Featured, Nutrition

Probiotics For Infants

Probiotics have become a widely popular supplement over the past several years– individuals whether they are adults supplementing their diet with these probiotics, or they are parents supplementing their children’s diets with these probiotics.  In each instance, they have found there to be significant benefit in adding these probiotics into their lives.  Specifically, there is a promising research that suggests the addition of probiotics for infant’s diets can help the development of their intestinal tract.

Also, the addition of probiotics can help to prevent specific medical conditions that have the potential to interfere with their ability to thrive.

First, it is imperative to understand what probiotics are, the anatomy and physiology behind the infant’s intestinal development, and the benefits of these probiotics on specific medical conditions present in infants.

Why Is It Important To Add Probiotics To An Infants Diet?

  1. Help in the development of the infant’s intestinal tract.
  1. Prevent the development of allergies both seasonal and food.
  1. Prevent specific medical conditions from developing in infants.

Probiotics are becoming a very important part of keeping an individual healthy whether it be a fully developed adult, or a developing infant. Therefore, let’s jump right in and begin examining the different reasons probiotics are now being suggested as a supplement to begin adding into an infant’s diet.

We will also examine the many benefits that these supplements can have when added correctly.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are considered to be the good bacteria or the good yeast that replaces or replenishes the good bacteria or yeast that is lost or removed for some reason. These probiotics when supplemented correctly will replace the good bacteria or good yeast that is naturally present in the gastrointestinal system.

There are hundreds of millions, if not billions of bacteria that take up residence in the gastrointestinal tract.  The gastrointestinal tract begins with the mouth and ends with the anus. The majority of these bacteria is present in the intestinal tract, including both the large intestines and the small intestines. The average adult has approximately twenty feet of small intestines, and approximately five feet of large intestines. Therefore, the total number of intestines present in the average adult is greater than twenty-five feet in total length.

stomach_2As one can see, there is a lot of area for bacteria to thrive.  The issue is that there is ample opportunity, not only for the good bacteria to live, but also for the bad bacteria to overgrow and cause illness. What happens is in order to maintain a healthy and regulated intestinal tract; there must be a balance of good and bad bacteria.  If there is an imbalance of this good and bad bacteria, then illnesses can occur.

The reason that it is important to add these probiotics is to make sure that with all the outside influences that constantly interfere with the appropriate regulation of the gut, that the balance of good bacteria versus bad bacteria is maintained. These probiotics are the good bacteria or the good yeast, that acts to replenish the good bacteria or yeast that is lost for a variety of reasons.

By being able to replenish these good bacteria or good yeast, it helps to prevent medical conditions from developing, as well as helps to keep the gut regulated and working properly.

Probiotics are:

  1. The good bacteria in the gut or the good yeast that is present in the gut.
  1. Probiotics are live cultures: bacteria or yeast.
  1. Probiotics regulate the gastrointestinal system.

Now that we understand how probiotics function, and the mechanism in which they replace the good bacteria; it is essential that we take a look at the different strains of bacteria or yeast that have been proven effective.

What Are The Different Types of Probiotics?

There are many different types of probiotics that are constantly being researched and being proven to offer benefits to all age ranges.

Two of the main types of bacterial cultures that are widely popular are:  Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.

Saccharomyces Boulardii is also a type of probiotic, but it differs from the two listed above, because Saccharomyces Boulardii is an active live yeast culture, rather than an active live bacterial culture.

These are just a few of the different types of strains that are present in many of the probiotics on your grocery shelf. Probiotics can also be found supplemented into specific foods.  It is often found naturally in certain foods as well.

Types Of Probiotic Strains:

  1. Lactobacillus
  1. Bifidobacterium
  1. Saccharomyces Boulardii

Lactobacillus is a live bacterial culture strain that is found in many foods or added in other supplemental forms including yogurt.

Bifidobacterium is a live bacterial culture strain that is found in many food sources including dairy.

Saccharomyces Boulardii is a live yeast culture that is found in supplements and offers added benefits.

Bacteria_Names_Graphic2b_0Therefore, remember when you are looking for a specific type of probiotic strain there are several factors to consider.  Those factors include:  live bacterial or yeast culture, at least twenty billion Colony Forming Units, and enteric coating.

