Advice from Dr. B

Pediatrician's Perspective

Children’s Digestive Health and Probiotics

Common childhood bowel conditions include constipation and diarrhea. This is largely because of a developing digestive system in the early childhood years being sensitive to changes in the child’s dietary intake. For example, a healthy child consuming large quantities of juice on a regular basis can lead to constant diarrhea. Another example of this is a toddler consuming large quantities of whole milk or bananas that can lead to chronic constipation. In addition to keeping a well-balanced diet high in fiber and adequate hydration, probiotics can be used to maintain a healthy digestive system. All healthy and well-functioning digestive systems have a normal amount of “good” bacteria to help digest food properly. Certain strains of probiotics help to accomplish this by maintaining the balance of “good” bacteria. This aids in optimal digestion and leads to better absorption of nutrients and proper, efficient elimination of waste. Furthermore, studies have shown that overall digestive comfort in infants, such as a decrease in regurgitation and colic, has been found with the use of certain strains of probiotics.

As a result of these findings, healthcare providers are including probiotics as part of their routine management of the common pediatric digestive ailments such as acute diarrhea, constipation, reflux and colic, and diarrhea associated with antibiotic use. Probiotics can help decrease the symptoms associated with these conditions and even shorten the course of these illnesses. If your infant or child suffers from any of the problems listed above, discuss them with your family pediatrician. Providing them with your child’s history of digestive patterns as well as eating and bowel habits will help you both arrive at a plan of treatment that best suits your child’s needs. With carefully planned changes in diet, timing or frequency of feeding and the introduction of probiotics, your child can achieve optimal digestive health and nutritional absorption and, in turn, physical and psychological well-being. If your pediatrician does recommend a probiotic, remember to select one with product features such as product-form and taste that your child enjoys, as the course of treatment may last several days or weeks. Also, look for a probiotic that is easy for you (mom or dad) to administer.

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