Probiotic supplements have become pretty common, and we usually see them advertised as an aid to intestinal health. Studies suggest that daily consumption of probiotics is very beneficial for our bodies.
The benefits also apply to infants, and probiotics are promoted as being very helpful for some of the babies’ health conditions such as allergies, diarrhea, infant colic and much more. Research shows that giving probiotics to babies in their first three months of life may drastically reduce the risks of developing gastrointestinal disorders.
Balancing the Inner Ecosystem of Babies
When our little ones are born, we usually first pay attention to their physical image, checking out the most obvious and visible signs of health. The first couple of days after birth are also the most critical ones, and one of an essential steps you should take to determine the long-term health and wellness of your baby is ensuring a proper development and maintenance of its inner ecosystem.
A healthy inner ecosystem of the child refers to the proper functioning of all intestinal processes and a balance of beneficial microflora. This means beneficial yeast and good bacteria and it plays a critical role in defending the health and conquering pathogenic yeast, bacteria and viruses.
You can see all these as a natural vaccine for your baby who will gradually build his or her immunity system for a safe and healthy life.
Besides keeping the pathogenic agents under control, the microflora also plays a significant role in ensuring that the baby digests the milk. This way, the baby will start to thrive on its food and begin to gain weight very quick.
The baby’s brain is still developing even when it’s out of the womb and the nutrient-rich milk will help to nourish the brain, also influencing the level of intelligence for the rest of your baby’s life. The minerals and vitamins in the milk’s composition will help to build robust and healthy bones and teeth.
Many babies have health issues in today’s world because they lack a healthy ecosystem where good microflora outnumbers the bad. To have a healthy inner ecosystem, a baby depends on the mother to make sure it will have a healthy microflora, even at birth. This might seem pretty easy but, unfortunately, poor lifestyle habits and unhealthy diets have robbed women of their healthy microflora which is so essential for a child’s inner ecosystem.
Babies’ First Exposure to Bacteria
Until a while ago, it was commonly believed that the amniotic fluid in the mother’s womb was sterile and free of germs but researchers uncovered important information showing the opposite. It’s now a well-known fact that the amniotic fluid can be infected and, as the time of birth approaches and the cervix dilates preparing for birth, some bacteria from the birth canal might enter the amniotic fluid. After the beginning of the labor, bacteria will cover the baby’s whole body, and it will also penetrate the little one’s digestive tract.
Although we hope that only friendly bacteria are involved in all these, unfortunately, if the mother doesn’t have enough good microflora in her digestive system and also in her vagina, she won’t have the ability to pass on healthy bacteria to her child.
Research shows that approximately 85% of women have a vaginal infection at the moment they give birth and they pass on some dangerous pathogen agents to the newborn baby instead of beneficial bacteria which create a foundation for health and wellness.
This way, babies who lack enough beneficial bacteria from the beginning of their lives, will start life outside the womb feeling painful gastrointestinal colic, gas, and reflux. They might also suffer from infant constipation, and they will not develop the necessary immunity, also they’ll lack the ability to cleanse out some inherited toxins from their parents or even grandparents.
80% of the protection is located in the gut and babies who don’t quickly develop a healthy inner ecosystem will, unfortunately, have a weakened immune system. This will make them very vulnerable to allergies and many more serious health conditions, even causing brain problems.
Linking the Baby’s Gut to Brain Development
As shown above, the baby gets the first inoculation of intestinal flora from the mother’s birth canal, during birth. If the mother’s flora is unhealthy or abnormal, the baby’s flora will also be like that; it’s important to remember that whatever bacteria lives in the mother’s vagina, they will end up coating the baby’s body and they’ll enter the intestinal tract.
Research shows that women who have vaginal infections at childbirth will pass abnormal microflora onto their kids. Such unhealthy flora if combined with the use of antibiotics can predispose kids to Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) a condition which can have long-term damaging effects on children’s health. Problems might include the following:
- ADHD/ADD or learning disabilities (dyslexia)
- Some mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression
- Some other psychological, digestive, neurological and immunological health problems
This has some deep implications which are related to the autism epidemic. The rates of childhood autism are now 50 times higher in some locations than they were decades ago. There is also a matching epidemic of GAPS.
Some neurologists believe that nearly all children are born with healthy and normal brains, but unfortunately, the standard brain functions get derailed by a malfunctioning digestive system. So, what should be a source of nourishment for the baby, can turn out to be a source of toxicity.
Pathogenic bacteria in babies’ digestive tract will damage the integrity of the gut and will allow all sorts of microbes and toxins to enter the bloodstream and eventually disrupt the brain’s development.