Adding a probiotic supplement to one’s diet is only the beginning.  If the probiotic is not suited to handle the harsh acidic environment of the stomach, then it will not be able to survive. If the probiotic is unable to survive, and make its way into the intestinal tract then the probiotic will not be of any value. Therefore, it is essential that you not only start off with a live culture, but that the live culture is able to make it through the acidic environment of the stomach.

The way the probiotic can survive the acidic environment of the stomach is to make sure that it is enteric coated. Enteric coated means that there is a coating on the supplement that prevents the breakdown of the substance under the harsh acidic conditions. This allows the live culture to survive and provide the benefits it’s destined to perform.

Finally, if there is not enough Colony Forming Units then there is little chance that the right amount of bacterial strain will be able to function properly. Thus, there has to be at least twenty billion Colony Forming Units in order to ensure that there will be enough probiotic to replenish the good bacteria, and result in the benefits it promises.

What Are The Main Determinants When Choosing A Probiotic?

  1. Choose the appropriate live bacterial or live yeast culture strain.
  1. Make sure that the supplement is enteric coated.
  1. The bacterial culture or yeast culture must have at least twenty billion Colony Forming Units.

If you follow these guidelines when choosing a probiotic, you will have the highest chance of receiving the benefits that are claimed by these specific supplements and foods.

Now that we have established what probiotics are, and how to choose the correct probiotics, let’s move into the anatomy of the infants and the medical conditions that these probiotics have been shown to benefit.

Anatomy and Physiology of an Infant’s Gastrointestinal Tract

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define an infant as being from the age of birth to the age of one year.  The term infant has many different definitions, but the main and standardized definition that has been assigned by the CDC is widely accepted among the medical community.

Therefore, for the purpose of this article when referring to an infant refers to the age range of birth to one year of age.

baby-gi-tract-2When a baby is born, their gastrointestinal tract is not fully developed.  In simple terms, the babies’ gastrointestinal system lacks specific enzymes and specific maturity that allows for digestion. The gastrointestinal system is not only responsible for digestion, but also contains its own nervous system called the enteric nervous system.

This enteric nervous system is responsible for regulating the gut and making sure the food propels through the intestinal system properly. So, when a baby is born it is understandable that the gut is not fully developed, and thus as the baby grows so does the development of the gastrointestinal system.

There are still many developing researchers that say probiotics can help regulate the gastrointestinal system while it is developing. Probiotics can help to maintain the balance of the good bacteria in the new digestive system of these infants. While there are promising results, anytime any supplement is added to anyone’s diet, let alone an infant’s diet, it is essential to speak with your pediatrician in order to determine what is best for your infant’s diet.

Many studies are showing promising results in regulating the following:  immune system, gastrointestinal tract, diarrhea, constipation, allergies, colic, skin rashes, and other digestive irregularities.

What Medical Conditions and/or Symptoms Are The Addition Of Probiotics Beneficial?

  1. Digestive/Gut Irregularities:
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases: Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis
  • Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea
  • Infectious Diarrhea
  1. Skin Rashes
  1. Colic
  1. Allergies

Now that we have established that an infant is classified as up to one year in age, and that the infant’s gastrointestinal tract is under development once he or she is born, we can now discuss the medical conditions that these probiotics can impact.

Supplementing Probiotics In Infants Can Help Combat Many Medical Conditions:

Studies and peer reviewed articles are hard to come by when looking for concrete scientific evidence that shows probiotics as being a responsible source of regulating the gastrointestinal tract as well as preventing other medical illnesses. However, there are many researchers and scientists that are working hard to prove the relationship between science and probiotics. Therefore, when discussing the following, it is important to remember that these are promising results.

Every infant is different and therefore must speak with their healthcare provider to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks. Promising studies show that the supplementation of probiotics into an infant’s diet can help in infants who are experiencing colic.

One promising study does show that the addition of specific stains of probiotics can help to regulate the gut and thus has a positive effect on relieving colic in babies.

