ALTHOUGH THERE are medical treatments for common conditions like eczema or ear infections, probiotics can help fight the intensity and frequency of each.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are found in yogurt, and also come in pill forms. (I can visualize the grossed out look on your face already….What parent would consciously feed a child live bacteria and yeast, right? But these microorganisms actually help with digestion and even can help boost the immune system.) The Mayo clinic has a summary here.
Probiotics (the microorganisms) rely on prebiotics (carbs found in fermented milk products like yogurt, and also bananas, garlic, honey). This is why yogurt is considered an awesome probiotic: because the microorganisms are combined with the necessary carbs in one tasty serving sized cup of fruity (or my personal fave, classic vanilla) goodness.
So what have probiotics been studied to do in kids?
- They may shorten the course of a head cold or reduce the frequency of ear infections
- They can improve eczema
- They fight antibiotic-associated diarrhea
- They help with pain in those with irritable bowel syndrome
However, keep in mind that the type of probiotic, that you are using matters. The names of the microorganisms are usually listed in the small print on the labels. Look for Lactobacillus rhamnosus to reduce the frequency of a head cold or ear infection (it has been shown to reduce ear infections by 24% in kids and head colds by 38%.) Lactobacillus rhamnosus and paracasei and Bifidobacterium lactus (but not other species) are your go to’s if eczema is a constant problem. And Saccharomyces boulardii and L. rhamnosus are the best options for kids on antibiotics who may be prone to diarrhea.
And if you’re skeptical about purchasing pills, opt for a cup of yogurt with a sliced banana, drizzled with honey. The synbiotic effect of the prebiotic and the probiotic in these foods will enhance its effect.
Sources: Mayo clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/probiotics/faq-20058065
Meta-analysis published in The Journal of Family Practice: When can infants and children benefit from probiotics?Nov 2016; Vol 65 No. 11 pp 789-794