What are the Benefits of Probiotics for Children?
If you’ve heard a few things about the benefits of probiotics for kids, it’s understandable that you’d have questions about how they can help your child. Below, we’ll answer some common questions that can help you make a decision about whether probiotics are right for your child.
What Are Probiotics and What are the Benefits of Probiotics for Kids?
Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed, offer health benefits. (1A/6A) Large numbers of these microorganisms already exist in our bodies. In fact, in adults there are 10 times more microorganisms than human cells in the digestive tract. (2A)
From the moment we’re born, we develop a unique bacterial ecosystem – also known as the microbiome – in our bodies. The microbiome develops based on factors such as genetics, diet, hygiene, environment, and gender (3A), and this ecosystem changes based on events in our lives such as illness, stress, and diet changes. (3B) The biggest changes to our microbiome occur during childhood. During this period the shifts in the microbiome can cause effects that last for years, or potentially the rest of a person’s life. (3C)
In order to minimize disruptions to a child’s microbiome, which can be caused by common issues such as illness or stress, parents can consider several approaches, including changes to diet, more exercise, and/or more relaxation to reduce stress. Another option may be to add a daily probiotic for kids to fortify their digestive system with healthy bacteria, so that digestive concerns aren’t a daily worry.
Are Probiotics Safe for Children?
Some probiotic products contain microorganisms that were originally found in other humans, which is the case for the Bifidobacterium 35624™ strain that is found in Align Jr. probiotic for kids. Probiotics are considered safe for the generally healthy population. (1B)
That being said, you and your healthcare providers know your child best. You should talk to your child’s pediatrician or your doctor before starting them on supplements of any kind. They can help guide you towards the appropriate probiotic for children based on your goals.
How Should You Choose a Probiotic for Kids?
If you’re considering a kids probiotic for your child, it’s important to remember a few things.
Even though many probiotic products contain bacteria from Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera, (2B) they aren’t all the same. Scientists identify them by their genus, species or subspecies, and strain. For example, the patented strain in Align Jr. would be identified as:
It’s the bacterial strain that determines the health benefit. (4A) This means that even if two probiotics have the same genus, they may have different strains that offer completely different health benefits to your child.
More is not necessarily better. Some probiotic brands offer supplements with hundreds of bacterial strains, however, clinical studies haven’t shown that multi-strain supplements are any more effective than single strain supplements. (5A) Given the variety of sources and the different individual effects of strains, it is difficult to make general recommendations about the minimum amount of bacteria needed for a health effect to occur. You may find that a single strain supplement with a lower concentration may be all your kid’s body needs to deliver the benefit you’re looking for.
Probiotics for children usually come in formats and flavors that make it easier for kids to take them daily. Additionally, they’re typically free from unnecessary ingredients. For example, Align Jr. is a gluten-free chewable probiotic with a kid-friendly cherry flavor, and no artificial sweeteners or colors.
What Should You Look For When Choosing The Best Probiotic for Kids?
Because of the importance of strain specificity and daily dosage, any package of probiotics labeled for kids should at a minimum, contain the following information: (6B/7A)
Genus, Species, and Strain:
- Remember that the strain determines the benefit, so probiotics for kids should clearly identify the strain or strains they contain. Ex: “Align Jr. contains Bifidobacterium longum 35624, a unique, patented, pure-strain probiotic ingredient.”
Dosage in CFUs, Suggested Serving Size, and Expiration Date:
- Packaging should ensure an effective level of live bacteria, through the “best by” or expiration date. Ex: “Align Jr. provides an effective level of bacteria (1 x 107 CFU) until at least the ‘best by’ date…”
- Any claims being made about health benefits should be based on human studies conducted on the product or specific strains in the product.
- Since they’re living microorganisms, probiotic products can lose viability if not stored properly. Some probiotics require refrigeration, while others do not. Ex: “In the case of Align Jr., refrigeration is not required, and it can be stored at room temperature. Align Jr. chewables come in specially designed blister packs that ensure bacteria remain alive and effective until the ‘best by’ date on the box.”
Corporate Contact Information:
- This is helpful if you ever have questions or concerns for the manufacturer of a kids probiotic.
Again, we recommend talking with your child’s pediatrician before starting probiotics for children. They’ll be able to help you make decisions about which is the best kids probiotic for you and your child based on your health
Want to learn more about Align Jr. Probiotic for Kids? Visit our FAQ page to see if Align Jr. is right for your child.
§Fortifies your digestive system 24/7 with continued daily use.*
‡Among Gastroenterologists who recommended a brand of probiotic in a ProVoice 2008-2018 survey.
‡Among Doctors who recommended a brand of probiotic in ProVoice 2013-2018 surveys.