Probiotics? What is it?

I heard from my mom friend that probiotics are helpful for boosting my little one’s gut health and preventing constipation. Is that true?

Probiotics are good bacteria that can provide some health benefits for our bodies.

 

However, not all probiotics are proven effective. Different strains have specific benefits.

 

Probiotics are naturally found in our bodies, especially in lower part of the digestive system. They can also be found in foods such as yogurt, fermented foods, and dietary supplements.

How do probiotics work for my child?

To date, only certain strains are found to be helpful in treating stomach flu and colic in breastfed infants, preventing diarrhoea that is associated with taking antibiotics and nosocomial diarrhoea.

 

There may be anecdotal evidence for probiotics in managing constipation, however overall scientific evidence is inconclusive and more research is needed. Do consult your doctor if you’re considering to start them for your child!

If my child is not having constipation, would it be helpful to continue using probiotics, or is it not necessary?

Probiotics are generally safe and well-tolerated in healthy babies and children, however, the long term impacts of probiotic use in children has not been widely studied.

 

Hence, probiotics are usually not used as a preventative remedy in children, unless recommended by a doctor.

Is it better to give my child probiotics naturally found in food, or supplements from the pharmacy? Why?

In Singapore, supplements are not as well regulated as medicine. Not everything termed as “natural” is safe, as it is possible to overdose on supplements.

 

That being said, probiotics in food sources may also not survive manufacturing and storage processes. Common food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir, kombucha, miso, tempeh, kimchi and some cheeses.

 

Unfortunately, the answer is not clear cut. Always talk to your doctor before starting probiotics for your child!

If I want to try probiotic supplements for my child, what information should I look out for? What precautions should I take?

Some questions to check with the doctor:

 

  • What dose and strain of probiotics is recommended for my child’s condition?
  • Are there more benefits than harm for trying probiotics?
  • What are some side effects to look out for?
  • How long should I try probiotics for?
  • If I don’t see health improvements after a certain period of time, should my child stop taking them?

Rae Zhang

Dietitian