Learn exactly what probiotics are, how they may help keep us healthy, and what to look for when choosing probiotics for kids.
Probiotics for Kids
Probiotics are basically “good” bacteria that, when taken as a supplement or in foods like yogurt, may help keep kids guts and digestive tracts healthy and working well. (And also help them recover from bouts with upset tummies, particularly after a course of antibiotics.) Over the last few years, the supplement market has been flooded by options, many of which make all sorts of bold health claims, so here’s what you need to know about how probiotics work and whether your child may benefit from one.
TIP: Always check in with your child’s pediatrician when considering a supplement or vitamin for your kids.
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Probiotics for Toddlers
Constipation, diarrhea, upset tummy. If you’ve got a toddler who is prone to stomach issues (raising hand) you know how awful it can be. That’s one of the reasons probiotics‚ or supplements that include healthy bacteria—have gotten so popular. Our kids (and our own!) guts are made up of a microbiome of different bacteria that may play a role in both digestive and overall health.
Since our guts have both good and bacteria in them, sometimes the balance can get thrown off by things like illness, an infection, or even antibiotics and taking a probiotic can help restore order and make your kids feel better.
What You Need to Know
Most kids don’t need a probiotic supplement, and can likely boost their gut health through eating a balanced diet that includes natural probiotics like yogurt, kefir, drinkable yogurt, and other cultured foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. (Look for “live cultures” on the label.)
But if your child seems prone to upset tummies, or other issues with their digestive system, it might be worth trying a daily supplement to prevent issues or just taking one to help resolve issues when they arise.
Although not everyone agrees how much good probiotics do for the immune system or in terms of health benefits, they are generally considered safe. Just make sure you buy from a reputable company since these supplements aren’t regulated from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, of course, touch base with your pediatrician to make sure she doesn’t have any concerns specific to your child.
Frequently Asked Questions
In general, kids don’t need to take a probiotic. You can promote good gut health by eating a balanced diet that includes lots of fresh fruits and veggies—which have prebiotics in their fiber, which are also helpful in the mix. Plus foods with natural probiotics like yogurt, kefir, and fermented or cultured foods. However, if your child is having stomach problems and/or has recently been on antibiotics probiotics are safe and definitely worth trying (after a chat with your pediatrician, of course).
Some research shows that taking probiotics or supplements with healthy bacteria can help with common childhood digestive issues like constipation and diarrhea. They can also help alleviate tummy problems caused by taking antibiotics, which can damage a child’s “good” gut bacteria.
Additionally, some experts believe probiotics and a healthy gut biome may help kids with other medical concerns like asthma and eczema.
It’s probably not harmful, but it also may not be necessary. Researchers are still learning more about probiotics, and it’s unclear at this point if taking them regularly to promote overall wellness is effective for children especially since their gut flora is still developing. (Also they can be very expensive to give daily.)
Favorite Product Picks
And remember to keep these out of reach—kids can’t tell the difference between gummy vitamins or probiotics and gummy candy or fruit snacks, so we want to make sure they’re safely stored. Check in with your pediatrician before starting a probiotic.
Culturelle Kids Purely Probiotics Packet
If chewables and gummies won’t work for your kids, these powdered packets are a great alternative. The main probiotic strains in Culturelle’s probiotics is Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), which has been studied extensively and is thought to be particularly effective.
Each pouch contains one dose of probiotic powders, and can be mixed into cold smoothies or applesauce or whatever your kiddo likes. (This option is also good for kids starting at age 1.)
Renew Life Ultimate Flora Kids Probiotics
From one of the leading probiotic companies, this option uses 6 strains of healthy bacteria that were specifically chosen to help kids with digestion and tummy troubles. The bear-shaped, chewable tablets are recommended for ages 2 and up.
NOW Supplements Berry Dophilus Kids Chewables
The kid’s version of this brand’s popular BerryDophilus product comes packed with 10 different strains of bacteria. These strains are meant to help with tummy troubles, of course, but they also may aid in nutrient absorption. Kids ages 1 and up can take this chewable tablet–although you’ll want to break it up into food depending on age since it could be harder for younger kids to chew.
Garden of Life Probiotics Organic Kids
If you prefer an organic probiotic, this one might be for you. These chewable tablets not only have the live bacteria (5 billion units, to be exact!) and strains (14 of ‘em!) you’ll want, but they also add in some vitamin C and D for good measure. (If you give a multivitamin, check the dosages to make sure you aren’t giving more than is recommended.) Plus, unlike some other probiotics, these don’t need to be refrigerated which is convenient.
Jarrow Formulas Yum-Yum Dophilus
These probiotics have 1 billion organisms from 4 different strains that have been shown to keep intestinal flora balanced and kids feeling good. Another chewable option–yes, a lot of probiotics for kids come in this form–these ones have a raspberry flavor that kids ages 2 and up will love. They also come shipped in sustainable packaging with reusable ice packs.
Olly Kids Probiotic and Prebiotic
These particular gummies have 500 million active bacteria, plus a dose of prebiotics (fiber that helps out your good bacteria) and peppermint (which is known to soothe stomachs, too). They’re recommended for ages 2 and up.
To learn more about all types of multivitamins and supplements, check out this guide to toddler vitamins.
This post was first published February 2021.