diet or supplement) is rarely discussed at all, both in the media or at the doctor’s office. This is shocking considering the vulnerability of children’s gut health and how important the development of their immune system is.
It is not uncommon for toddlers, especially those in daycare to cycle through several courses of antibiotic prescriptions each year.
While they are often necessary, and in no way am I championing antibiotic avoidance but it is of paramount importance to fortify your child’s immune system post treatment (and during if possible) to repair and rebuild healthy gut integrity.
It takes ‘healthy flora’ at least a few months to recover post antibiotic treatment in which time opportunistic ‘bad bacteria’ may have already settled, disrupting the bacteria ratio and contributing to additional illness.
There are numerous probiotic supplements designed especially for children (palatable in ‘gummy’ formulas or liquids) which are great if you have a picky eater. But don’t forget about natural probiotics in fermented dairy such as yoghurt, kefir and fortified non-dairy products (of course if you think your toddler is up for tackling some sauerkraut be my guest!).
Excess probiotics simply pass through the system so toxic build up is not an issue.
To summarise, during early childhood when the foundation for the immune system is being established, take extra care to fortify your children’s diet with probiotics either in supplement form or through diet, especially post antibiotic treatment.
Please comment on products you have found your child enjoys or ways you sneak probiotics into their food.