The newest word in the area of immune health and digestive support is probiotics. These helpful bacteria are proving to have a number of benefits for good health in both adults and children. From thrush to colic to gastroenteritis, probiotics have been connected with helping to treat a number of conditions in babies.
How Probiotics Work
The human body is filled with microorganisms, some of which are beneficial to the body’s function, and some of which are not. Good bacteria exist naturally in the digestive system, but many factors can lead to reducing their levels so that they are no longer able to perform their tasks. This can cause reduced immunity to illness, poor digestion, and influence a number of other problems in the body.
Probiotics are supplements that can be taken as pills or added to foods to populate your body with good bacteria and help to bring the balance back to normal. These supplements add to your body’s natural supply of beneficial bacteria to help regulate your digestion and support your immune system.
What Can Probiotics Do for Your Baby?
Research is still being done on probiotics and their effects on the body. So far, there is encouraging evidence that these supplements may provide relief for a number of problems suffered by babies. Reducing colic, improving digestion to reduce gas, constipation and diarrhea, and lessening the impact of viral infections on your baby’s stomach are just a few of the benefits research is turning up for the use of probiotics.
Probiotics have also been connected with improvements in eczema, and with treating thrush, a yeast infection of the mouth that is common in young babies. If your baby has to take antibiotics, which are known for encouraging yeast infections and also causing diarrhea, a probiotic supplement will reduce these reactions.
Probiotics can also shorten the amount of time your baby will have to suffer with a stomach bug, as the good bacteria will more quickly bring health back to the digestive system.
Breast milk does a better job of supporting production of good bacteria in your baby than formula, but even breast fed babies can benefit from the addition of supplementary probiotics.
How Should I give My Baby Probiotics?
Some new formulas contain probiotic cultures, but if your baby is not using formula, or you do not wish to use that type of formula, there are other ways to add probiotics to your baby’s diet. Probiotics capsules can be opened and added to baby’s bottle or even put directly into baby’s mouth. If your baby is eating solid baby foods, you can add probiotics to purees or also choose foods that naturally provide probiotics.
The most commonly known food that provides probiotic benefits is yogurt. Many commercial yogurts, however, have been heated to extend shelf life. To truly reap the probiotic benefits of yogurt, you should look for one that has not been heated, usually available in health and natural food stores. Many other foods are now showing up on the shelves that have had probiotics added, as their popularity rises due to the new research.
Although probiotics are believed to be safe for use in very young babies, you should always discuss any supplement or medication with your baby’s doctor prior to using it. Your doctor can recommend the best way to add probiotics to baby’s diet as well as the appropriate amount of the supplement for the most benefit.