Updated: Oct 25
Probiotics are the good bacteria that live within us as part of a symbiotic relationship; we provide a great environment to live and they support us by aiding in digestion and immunity. They are sensitive though, and subject to being colonised by what has been called “bad bacteria” which take hold after antibiotics, food poisoning, a travel bug or long term poor diet.
As an adult, we often complain about feeling bloated or “yes, I should take a good probiotic” but how does it all start? Well, babies are born with a sterile gut and the first colonisation of gut bacteria is via the mothers’ vagina through the birth canal. In the days leading up the labour, the mothers’ vaginal flora changes to replicate that of her gastrointestinal tract, so during the process of labour the baby ingests a full spectrum of bacteria. Mum passes on not only genetic information, but a complete gut biome.
C-section babies miss this first inoculation, however it can be built up slowly through breast feeding, and long term through food and/or the use of probiotics. Either way, it is important that mum has great gut health, which can be supported through supplements, especially if antibiotics have been administered post surgery.
Why the conversation of use of probiotics in children is being discussed lately is the link with increased childhood illness, asthma and allergies. The area has started to be heavily researched, so in the next few years we can expect to see much more research pointing towards the benefits. By why not get a head start now?
First the foremost, if your child has taken antibiotics, it should also be accompanied with a course of probiotics during and after the course of antibiotics. Try and get them to take it at the opposite time of the antibiotics - otherwise you’re just wasting a capsule.
For children who suffer from common allergies, find a probiotic that contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus, for example this one. For babies, again if on antibiotics or have had a sickness bug, seek out a specialised liquid probiotic - I like Optibac Baby Drops.
Of course though, the best way to populate toddlers and childrens’ gut is by feeding them nutritious foods that feed the good bacteria already living inside or promote growth of new bacteria strains.
Prebiotic foods include: onion, garlic, asparagus, leeks, flaxseeds (grind up and hide in porridge, pasta, smoothies) apples and bananas. These foods feed the ‘good bacteria’ in our gut which help boost our immune system, synthesise vitamins and help them outgrow the ‘bad bacteria’ which cause digestive issues such as bloating or constipation.