Category Archives: Children

Optibac: Children and probiotics

There’s a lot of buzz about the benefits of bacteria in the media, particularly for children, but this can be a confusing issue for many people. Why would you ever want to give your child bacteria to improve their health? Aren’t bacteria bad for us, causing infections and stomach upsets?

The simple answer is No! Not all bacteria are bad; in fact mounting evidence suggests that starting out with a healthy balance of friendly flora in their intestines could help to improve your child’s health and actually reduce the risk of infections and other health conditions as they grow up. Even better, having plenty of good gut flora (bacteria) is being linked to good long-term health.

So how do these microscopic microflora help to improve your child’s health?

It may seem weird, but the average human being is a home to literally trillions of bacteria who live all over our bodies, but most plentifully in the moist, warm areas in our intestines. Symbiotic, or ‘friendly’ bacteria are those that live in harmony with our bodies – we provide them with a home and food to eat, and they in turn offer us a host of health benefits.

Though we are typically born without any bacteria in residence, they begin to colonise in our bodies within a few days of birth. The first bacterial settlers are passed on to babies by their mother as they pass down the birth canal during a normal vaginal delivery.

These tiny passengers have been shown to have many positive effects in the body ; they work with the immune system helping to modulate immune responses, reducing the risk of allergies and protecting against infections and viruses. They help to improve digestive function, alleviating diarrhoea or constipation and helping to improve metabolism and nutrient absorption.

Studies have indicated that numerous health benefits may be seen in children who were given probiotic supplements, including a reduction in childhood illnesses and allergic symptoms such as eczema.

If children take on beneficial bacteria during birth, why are probiotic supplements necessary?

In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to give supplements, but many factors can affect the integrity of a child’s gut flora. If the mother’s intestinal flora is compromised in any way, then the bacteria passed on to a baby may be unbalanced from the start. Vaginal infections during pregnancy, antibiotics, poor diet and even stress can all impact the delicate populations of probiotic bacteria in our intestines.

Additionally, those babies delivered by Caesarian section will not have the benefit of bacteria from mum, and often suffer from digestive problems or allergies such as eczema as a result. Any antibiotics given to your baby or child will kill off good as well as bad bacteria, and consequently can negatively affect their populations of friendly flora.

Why use supplements?

Isn’t it enough just to give your child yoghurt every day?
It’s true that fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir and sauerkraut have formed an important part of the human diet in most cultures for hundreds of years, and it’s still a good idea for most people to include these as part of a healthy diet.

But it’s often difficult to ascertain the levels of bacteria present in fermented foods; which species are present and how viable they are once consumed. Many of the bacteria found in fermented foods are typically ‘transient’, meaning that they have beneficial effects as they pass through the digestive system, but can’t be guaranteed to become resident in the intestines and restore the balance of flora present.

The bacterial strains used in OptiBac Probiotics products undergo stringent tests that guarantee they will adhere to the intestinal wall, and form new colonies, meaning that they’re likely to offer longer-lasting health beneifits.

So where do we find these so-called ‘friendly bacteria?’ in a supplement form?

The good news is that the folk at OptiBac Probiotics have made it very easy for you to add probiotic bacteria into your child’s daily healthcare regime.

They offer a specific product designed to be taken by children from 0-12 years, which comes in a powder neatly packaged in a handy sachet form. Unlike many other similar products, the sachets do not require refrigeration and are easy to add to a little water, milk or yoghurt.

To ensure that really helpful species of bacteria are passed on to their babies, we also recommend that mums-to-be take ‘For babies & children’ during the final trimester of pregnancy.

Breast-feeding mums can continue to take the product as evidence suggests that the bacteria continues to be passed on to baby via breast milk, or the product can be given directly to infants from birth.

Bifidobacteria infantis has been identified as one of the early settlers in a healthy child’s gut, which is why it is included in ‘For babies & children’ which is gluten-free and suitable for those with lactose intolerance.

So the question is not why would you give your child probiotic bacteria, but given the evidence supporting their use, why wouldn’t you?

Kerry Beeson BSc (Nut. Med.) BANT CNHC
Nutritional Therapist

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Probiotics and Children’s Immunity

A recent placebo-controlled trial has found that a combination of probiotics and vitamin C helps to prevent cold infections in young children.

The study, published last month in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, involved 69 preschool children who each received either a placebo supplement or a chewable probiotic and vitamin C supplement for a period of six months. The study was double-blind, meaning that neither the researchers nor the children or their parents knew whether each child was taking the supplement or a placebo.

The results at the end of the six month period were promising. The children who received the probiotic and vitamin C supplement had experienced fewer upper respiratory tract infections (ie common colds), and as a result had fewer absences from preschool and fewer visits to the doctor. The probiotic and vitamin C group were also less likely to have taken antibiotics, painkillers, cough medicines or nasal sprays compared with those children in the placebo group.

