If you think that probiotics are all about adult digestive issues such as IBS then think again! Joanna Lutyens from Optibac Probiotics is a nutritional therapist, writer, mother and wannabe yoga guru. And she’s here at Frame to tell us how bacteria can help parents to fight a myriad of childhood health issues including colic, eczema, asthma and immunity. There is even research connecting gut health with autism.
With the whole emphasis on sterilising everything in sight for our babies, the suitability of probiotics for children is sometimes questioned. However, we must not forget that these little bacteria are naturally found in our gut and are of utmost importance to not only our digestive health but also for immunity, allergies and a never ending number of other aspects of our physical and mental health. Gut bacteria is fast being dubbed by researchers as a new organ in itself.
So how can a bunch of bacteria protect my child’s health?
These little bacteria are very powerful. If we have the right number of the right bacteria, they will protect us from bacterial imbalance, inflammation and an issue called intestinal permeability. Intestinal permeability is when the gut wall is impaired and is no longer able to stop particles, which would normally stay in the gut, creeping through into the blood stream. If this happens it will cause a child’s immune system to react, and the expression of this reaction may be the development of allergies, eczema and asthma (1).
In addition to this, because 70% of a person’s immunity is based in the gut, if the gut is impaired, the immunity will also be lessened. Research has shown that certain strains of probiotics can reduce the risk of common childhood infections by 25% and hence a reduction in the number of days taken off school (2).
Colic is another common childhood health issue which may be lessened by probiotics. The exact factors that cause colic are still unclear, but growing research (2) shows gut bacteria may play a key role. And amazingly Autism is also now being linked to gut health. 1 in 4 children with autism are thought to have at least once chronic gastrointestinal symptom (4),(5).
Also, autistic children have been found to have more Clostridia (‘bad’ bacteria) in their gut than children without autism (6). Much more research is required in this area but it may be worth bearing in mind that probiotics re-inoculates a child’s gut with good bacteria and will therefore lessen the effect of the bad bacteria.
So how can I ensure my child has healthy gut bacteria?
Your child may have been born with a very healthy gut! There is research showing that during a natural birth the baby ingests its mother’s gut bacteria, which naturally colonises the baby’s own gut. How exactly is not entirely clear, but it would seem that the mother’s gut bacteria are given a signal before birth to travel to the vaginal tract and wait for the baby… how clever is that!?
If your baby was born by C-section, which is very often the case these days, this amazing natural process cannot happen. But don’t worry – there are many other factors that generate a child’s healthy bacteria. Breast feeding your child, for a start, will pass them good bacteria, which will colonise their gut. And the bacteria that surrounds us in our environment will also help to increase the diversity in our gut. So contrary to what we are led to believe, throw away the bottle of antibacterial spray! A decrease in outdoor play also reduces our child’s contact to what is naturally
good for them. And of course a huge increase in the number of antibiotics given to children destroys their gut bacteria, bad and good!
But if you feel your child’s gut bacteria may be impaired, or you are concerned about their immunity when going back to school, pick up a pack of OptiBac Probiotics ‘For babies & children’ next time you are at your favourite Frame class. You can also take probiotics yourself in the last trimester of pregnancy or when breastfeeding to top up the good bacteria you new baby is due to receive.
1. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 4. “Prebiotics in infants for prevention of allergic disease and food hypersensitivity” Authors: D.A. Osborn, J.K. Sinn
2.Cazzola, M. et al. (2010) Efficacy of a synbiotic supplementation in the prevention of common diseases in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study; Therapeutic Advances in Respiratory Disease 0(0) pp. 1-8
3.Indrio F, Di Mauro A, Riezzo G et al. (2014) Prophylactic Use of a Probiotic in the Prevention of Colic, Regurgitation, and Functional Constipation: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatr. 168:228-233.
4. Finegold. SM. et al (2002) Gastrointestinal microflora studies in late-onset autism. Clinical Infectious Diseases 35: S6-516.
5. Parracho H. et al (2005) Differences between the gut microflora of children with autistic spectrum disorders and that of healthy children. Journal of Medical Microbiology 54: 987 – 991
6.Song, Yuli. et al (2004) Real-Time PCR Quantitation of Clostridia in Feces of Autistic Children. Appl Enciron Microbiol 70(11): 6459-6465.