Probiotics are good bacteria or microorganisms that can be found in certain foods and supplements. There are two strains of probiotics, namely, lactobacillus and bifidobacterium.
They are often referred to as "healthy germs" in today's health trends. This is because they can provide your body with several health benefits, such as a healthy gastrointestinal tract, improved digestion, and a more robust immune system. They can also reduce depression and promote a healthy heart.
Probiotics can be found more commonly in yogurt or probiotic cultured milk drinks. But they can also be found in vegan fermented foods, such as kimchi, kefir, unpasteurized pickles, and pickled vegetables.
Prebiotics, on the other hand, are substances that come from fiber or certain types of carbs. They feed the healthy bacteria in your body. The gut bacteria, also known as gut flora or gut microbiota, eat the prebiotics you consume. Humans can't digest these types of fiber, but your gut bacteria can. It’s also important to note that a child’s digestive system is not yet fully developed compared to an adult, which means children need prebiotics more to help their bodies digest the healthy bacteria they consume.
They can be sourced from various foods, including legumes, dandelion greens, oats, berries, bananas, asparagus, leeks, and onions.
Eating a balanced amount of probiotics and prebiotics can help you balance good and bad gut bacteria. In general, daily intake of probiotics and prebiotics can result in a healthier digestive system.
What are the Sources of Natural Probiotics?
There are several foods where natural probiotics can be sourced.
Non-dairy yogurts are made from soy or nut milk and are equally rich in probiotics as traditional dairy-based yogurts. Friendly bacteria ferment the milk, and it is one of the best and most common sources of probiotics. Plant-based yogurt can provide several health benefits and is packed with calcium, protein, and fiber apart from probiotics. It is also suitable for lactose-intolerant people. In children, yogurt can relieve diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
However, not all yogurt contains live probiotics because some live cultures may have been killed during the pasteurization process. So make sure to choose those with active bacteria. Also, note the sugar content while buying these plant-based yogurts for your young ones.
Water Kefir is a probiotic drink that is made by adding water kefir grains, cultures of lactic acid bacteria, yeast and sugar water, juice, or coconut water. It’s a healthy fermented gluten-free drink that is suitable for people with lactose intolerance. It improves gut health, clears the skin, and energizes the body.
Pickles are vegetables, typically cucumbers, marinated in a solution of salt and water. Their present lactic acid bacteria ferment the cucumbers and make them sour. Pickles that are fermented with vinegar do not have live bacteria in them.
Besides probiotics, pickles are also packed with vitamin K and are low in calories. However, their salt content is pretty high. So you should still observe portion control when eating pickles.
Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning made by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji, a type of fungus. You can also make it by mixing soybeans with rice, seaweed, barley, and other ingredients.
A popular dish that uses this seasoning is miso soup, a traditional Japanese breakfast.
Miso is also a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin K, manganese, and copper. According to research, miso can also reduce the risk of breast cancer and stroke. However, miso does contain considerable salt and may not be suitable for everyone.
Kimchi is a popular Korean fermented side dish. It is spicy and sour, and it can go well with almost any main course.
Traditional kimchi has cabbage as its main ingredient, but it can also include carrots and other vegetables. The cabbage is fermented with a mix of spices like red chili pepper flakes, garlic, ginger, scallions, and salt. The longer the kimchi is fermented, the more flavorful it gets.
Its lactic acid bacteria can help with digestion. It can also provide vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin K, vitamin B2, and iron.
Tempeh is made by fermenting soybeans. It’s very similar to tofu but richer in proteins and probiotics. It’s also loaded with vitamin B, calcium, manganese, and iron. Tempeh has a nutty and salty flavor with a firm texture making it very versatile that it can be used in a variety of dishes like salads, stir-fries, sandwiches, and burgers.
Are Probiotics Safe for Children?
Yes, probiotics are widely considered safe for infants and toddlers. Several researchers found various health benefits probiotics can provide to children. In one study, researchers found that kids who take probiotics every day are less likely to have digestive problems like colic, constipation and diarrhea, and respiratory problems. Other studies found that probiotics may reduce the risk of autoimmune diseases, allergies, and asthma. It is also found that probiotics can prevent specific infections.
Probiotics also help prevent diarrhea caused by antibiotics, which is why pediatricians recommend taking probiotics when kids are on antibiotics.
Overall, probiotics are safe, but asking your kid's pediatrician for advice is always recommended.
Should Children Take Probiotics Supplements?
With the potential health benefits of probiotics, probiotic supplements are safe for children. They not only come in tablets but also powdered probiotics and liquid drops.
But does your child need it? The short answer to that is Yes. While you can promote probiotics naturally in your child by encouraging them to eat healthy, unprocessed foods, sometimes it’s not enough. Adding organic probiotic supplements to your child’s diet would help build their microbiome. This will ensure your kid develops a healthy digestive system and a stronger immune system. You can also complement these supplements by introducing other natural health supplements for your kid’s holistic wellness. So go for it and give your child a healthy and wholesome life.