Both probiotics and vitamin C are known to modulate the immune system. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, reverses oxidative damage caused by infection. It is also believed to support production of phagocytes, cytokines and lymphcytes – cells that battle infection.
Healthy probiotic bacteria ramp up the body’s production of antibodies and lymphocytes, defending the body against infection (2).

In fact, around 70% of the body’s immune system resides in the digestive system which is home to around 100 trillion (about 3lbs) bacteria.

This particular study used 50mg of vitamin C alongside Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium lactis strains of probiotics. Other strains of probiotics have also been linked with increased resistance to infection, though more research needs to be done in order to determine which particular strain is most effective. Hopefully this study will pave the way for larger trials to be carried out. In the meantime, probiotics have repeatedly been demonstrated as a safe supplement for children, and so trying a probiotic supplement with vitamin C would seem a sensible measure for parents of children who seem to have one cold after another.

Ideally, all children should all eat a diet which is rich in vitamin C and other anti-oxidants, and encourages growth of healthy bacteria. This means eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding foods that deplete levels of healthy bacteria such as sugar and white grains. Unfortunately children’s sugar intake is consistently above the maximum recommended amount, and only around 10% of children in the UK manage to eat their ‘5-a-day’ requirement of fruit and vegetables (3).

Especially good sources of prebiotics – foods which feed and therefore boost probiotic bacteria – include leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus and bananas. Natural probiotic yoghurt can also help to support children’s levels of healthy bacteria. Most added sugar comes from breakfast cereals and soft drinks, and so parents should look out for these items in particular, and read labels to check from hidden sugars.

Boosting vitamin C intake and reaching the 5-a-day recommendation means adding fruits and vegetables to meals and snacks – for children, small changes such as adding blueberries to breakfast or pureeing vegetables into pasta sauces are simple changes that can make a huge difference, ensuring that children are happy and healthy both in and out of school.

  1. Garaiova, I. et al (2014) Probiotics and vitamin C for the prevention of respiratory tract infections in children attending preschool: a randomised controlled pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
  2. Resta SC. Effects of probiotics and commensals on intestinal epithelial physiology: implications for nutrient handling. J Physiol. 2009. 587:4169-4174.
  3. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: results from Years 1 to 4 (combined) of the rolling programme for 2008 and 2009 to 2011 and 2012. Public Health England and Food Standard Agency. 14 May 2014
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Your Child’s Health Checklist

It can be difficult getting your kid’s into a back to school mind-set after the summer holidays, so why not prepare them in advance by boosting the mental and physical performance of your little one with a diet packed with vitamins and nutrients and regular exercise over the next 6 weeks.

Follow our checklist to help you give your child a head start of their next school year:

  • Its summer so make sure your little one gets a small dose of vitamin D courtesy of the sun (all fair-skinned people need is a few minutes of sun on their hands, arms and face every day). However, if the sun isn’t shining, then be sure to include it in their diet through fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, and egg yolks.
  • Children need calcium to make strong bones, but they can only deposit this calcium until their early 20s. Make sure yours get their three servings a day – a serve is a 250ml glass of milk, a 200g tub of yoghurt or two slice of cheese (40g).
  • Poor concentration, failing memory, hyperactivity and mood swings can also be an indication of omega 3 (EPA and DHA) deficiency. Our brains need these long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for brain structure and function. Try supplementing your child’s diet with a kid friendly omega 3 supplement.
  • Iodine deficiency is the world’s most prevalent, yet preventable cause of brain damage and lower IQs according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). Make sure your child gets between 90mcg and 120mcg a day. Yoghurt, cow’s milk, eggs, mozzarella cheese and strawberries are excellent sources of iodine.
  • Magnesium de¬ficiency has been linked with learning difficulties, hyperactivity and insomnia and it’s believed three quarters of children don’t consume enough of this mineral. A half-cup of cooked frozen spinach provides 75mg. You should aim to include 130mg a day.

More Top Tips

  • Exercise, chill time, and regular, nourishing meals and snacks enhance concentration by banishing energy wobbles.
  • Friendly foods include fresh fish, vegetables, pulses, whole grain carbohydrates, nuts, and seeds. Water helps too!
  • Cerebral zappers include sugar, caffeine, soft drinks, junk food, processed foods, excess salt, meat and dairy, and refined or hydrogenated fats and oils (be sure to read the labels!).
  • We all need sleep to function properly, but while adults need eight hours, children need a minimum of 10 hours shut-eye every night. Encourage regular exercise during the day, and participation in age appropriate extracurricular activities after school which will both result in adequate sleep at night.
  • Make sure your child is protected against colds with a drink of Manuka Honey and fresh lemon juice in hot water. Echinacea will also support the immune system, prevent infections, and minimise the risk of bronchitis and sinusitis.
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