How Probiotics Are Affecting Your Children
The gut is often thought of as simply a tube running through our body. Although this may be functionally true, the health of this “tube” and the mix of organisms that live along its surface has a huge impact on how our body responds to food and other stimuli.
YOUR GUT IS A BATTLEFIELD
As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” To be more accurate, it should be, “You are what you absorb from what you eat.” Or even better, “You become what you absorb,” when you consider that what you absorb from your food is what’s incorporated into your body’s cells. In addition, you have a world of microorganisms – estimated to weigh between 3-6 pounds – that live along your GI tract.
There is, however, a fixed number of bacteria that can live in your gut, so the number stays relatively constant. What can change is the mix of “good” and “bad” bacteria, and it does so constantly based on what you eat and a number of other factors.
Consider the gut to be a battlefield – the lining of the gut is the frontline – where a battle between good and bad bacteria is constantly going on.
To maintain the integrity of the battle’s front line, and to allow us to absorb the nutrients we ingest, we need to make sure we have enough of the “good” bacteria to win the war against the “bad” bacteria.
SENDING IN REINFORCEMENTS
We don’t create the bacteria in our gut – collectively known as the microbiome – it must come from somewhere else. Our original bacterial mix came from our mother at birth. But after that, our environment and our diet supply us with the bacterial mix that makes up our microbiome.
Good bacteria originates from a variety of food sources – such as fermented foods – but sometimes we need reinforcements in the form of a probiotic supplement.
When you remember that the number of bacteria making up the microbiome is fairly fixed – there can only be so many troops on the battlefield – then the more good bacteria you can introduce, the stronger the front line gets.*
PROTECTING THE YOUTH
Dietary diversity plays a significant role in the health of our microbiome – if we eat many different kinds of foods, then we encounter more strains of bacteria. Youth diets tend to lack the variety of a complex adult diet, which limits the strains of “good” bacteria children will encounter, which in turn increases the need to introduce these strains through a supplemental probiotic.*
Recently, DNA testing of the microbiome’s bacterial mix has become available. This testing can identify the amounts and types of bacteria that reside in our gut. And the amounts and types of bacteria that researchers are finding relate to a host of conditions within the body.
For example, Yale University researchers found a significant difference between the microbiome of children who are lean and children who are obese. They observed that the microbiome of obese children more easily metabolize carbohydrates.
PROBIOTICS AND DIARRHEA
Multiple clinical trials are examining the role of probiotics in reducing the duration of various stomach conditions and ailments.*
Researchers continue to look at the impact of probiotics on minimizing the length of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and what specific strains of bacteria are beneficial in managing travel-induced diarrhea.*
PROBIOTICS AND RESPIRATORY HEALTH
Recent research has investigated the potential of a positive impact of certain bacteria on the respiratory health of children and athletes.*
PROBIOTICS AND BRAIN HEALTH
We often refer to having "butterflies" in our stomach when having to do something in public or relying on a "gut feeling" when making a decision. This is actually true for a valid reason – the gut and the brain are connected via the nervous system and the biochemicals that gut bacteria make.
The mix of bacteria in the stomach can have a big impact on which messages the brain receives from the gut.* This finding is allowing researchers to look at this exciting pathway – known as the gut-brain axis – and how it affects many outcomes in the brain. For example, research at Ohio State University is exploring the impact of gut health on the temperament of young children.*
As the availability of microbiome testing increases, researchers will be able to learn more about which specific strains of bacteria can impact certain functions in the body. These advancements will lead to an even better understanding of “You are what you eat.”
Until then, you can provide your gut with an excellent mix of “good” bacteria through a variety of fermented foods and from a robust probiotic supplement that will help you win the battle of good versus bad in your gut.*
1. Goffredo M, Mass K, Parks EJ, et al. Role of gut microbiota and short chain fatty acids in modulating energy harvest and fat partitioning in youth. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2016;101(11):4367-4376.
2. Guarino A, Guandalini S, Lo Vecchio A. Probiotics for prevention and treatment of diarrhea. J Clin Gastroenterol 2015;49:S37-S45. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0000000000000349.
3. Guarino A, Ashkenazi S, Gendrel D, et al. European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition/European Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases evidence-based guidelines for the management of acute gastroenteritis in children in Europe: update 2014. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2014;59(1):132-152. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000000375.
4. McFarland LV. Meta-analysis of probiotics for the prevention of traveler's diarrhea. Travel Med Infect Dis 2007;5(2):97-105.
5. Goldenberg JZ, Lytvyn L, Steurich J, et al. Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2015;(12):CD004827. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004827.pub4.
6. Popova M, Molimard P, Courau S, et al. Beneficial effects of probiotics in upper respiratory tract infections and their mechanical actions to antagonize pathogens. J Appl Microbiol 2012;113(6):1305-1318. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2012.05394.x.
7. Christian LM, Galley JD, Hade EM, et al. Gut microbiome composition is associated with temperament during early childhood. Brain Behav Immun 2015;45:118-127. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2014.10.018.