The development of a healthy gut begins at birth and is gradually established throughout the first several years of life. Laying the foundation of a strong gut microbiome throughout childhood is something that can have wide ranging benefits for a child as they grow and develop, from digestive health to immunity and beyond. Protecting your little one’s health really does start in the gut.
How do kids get a healthy gut?
When it comes to the makeup of a child’s microbiome, mum matters. If a baby is born vaginally, it is exposed to the mother’s bacteria in the birth canal. If a baby is breastfed, the mother’s microbes are passed through the breastmilk. A caesarian delivery and formula feeding lead to differences in the gut microbiome compared to vaginally born and breastfed infants, which may have health impacts later in life.1 However, other environmental factors such as food, lifestyle and supplements, can help shape and build a child’s gut microbiome and improve diversity.
Are probiotic supplements needed?
Parents and carers know better than anyone that young children experience a constant stream of colds and other mild upper respiratory tract infections, which is often a huge disruption to daily life for the whole family. This is because their systems are still developing, and they are more vulnerable to their environment. While you can’t stop every snotty nose from occurring, you can help your child build and maintain a strong and healthy immune system. When it comes to immunity, probiotics are often overlooked in favour of multivitamins and vitamin C. However, with 70% of the immune system located in the gut2, they couldn’t be more important. Taking a probiotic daily, may help to reduce symptoms, support recovery, and keep your kids well.
Middle ear infections are a common experience in early childhood. In fact, it is estimated that 75% of kids will suffer from at least one episode by the time they start school3. It is also one of the most common reasons for antibiotic use.4 Research suggests that the probiotic strains lactobacillus rhamnosus (LGG®) and bifidobacterium animalis ssp lactis (BB-12®) can reduce the frequency of ear symptoms in kids with and without antibiotic use.4,5
Establishing a strong and diverse gut microbiome can influence kids’ overall digestive health and the absorption of key nutrients from food.
Since young kids are more susceptible to sickness, they are also more likely to be prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotics reduce the abundance and diversity of bacteria in a child’s gut1, which can have adverse effects on their health and wellbeing. Probiotics can help to restore gut flora balance following antibiotic treatment.
In Australia, up to 1 in 3 children suffer from eczema,6 an allergic condition that does more than irritate skin; it can take a toll on the whole family. The probiotic strains LGG® and BB-12® have been shown to address some of the allergic drivers of eczema, may help to relieve eczema symptoms such as itching and reduce the occurrence of flare-ups.7
Tips on improving gut health in kids
There are a number of ways in which you can help influence the diversity of a child’s microbiome and set them up for a lifetime of better health.
- Offer fermented foods, which are rich in live and active cultures (good bacteria) such as yoghurt, miso soup, sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha
- Feed the good bacteria in their gut with prebiotic foods such as wholegrains (oats, sourdough bread, buckwheat, spelt, brown rice), bananas, artichokes, onions, leeks and garlic
- Eat a range of fresh whole foods from plant sources, especially fruits, vegetables, and legumes
- Let them explore outside, play in dirt, and snuggle their pets, all of which can influence gut biodiversity
- Consider a high-quality probiotic supplement suitable for kids. Especially following a course of antibiotics or to bolster a child’s immunity, support healthy digestion and ear health. Inner Health probiotics for kids only use research-backed strains at the scientifically validated dose and can support a child’s unique needs at every age and stage
- Yasmin F et al 2017, ‘Cesarean section, formula feeding, and infant antibiotic exposure: Separate and combined impacts on gut microbial changes in later infancy’, Frontiers in Pediatrics, viewed 26 August 2022, <https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fped.2017.00200/full>
- Vighi G, et al 2008, ‘Allergy and the gastrointestinal system’, Clin Exp Immunol, Vol 1, pp 3-6
- Royal Children’s Hospital 2018, Clinical practice guidelines: Acute otitis media. Melbourne: RCH. Accessed 26 August 2022, <http://www.rch.org.au/clinicalguide/guideline_index/Acute_Otitis_Media/>
- Rautava S 2009, ‘Specific probiotics in reducing the risk of acute infections in infancy--a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study’. Br J Nutr. vol 101, no 11, pp1722-6
- Gorbach S et al 2017, ‘Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG’,The Microbiota in Gastrointestinal Pathophysiology, pp 79-88
- Martin PE et al 2013, 'The prevalence and socio‐demographic risk factors of clinical eczema in infancy: a population‐based observational study', Clinical & Experimental Allergy, vol. 43, no. 6, pp. 642-651
- Pachacama López AF, et al 2021, ‘Probiotics to Reduce the Severity of Atopic Dermatitis in Pediatric Patients: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis', Actas Dermo-Sifiliográficas (English Edition), Vol 112, no 10, pp 881-890