Colic in babies

InfographicColic is a common occurrence in a little over one fourth of babies born each year.  Colic is characterized by the non-stop crying because of gastrointestinal pain. Colic normally occurs within the first three months after birth, and it is one of the leading causes for concerned parents to drive their baby to the Pediatrician’s office, or even the emergency room.

It is not scientifically known what the cause of colic is; however, it has been understood that it most likely relates to abdominal pain. The abdominal pain, constant crying, and recurring trips to the physician’s office really sparked the interest in determining if probiotics really did have a benefit in relieving colic in infants.

A promising study indicated that the addition of Lactobacillus Reuteri as a supplement into an infant’s diet relieved infant’s symptoms of colic and thus relieved a lot of pain in the infant, and a lot of stress in the parent. While this is promising news, it is imperative to talk this over with your Pediatrician before adding any supplement.

Symptoms Of Colic:

  1. Infant is between the ages of birth and three months.
  1. Infant is constantly crying.

Gastrointestinal Irregularities:

There are many other intestinal illnesses that present in infancy.  It is difficult to determine the source of the illness in infants, because under a year of age infants are not able to express where the pain is coming from.

It is imperative that the parents of the infants are able to look at the infants bowel patterns and really look at the infant’s physical condition. Parents should make note of the infants’ belly, if it is bloated or distended, if the infant is passing a lot of gas.

Another question to ask is how many dirty diapers the infant is having each day:  What amount of those dirty diapers are diarrhea?  What amount of those dirty diapers are hard stools?  Is there blood in the stool?  Does the infant cry when passing gas?  Does the infant cry when having a bowel movement?

These are all questions that could indicate there is something going on that is not normal; and must be addressed by the physician. If as a parent, you answered yes to any of these questions, there could be a variety of reasons that your infant is experiencing these symptoms.

The first thing is to get to your infant’s pediatrician to discuss these symptoms, and once either a diagnosis is made or at least ruled out, then you can ask the Pediatrician about supplementing probiotics into the infant’s diet.

Some of the major symptoms that result from an imbalance of good bacteria versus bad bacteria include:  diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, bloating, and abdominal pain. If probiotics are supplemented into the diet, then they can help replenish the good bacteria; or maintain the balance between good and bad bacteria and this can help to regulate the intestinal tract.

By regulating the gastrointestinal tract, the infant will begin to notice relief.

The parent can take notice of this relief by observing diminished crying when having a bowel movement; diminished bloating or distention of the abdomen, and diminished extremes of either diarrhea or constipation.

Symptoms of A Non-Regulated Gastrointestinal System:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Flatulence
  • Bloating
  • Distended Abdomen
  • Abdominal Pain

How Do Parents Know If These Symptoms Have Been Relieved In Their Infants?

  • Diminished crying when having a bowel movement.
  • Diminished bloating.
  • Diminished abdominal distention.
  • Regular bowel movements that are healthy.
  • Diminished bowel movements that are at either extreme end of the spectrum: diarrhea or constipation.

ALT TAGBy adding probiotics into your infants diet it will replenish the good bacteria or good yeast, and result in a more regulated gut.  A more regulated gut will result in a happy, healthier infant.

Other gastrointestinal symptoms that can be present and diagnosed are those conditions such as:  antibiotic associated diarrhea, infectious diarrhea, inflammatory bowel diseases, irritable bowel diseases, and many others.

There are many illnesses that present in early infancy and it is imperative to take every symptom seriously when dealing with an infant who is unable to speak and specifically say what is going on. Therefore, always get these symptoms or conditions treated by your physician first. If the physician determines it is alright to begin supplementing probiotics, then these probiotics can have several benefits in the infants’ life.

Probiotics have been proven to regulate the gut, and by doing so alleviates the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome. Inflammatory bowel diseases are diseases that affect the gastrointestinal system.  Those diseases include Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

These two inflammatory bowel diseases result in diarrhea.  In the case of Ulcerative Colitis, it is characterized by significantly bloody diarrhea.  Both of these conditions are characterized by severe abdominal pain.

The thought is, that by replenishing the probiotics into the GI tract, one can re-create that balance between good and bad bacteria, thus alleviating some of the symptoms associated with these debilitating diseases.

