You’ve likely heard the term “probiotics”. Maybe you’ve also wondered what it means and what, if any, benefit probiotics could provide for your family’s health.
What are probiotics? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Probiotics are defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the World Health Organization as live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Sound appetizing?
Every human intestinal tract contains beneficial bacteria that helps break down food products into compounds that are more easily absorbed into the body. Sometimes the beneficial bacteria need a boost over the harmful bacteria that share the same space, or during or after a round of antibiotics that may kill the good bacteria along with the bad.
Probiotics contain the helpful bacteria. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, giving probiotics early in the course of “acute viral gastroenteritis can reduce its duration by one day. Probiotics also have been found to be modestly effective in preventing antibiotic-associated diarrhea in otherwise healthy children, though there is no evidence probiotics are effective at treating this type of diarrhea.” [Italics ours.] Note the term “healthy children.” Probiotics don’t have any proven effects on treating chronic diarrhea, Crohn’s Disease or other chronic illnesses.
When a mother cannot breastfeed, special probiotics can be introduced to the formula that will help to replace the natural ones found in breast milk. Ask your pediatrician about this before trying these products.
Where do you get probiotics? They are available over the counter in drug stores and healthcare departments of grocery and discount stores. They come in foods or as supplements. Buy from a manufacturer you trust, remembering that probiotics are not regulated the same way prescription drugs are.
As always, eat a balanced diet, which is the best road to gastrointestinal health.
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