It’s imperative that women acknowledge the fact that breastfeeding protects the baby from this unhealthy gut microflora, therefore it’s crucial for the child’s health.
If the child is given a broad-spectrum antibiotic, the beneficial microflora will be wiped out and the pathogenic agents will have an open window to enter and overgrow. The beneficial microflora needs from 2 weeks to 2 months to recover, but by the time it’s improved, the pathogenic one might have already found a niche. Some of the first symptoms you typically notice in such cases include colic, constipation, loose stools, eczema and respiratory infections. A vaccine will only stress more the baby’s immunity, and this will raise the risks for significant adverse reactions.
Probiotic Guidelines for Newborns
After extensive research, the specialists put together a set of directives for probiotic use for babies which will convince the most skeptical people about the benefits of probiotics.
- What to Look for in Probiotic Supplements?
Not all probiotics are created equal, so you have to make sure that you select the highest quality one for your baby. You should only use products from companies which have good manufacturing practices and the strictest quality control. The probiotics should be formulated in such a way to ensure bacterial survival in the baby’s digestive tract. This can be accomplished by adding something to feed the bacteria – prebiotics.
The type of packaging is also important because it maintains the products’ viability to ensure therapeutic activities. Probiotics are live anaerobic organisms which have a high sensitivity to oxygen, heat, and moisture. They are designed to live in the gut environment, therefore manufacturing and packaging should only involve limited exposure to oxygen.
- When and How to Give Probiotics to Your Baby?
Probiotics should be given to the baby as early as possible before the pathogenic agents will colonize the intestinal tract and before the consumption of antibiotics will destroy the natural flora of the baby. According to most scientific trials, probiotics should be started in the first 4 hours of the child’s life.
Newborn babies especially premature infants and sick ones are often receiving some antibiotics. In such case when your child receives medication, it’s crucial that it will also receive probiotics which have the capacity of rebuilding his intestinal microflora. Antibiotics will kill good bacteria along with the bad, therefore the baby should also be given probiotics before antibiotics. The healthier a baby’s microflora is the more resistant that child will become to infections and viruses. If you decide to give your child probiotics, you should watch out for symptoms of intolerance such as flatulence, abdominal distention, diarrhea or vomiting.
What are the Best Strains You Can Use?
According to studies and research, bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are the best species for newborns, based on the evolution of the baby’s intestinal microflora. Lactobacilli are a minor compound of infants’ intestinal flora and according to medical reports, these have a high adaptability to both dairy and mucosal ecosystems.[tie_list type=”thumbup”]
- Dosage of Probiotics[/custom_list]
Even if the baby’s gastrointestinal tract has millions of occurring bacteria of its own, probiotic supplementation should be implemented with great care in order not to overwhelm the baby’s immature immunity. It’s important also to remember that preterm neonates are more fragile and might often suffer from impaired immunity, poor nutrition or frequent exposure to all kinds of infectious agents.
Too many probiotics might cause and excessive replication in the baby’s intestines which can be favorable for bacteremia – the presence of bacteria in the blood. Complications regarding probiotics are more likely to occur if the baby already has a compromised gut integrity, that’s why you must pay close attention to his probiotic dosage.
Fermented Foods and Supplemental Probiotics
One of the most powerful ways of restoring your baby’s beneficial intestinal microflora is to provide the little one an abundance of probiotics in the form of fermented foods. Sometimes, probiotic supplements won’t even be necessary.
Below, you’ll find a list of foods rich in probiotics (also beneficial for the parents):
The main fermented food recommended by specialists is raw organic grass fed yogurt, and by this we obviously don’t mean the commercial yogurt you can find in every grocery store. This natural probiotic is well tolerated by most babies and children. It’s best to prepare your own yogurt at home using organic raw milk, and you should start with a small amount of product.
Once the yogurt becomes well tolerated by the baby’s body, you can then start introducing kefir. It’s made of goat’s milk and fermented kefir grains, and it’s also a great source of antioxidants which will boost your baby’s immunity.
This is a rich source of friendly bacteria for the baby’s intestines which can reduce allergies and comes packed with vitamins A, B, C, and E.
- Dark Chocolate
This has many health benefits for the baby’s parents so it can top their list of probiotics.
The oceans are teaming with foods rich in probiotics, and microalgae such as spirulina and blue-green algae can give the human body a great dose of probiotics.
- Miso Soup
Japanese medicine frequently uses miso soup for its benefits in treating some digestive disorders. A mix of beans, fermented rye, rice or barley, miso is a pleasant source of probiotics.
These are also a tasty source of probiotics, therefore should be consumed without worries.
Surely, you must have heard of tofu, so now it’s time to try some tempeh for its health benefits.