Inflammatory Bowel Diseases:

  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis

Crohn’s Disease:  Is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease.  It is a non-continuous disease in which affects specific areas of the gastrointestinal tract.  It can affect anywhere from the mouth to the anus.  It is not limited to one specific area of the GI tract.

Ulcerative Colitis:  Is an Inflammatory Bowel Disease that causes ulcers throughout the large intestines and rectum.  It results in voluminous, bloody diarrhea.  It causes severe abdominal pain.

Antibiotic Associated Diarrhea:  Clostridium Difficile

Other GI symptoms that are imperative to at least address are:  antibiotic associated diarrhea and infectious diarrhea.

Antibiotic associated diarrhea is one of the major reasons there is an imbalance in the gastrointestinal system. Antibiotics work hard to kill the bacteria that are causing the infection.

As an infant, one of the major infections that occur regularly is ear infections. The infant’s ear canal is not developed and is not slanted like the adult Eustachian tube. Therefore, the infants are more likely to get recurrent, constant ear infections. The mainstay treatment for acute ear infections are antibiotics.  Even going a step further, antibiotics such as Augmentin which is harsh on the intestinal tract.

One of the major side effects of this antibiotic is diarrhea or abdominal pain.  Therefore, what happens is the antibiotic wipes out the good bacteria along with the bad bacteria that is causing the infection. When this occurs, an imbalance has now been created between the good and bad bacteria, and thus there is now room for the opportunistic bacteria to overgrow.

One of these opportunistic bacteria that overgrow is Clostridium Difficile.  Also known as C. Diff., this opportunistic infection results in severe voluminous diarrhea.

If your infant begins to have many dirty diapers that are full of diarrhea; make sure that you go to your infant’s Pediatrician because there are symptoms that can result in life-threatening medical conditions. Therefore, anytime an infant has diarrhea an electrolyte imbalance is created and significant and even life-threatening effects can occur. So, always speak with your infant’s physician, or even as an adult if this occurs speak to your physician so the appropriate medications can be added.

The addition of probiotics in antibiotic-associated diarrhea replenishes the good bacteria balance in the gut.  By replenishing the good bacteria, the probiotics along with the standard of care treatment of Clostridium Difficile, can help to relieve this illness at a quicker pace. Antibiotic associated diarrhea can be serious, and must be addressed and treated through a combination of medications and probiotics.

Treatment of Clostridium Difficile:

  • Metronidazole
  • Oral Vancomycin
  • Probiotics: Florastor

Infectious Diarrhea:

Funny-bacteria-cartoon-styles-vector-05Probiotics can also help in effectively managing infectious diarrhea.  Infectious diarrhea is caused by specific pathogens that are in fact infectious. The goal of probiotics in this situation is to slow down the gut, and regulate the intestinal tract.  As always, the goal is to re-create the balance between the good bacteria and the bad bacteria. By re-creating that balance, it can help strengthen the gut and thus help to provide benefits.

As always, infectious diarrhea is normally caused by pathogenic bacteria and that normally requires combination therapy that includes antibiotics.

Remember– any time antibiotics are implemented in a treatment regimen probiotics should be included as well. Including probiotics along with the antibiotics can help to prevent that so dreaded antibiotic associated diarrhea that can occur in many instances. Thus, probiotics offer benefits in many situations when the goal is to regulate the gastrointestinal system, and to maintain the balance between the good and bad bacteria; or replenish the good bacteria in the gut.

How Do Probiotics Benefit Infant’s Skin?

Probiotics have been associated with the regulation of the gastrointestinal tract.  Probiotics are also associated with boosting the immune system, and helping to establish a homeostatic relationship.  A balance in the gastrointestinal tract and in the immune system is essential in order to reap the skin benefits associated with the supplementation of probiotics.  One skin condition that is thought to be associated either as an allergic reaction or a result from an imbalance in the immune system is Eczema.

Eczema is a skin condition that is characterized by dry, itchy, scaly patches.  Many infants experience Eczema as a skin condition that is diagnosed by their Pediatrician.

