What are Probiotics and Why are they important for Children?

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Probiotics are simply bacteria we consume that benefit our gastrointestinal tract, also known as our gut. Probiotics are the next revolution when it comes to health. Why is that? To understand the importance of probiotics, we must first understand the importance of your gut. Our gut is home to trillions of bacterial cells. It is essentially an ecological community of ‘good’ bacteria, ‘bad’ bacteria, viruses, and fungus. A balanced gut is crucial to maintaining optimal health. This is because the gut microbiota interacts with every cell in our body, helping us live a healthy, wholesome life. It may come as a surprise to some, but our gut is linked to nearly every aspect of our well-being, from immune function, metabolism, skin, and even to our mental health.

Disruption to the balance of the intestinal bacteria in the gut has also been linked to anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. For children, a healthy balanced gut is vital to the healthy development of their immune system. These microbes begin residing within the baby’s intestines shortly after birth, and it is this good bacteria that destroys and removes potential pathogens or and harmful bacteria. The gut also contains plasma cells that help create antibodies to fight infections, making it a huge part of our immune system. The balance in this delicate ecosystem can be disrupted in our children’s bodies by a necessary dose of antibiotics or common digestive issues such as diarrhea and constipation. A multitude of reasons such as a poor diet, toxic environment, and so forth can also upset the gut microbiome.

Tips for Healthy Snacks for Kids

Let your kids have some fun with food; healthy eating need not be boring: Use healthy alternatives like olive oil to sauté and fry. Switch to whole grain for dishes such as multigrain pizza, millet cakes, or ragi dosa. Add seasonal fruits in sweet treats such as mango muffins, whole wheat pancakes with cherries, or make a delicious crumble. Substitute cheese and mayonnaise with homemade spreads like hung-curd and hummus.

The role played by probiotics is what makes them so valuable – they help restore the balance of the good bacteria in the gut. They are hugely beneficial to help us regulate our health. While probiotics are still being researched, current results show that taking probiotics can relieve constipation, diarrhea, and gas for our little ones. They also improve immunity, and when given during cold, cough, and illnesses such as ear infections, can help shorten the intensity and duration of the illness. Giving infants probiotics in the first three months of life may help prevent colic too. So how do we give our children probiotics? Foods such as yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, miso, and pickles contain probiotics. As a nutritionist, I am a huge advocate of getting nutrients naturally from food. However, in the case of probiotics, children may not be able to get enough from foods alone, which is why supplements should be considered. It is important not to confuse probiotics with prebiotics – probiotics are the live cultures themselves, whereas prebiotics is foods that feed healthy bacteria. They are the non-digestible part of foods like bananas, onions, and garlic, leeks, asparagus, oats, and many others. Thus, taking care of our gut is more important than we often realize. Probiotics can provide major health benefits, but it’s also important to support our gut health by eating a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. In addition, regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and adequate rest are all truly important factors to maintain a healthy gut. Note: Kindly note that this is meant to be an informative reference point and does not replace the consultation of a pediatrician.

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