Kimchi is quite spicy and excellent for intestinal health. It’s made of fermented cabbage, and you can find it on Korean menus. Kimchi is a source of probiotics, calcium, vitamins and iron.
- Kombucha Tea
This probiotic drink has ages of history behind it and lots of benefits for health.
- Soft Cheeses
Cheese carries probiotics and will boost the immune system. Although not all probiotics will survive by the time they reach the stomach and the intestines, some strains of soft fermented cheese such as Gouda will be able to make their way inside the intestines.
- Milk with Probiotics
Acidophilus milk is an excellent way to consume probiotics because it’s fermented with bacteria; you can also find it as sweet acidophilus milk.
Churning yogurt and diluting it with water will result in buttermilk. When it’s obtained from lactic acid bacteria cultured milk, buttermilk will be the best probiotic choice.
All these probiotics are perfectly safe for both the mother (while she is breastfeeding) and the baby.
We should be teaching our kids to enjoy healthy fermented foods since the very beginning of their lives because the list of probiotic benefits keeps growing.
Supplemental probiotics can also be extremely beneficial for your baby’s health.
The Most Important Probiotic Benefits
Advantages of the Mother While Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding can take away lots of nutrients from the mother’s body, and this can leave a weakened immune system behind. Therefore, the consumption of foods or supplements rich in probiotics can help strengthen the immune system. This will also regulate a fluctuating metabolism.
Building the Baby’s Immunity
The intestines make up 60-70% of the body’s resistance, and probiotics will add some good bacteria which will help strengthen the immune system. If the mother consumes probiotics while breastfeeding this will assist the newborn’s immune system to develop faster.
Keeping Acid Reflux Away
A study published in 2011 by the European Journal of Clinical Investigation concluded that babies who were supplemented with probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri manifested a decreased acid reflux symptomatology when compared to infants who weren’t supplemented. Probiotics help the digestion, and the stomach is left emptier and less likely to suffer from reflux conditions.
Research also showed that probiotics could help infants who suffer from chronic constipation. Regular administration of probiotic supplements or foods rich in probiotics improved the stool consistency and bowel movements.
Among babies and newborns, eczema is quite a common problem. Probiotics can help the child to stay free of this condition at least for the first two years of life.
Curing Diaper Yeast and Diaper Rash
Some of the diaper rashes are a simple yeast rash. Even if probiotics can’t cure yeast infections, they might be able to help to prevent them especially in the case of babies wearing diapers for longer periods of time. This works by changing the amount of yeast in the baby’s digestive tract. Yeast probiotics are very useful in case of diaper rashes, and they help babies get faster over the infection than they normally would when using antibiotics as treatment. Probiotics such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium will help suppress the growth of yeast. These probiotics must be administered an hour or two after the antibiotics to avoid possible interactions (antibiotics might kill the beneficial bacteria along with the bad ones).
Keeping Colic Away
BBC reports showed that 1 in 5 babies are affected by colic and it is believed that this is related to consuming too much air while eating. Many babies aren’t colicky anymore after the first six months of their lives but when it does occur, colic can be extremely distressing for both the child and the parents. Babies who have colic suffer from inflamed intestines and need a big dose of good bacteria. Probiotics are well known for their benefits of fighting such a problem.
Treating Infant Thrush
Infant Thrush is caused by yeast and it’s prevalent as an oral infection in children and also mother’s nipples. It seems this health condition appears without any known reason or cause but it can also develop after treatment with antibiotics. Infant thrush is painful, hard to get rid of and it can last for very extended periods if it is not properly treated. Probiotics are very helpful for treating this health condition.
Producing B Vitamins
Probiotics offer the human body a healthy dose of vitamin B which helps in food metabolism, in preventing anemia, and in keeping the nervous system and the skin in a healthy condition.
Other Probiotic Benefits
- They help the body in its process of eliminating toxins.
- Probiotics act as anti-inflammatory agents.
- Probiotics help in controlling Necrotizing Enterocolitis in Infants and newborn.
- They are ideal for absorbing minerals.
- Probiotics control a vast range of disorders such as colon cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, cirrhosis of the liver, strengthened immunity, hepatic encephalopathy, diarrhea, vaginal infections and some infections caused by H.pylori which is associated with ulcers.
It’s crucial to remember that whatever the benefits of probiotics and their infection-fighting effects might be, they are unfortunately only temporary. The reason is that probiotics don’t build up in the baby’s gastrointestinal system, and once you stop giving the child these substances (whether they’re in foods or supplement forms), they will disappear from the digestive tract, and the microflora levels will return to where they first were.
Probiotics are considered very healthy for children, but more research is still needed before doctors can begin prescribing them for specific childhood health conditions as they currently do with antibiotics.
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