Eczema:  Skin condition that is characterized by dry, itchy, scaly patches.  It is present in a large percent of infants.  Results from an unbalanced immune system.

Eczema is thought to be a result from an unbalanced immune system.  The theory behind the supplementation of probiotics is that if you add probiotics to your infant’s diet it will regulate the gut. By relegating the gut, it will also help to balance the immune system.  It is scientifically evident, that a huge amount of the immune system is stimulated and present in the gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, it is thought by supplementing probiotics into one’s infant’s diet will result in regulation of both the gut, and the immune system, thus resulting to relief from Eczema.  If Eczema can be cleared up, just by adding probiotics it is a great opportunity to reap the benefits of this simple, yet effective supplement.

As always, speak with your physician before supplementing anything into an infant’s diet.

Do Probiotics Prevent Allergies?

The answer to this question is:  Yes, probiotics do help to prevent allergies.  Everyone understands that in our world there are many things that can become allergens. Some children are allergic to trees; others are allergic to mold.  Allergens are everywhere; and as infants it is a surprise each day which allergen could potentially develop.

When babies are born, their immune system is not fully developed; and specific memory cells to combat and remember pathogens are not in full swing. Thus, babies are more prone to developing allergies.  Symptoms of allergies can range from mild to severe.

Mild symptoms of allergies include:  runny nose, itchy eyes, sore throat, sneezing, and coughing.

Severe symptoms of allergies can include:  anaphylactic reaction, swelling of the tongue and throat.  These severe symptoms can be life threatening, and require immediate medical intervention.

While there is mainstay, standard of care therapeutic interventions for allergies, there are also preventative measures that have promising results in preventing allergies. The addition of probiotics into an infant’s diet, works by regulating the gut.  In turn, by regulating the gut, these probiotics are also boosting the infant’s immune system. By boosting the infant’s immune system, it is creating an opportunity to relieve symptoms of allergies, and prevent allergies from developing.

As always, speak with your physician; and once it has been determined this is an appropriate supplement, then enjoy the benefits of these probiotics.

Symptoms of Allergies:

  • Mild Symptoms: Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, and sore throat.
  • Severe Symptoms: Anaphylactic reaction, swelling of the tongue and throat.  Must seek immediate medical treatment.

Conclusion:

After taking a look at the many beneficial results of supplementing one’s infant’s diet with probiotics, as a parent you can see just how important paying attention to your infant’s health really is.

Probiotics for the most part are safe, and have very few risks.  However, with any supplement for an infant, it is imperative that before adding anything new into the infant’s diet, you speak with the pediatrician. Getting the go ahead, or the all clear to add probiotics to your infant’s diet from the physician can open the door to many benefits, as well as to a happy and healthier baby.

probiotics3Looking back, there have been many benefits seen in this article; as well as many promising results in the literature about the addition of probiotics into one’s diet.

Probiotics have been proven to help alleviate the abdominal pain and gas symptoms associated with colic.  Colic again is when an infant cries for greater than three hours in a day, for greater than three days a week.

There are other guidelines, but the key is that the infant is crying because their little belly is distended, bloated and it hurts.  Therefore, if one can add probiotics to your infant’s diet and it can help alleviate the pain associated with colic; then you will not only have a happier, healthier infant; but also a less stressed out parent.

Probiotics also offer promising results in regulating the gastrointestinal system, and thus resulting in regulated and healthy bowel movements.  These probiotics also show promising results in regulating the gut, and thus regulating the immune system.

By boosting the immune system, these probiotics can help alleviate skin conditions such as Eczema.  Other conditions such as allergies can also be alleviated through the supplementation of probiotics.

There are countless numbers of benefits that probiotics can offer to your infant; just remember the three key things when choosing that specific probiotic:  make sure the probiotic is enteric coated; greater than 20 billion Colony Forming Units, and make sure the bacterial or yeast culture is live.

Don’t forget to check with the physician before making any changes to your diet, or your infant’s diet.

Probiotics are great supplements and whether you add them through supplements, or you add them through fermented foods; there is great opportunity to reap the benefits that have been so highly suggested.

Don’t hesitate once you get the clear from the physician.  Get your probiotics today, and start to experience the difference.

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>