Your Child's Gut: Use of prebiotics and probiotics

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As the flu season is approaching many families are looking for information on how to improve family health. Many look to probiotics. I am sure you have all heard about probiotics and the many benefits they may have for your body, but how many of you have heard of pre-biotics?

Let us start by defining both. A basic definition of prebiotics is a non-digestible fiber that when introduced to the gut will help to improve growth of certain bacteria to improve the health of your gut. Probiotics are a bacteria type that is thought to have a positive affect on our stomach. Probiotics can be found in some foods like yogurt or other fermented foods, but also in supplements. There are also probiotics already present in our own gut.

There are numerous probiotics available on the market and multiple different strains of probiotics. Each different probiotic treats a different problem with digestion. Some may help diarrhea, and some may help constipation. There is some evidence to show that supplementing probiotics in children can help prevent diarrhea related to antibiotics or decrease the duration of a diarrheal illness.

When looking at the pharmacy, there are multiple choices for probiotics. A probiotic supplement is regulated by the dietary supplements act, which means they may not undergo third party testing to make sure they contain the bacteria that is listed on the label.  There are also some prebiotic supplements that are on the market and the concern remains the same as they are regulated as a dietary supplement. The following are some symbols that you can look for on the label that indicate if the supplement was 3rd party tested and they are Consumer Labs, NSF, and USP.

 Consumer Labs Symbol

Consumer Labs Symbol

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Most of the time healthy individuals will tolerate a probiotic supplement well, but one thing that is known is a diverse gut is a healthy gut. Therefore, one of the drawbacks to taking a probiotic supplement is that a person could be introducing a high amount of one strain and it really takes multiple strains to create a healthy gut. Therefore, whether we are talking about prebiotics or probiotics it is probably best to focus on sources from foods first.

Food Sources of Prebiotics

·       Chicory Root- It is often added to cereals, breakfast bars, or fiber enriched food. One caution is that increased chicory root can cause bloating and gas.

·       Jerusalem Artichoke

·       Dandelion Greens

·       Raw Garlic

·       Leeks

·       Onions

·       Asparagus

·       Whole Grains

·       Banana

Food Sources of Probiotics

·       Yogurt

·       Kefir

·       Aged Cheeses

·       Tempeh

·       Kimchi

·       Sauerkraut

·       Miso

·       Cultured non-dairy yogurts

There are many ways these foods can be added to your child’s diet. Some examples include yogurt parfaits, soups with leeks and onions, kefir used to make a smoothie (it will be a little thicker), and miso added to vegetables and sauces. Prior to purchasing a probiotic supplement for your child consult with a pediatrician.

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