Children Need Probiotics For Better Gut Health
Do kids need probiotics? Is it important for children to take probiotic supplements or eat probiotic foods? How about kombucha? Should kids be drinking kombucha or other fermented drinks? This is definitely one of the top 5 questions I receive when a parent wants to know whether it's important for their son or daughter to take probiotics or drink Jared's Kombucha or Jared's Kefir Soda. And in 90% of the situations, my response is always the same... a definite "yes".
It's important for me to throw a couple of caveats in there before I give a resounding "yes" (every family is different in terms of what they choose to eat and how they provide for their children), but from an overall perspective, a strong healthy gut is vitally important to a child during it's growing years, and probiotics and fermented foods can assist in that.
A Child's Gut Health Can Be Determined At Birth
But let's start from the beginning, literally. A child is provided a significant amount of probiotics, and really a firm foundation of strong gut health, depending on their method of birth. If a child is born vaginally, a healthy amount of good bacterial make up is passed from mother to child via the birth canal. This goes a long way to supporting a healthy immune system later in life, but especially during the first few years. But what about if a child is born via cesarean section? Although it's not the ultimate determining factor, a c-section born child can lack some healthy bacterial components and should play into how a parent approaches their gut health later on as they age. This article is not intending to go into great detail about the bacterial make up of children during child birth (I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV. :-)), but let's look at how a strong immune system, or lack thereof of one, can affect a child's behavior.
If your child has developed lots of allergies or food intolerance, whether that's by being in a constant case of coughing fits, habitual lethargy, or having those yearly allergy attacks in the spring and fall, then you might want to look at whether their immune system has been compromised and should be strengthened via probiotics or fermented foods. Your immune system is located primarily in your gut and the strength of your gut tells the rest of your body how healthy you are overall. So if your child has numerous bouts of sickness or yearly and habitual allergic reactions, you might want to look into a probiotic regimen or begin making your own probiotic foods or purchasing fermented foods and drinks from the store.
"If your child has season allergies or has a yearly run of stuffy noses around spring and fall, it may be a immune system response that should be addressed by taking probiotics".
Let's say you've decided to incorporate probiotics into your family's diet, where do you begin? The first question most people have is, "Where can I get probiotics?" I've found that a majority of the time when people begin to look into probiotics, they tend to gravitate towards probiotics supplements or pills, but that's not really the best option and generally the default, but I'm here to tell you if you want to really get the most bang for your buck (and we're talking 10 to 100 to 1000 more effective), you should really consider supplementing with probiotic foods and drinks. This is a much more powerful tool that trying to determine which supplement is the best or what the heck is the CFU count of the probiotic pill supplements you find at the store. After determining that foods are the way you want to go, what's next?
You can go in to pretty much every "health food" grocery store and find a section/aisle/refrigerated area dedicated to fermented foods. I've seen some of the larger stores that have everything from fruits, vegetables, drinks, yogurts, dairy foods, and condiments to some of the smaller stores that have only yogurts and pickles. The key is to look for and find those foods that have phrases on the package like "live active cultures" or "probiotic" or "naturally fermented". It's also very important to check the ingredient list. Most people don't realize that just because they are pickles or sauerkraut doesn't mean they are fermented or probiotic. If the ingredient list contains sugars or vinegar, or any type of strange sounding "chemical" name, I would stay away. No naturally fermented food or drink is ever created in a lab.
The bottom line is that there is plenty of fermented food in the stores. For fun and an interesting experience, take your child and show them the colorful fermented foods in the jars. There is more nowadays than just sauerkraut or pickles. If your child is a finicky eater, head over to the beverage section which probably contains several probiotic drinks like kombucha or kefir as well. Tell them the flavors and juices and read the ingredient lists; make it fun for them. The wonderful thing about fermented foods is that they are generally more vibrant in color than pasteurized or commercially created foods, so it's a great opportunity to discuss foods and how they can nourish your body through the many different colors of the rainbow found in foods. The key is simply to bring them. As my children became older, we played different games to get them to find things in the fermented foods section, and as odd as it may seem, there can be nothing bad that comes from discussing foods with children.
How Do Kids Take Probiotics?
So how do kids get their supply of probiotics? What I wouldn't do is take them to the probiotic supplement section to decide on the types of products with their clever marketing you should buy. Those products are geared with kids in mind and what kinds would like, so most of those products have sweeteners and unnatural flavors and colors to entice kids to choose them based on getting them to believe they are eating candy. But in order to get that "candy" idea in their heads, you'll find that sugar is quite prevalent in those supplements. Pick up one of the probiotic gummies or vitamins and read the ingredient list. You'll see that they all have sugars, and if you are trying to limit the amount of sugars your child eats as I did, many kids' supplements contain a lot of hidden sugars.
In today's day and age and with the amount of unnecessary and processed foods kids readily have available to them that children should take probiotics or consume a significant amount of fermented foods. Probiotics and fermented foods can help children maintain a strong healthy gut and put them on the path to improved digestive health and a strong immune system. It's important for children to understand how foods (especially natural ones) can power them through their day physically and mentally. Including a probiotic regimen or daily portions of fermented foods and drinks will go a long way towards doing that. And with the amount of choices available, there is bound to be one food or drink your child will enjoy, even if they are the pickiest of eaters.
Note: If you enjoyed this article and can take a few tips on how to incorporate probiotics into your child's diet, hit the "like" button before. Or better yet, if you have friends with children, share this article with them.
Or if you want your own personal guide you can use the next time you buy probiotic supplements, you can download my own personal guide.
Jared Toay is a master fermenter who has a passion for making fermented foods, probiotic drinks, probiotic-filled foods, and gut-healthy snacks. If you want a list of his 73 fermented foods recipe to include in your own family's diet, you can download it free by clicking here: http://bit.ly/73Ferments
“Because probiotics sound so much better than bacteria infested"
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I am just someone who likes to talk about probiotics, kombucha, and is obsessively passionate about gut health and digestion, My personal mission is to try to ferment just about anything food related. This blog is a continuous flow of those thoughts on that journey.