For all those times your mom told you "you are what you eat," she may have been on to something. In recent years, research has been drawing closer and closer connections to gut health and healthy skin and brain development—particularly those rapidly developing brains found in children and babies.
One of the simplest ways to positively affect gut health is by introducing probiotics into the diet, either through naturally probiotic-rich sources (like yogurt, kefir, or fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi) or with supplements. And lately, science has been pointing to more and more benefits for tiny bellies as well.
Note: It is not recommended to give probiotics to children with compromised immune systems, as they can experience infection, gas and bloating, and other serious side effects. Talk to your child's pediatrician before giving your child probiotics if you have any concerns.
For most children, though, research tends to point to positive effects of increasing their probiotic consumption. Here are five benefits:
1. It can benefit babies even before they're born.
A study published earlier this year found that probiotics can lower the risk of pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and premature birth, particularly when consumed in the first and third trimesters. When the pregnant women were given probiotic-rich milk late in pregnancy, it lowered their preeclampsia risk by 20%. Taking probiotics early in pregnancy reduced preterm delivery risk by between 11 to 27%. Talk about giving your baby a healthy start.
2. Probiotics can provide relief to babies with colic
The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study that found that the probiotic strain Lactobacillus reuteri was more effective than a placebo at treating colic in babies. In fact, the "probiotic group was almost twice as likely as the placebo group to experience treatment success" at the testing time points (day zero, seven, 14, and 21). The babies fed probiotics cried significantly less than their placebo counterparts. (Can we get a 🙌🙌🙌?) Some studies have even found that probiotics occur naturally in breast milk to protect babies from inflammation and infection—further proof that breast milk is basically magic.
3. Yogurt reduces your baby's risk of developing eczema and allergies
A New Zealand research team recently discovered that eating yogurt daily by age one decreased eczema and allergies in babies by up to 70%. While the AAP recommends waiting to introduce cow's milk to a baby's diet until age one, other milk-based products like cheese and yogurt are safe earlier. And the new study found that the more regularly yogurt was served, the greater the effect at preventing allergies. Pass the yogurt, please!
4. Probiotics could help ease diarrhea symptoms
Infants and children who are given probiotic foods (particularly yogurt) while suffering from acute viral gastroenteritis experienced a shorter duration of symptoms by about one day. Additionally, an American Family Physician review found that they can be helpful in treating inflammatory bowel disease. The effects can be similar for adults, too, so feel free to steal a few spoonfuls if your belly is bothering you.
5. Probiotics can help reduce risk of upper respiratory tract infections
A 2016 study found that probiotics outperformed placebos in reducing the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections—as well as the number of days absent from daycare or school. And considering RTIs are one of the most common health issues experienced by children around the world, that can help us all breathe a little easier.
This article is sponsored by Califia Farms. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.