The stomach is home to a wide variety of flora or microbes. Some of these microorganisms are harmful and play contributing roles in digestive issues and gastrointestinal distress. To help balance the effects of these "bad bacteria," the gut is also home to healthy bacteria. These microbes assist with digestion and help to keep the harmful microorganisms in check. These "good" bacteria are known as probiotics. A number of external and internal problems can cause an imbalance in the gut, and when "bad" bacteria out number probiotics, children may be at risk for developing digestive concerns.
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There is some research that suggests that probiotic supplements can promote healthy digestion. In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published the findings of a study that discussed the use of probiotics in children with viral diarrhea. Viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics. This often increases the length of time that symptoms are experienced. The AAP's study found that probiotics shortened the duration of viral diarrhea when supplementation began as soon as symptoms appeared. More research is needed to confirm the results.
What Are Probiotics Good For?
Many common childhood illnesses are treated with antibiotics. Research has demonstrated that while antibiotics help fight the bacteria that causes these illnesses, they often cause gastrointestinal side effects related to the destruction of probiotics in the gastrointestinal flora. Some doctors recommend that children begin taking probiotics along with antibiotics or use them after a course of antibiotic treatment to counteract this destruction and help restore the natural balance of flora in the intestinal tract.
How Can I Get Probiotics?
Probiotics are found in some foods, including yogurt. It can be difficult to get children to consume these foods due to personal preferences and taste. Fortunately, there are alternatives that are available to provide probiotics to children. Manufacturers produce probiotic products specifically formulated for children that are pleasantly flavored and easy for children to take. drugstore.com has many different probiotic supplements for children, with something for every specific dietary need.
Should My Child Take Probiotics?
Before giving your child a probiotic supplement, be sure to discuss the matter with a pediatrician. Only a medical professional can tell you if it's safe for your child to take a probiotic on a regular basis or to assist with symptoms of an illness or medical condition.