“Dr. V, what probiotic should I give my child?” I hear this every day and each time I remind my parents that the use of any probiotic needs to be tailored to the need of a child. Just like specific antibiotics have to be taken for particular infections, specific probiotic bugs need to be taken with particular problems in mind. Here are a few that I regularly recommend. These bugs that have been proven in a variety of studies to be clinically effective at treating specific conditions:
Lactobacillus reuteri. Affectionately known as ‘reuteri’, I think of this as a sleeper among probiotics. You tend not to hear much about it but it’s one of the most powerful bugs available. Recent studies have demonstrated effects ranging from the cure for infant misery to the prevention of diarrhea in daycare centers. I see reuteri as one of the best preventive bugs for kids. Available exclusively through Biogaia of Sweden as chewable tablets, chewing gum or via (I love this) reuteri impregnated juice box straws.
Lactobacillus GG. To those in the know, it’s ‘GG’. This is perhaps one of the most thoroughly studied probiotics in children with effects claimed in everything from eczema to asthma. Like reuteri, I like GG as a prophylactic or preventative bug. Culturelle offers a reputable product and it’s widely available in retail outlets. Offer one capsule, or 10 billion bugs, per day sprinkled in baby food or apple sauce. Look for GG to appear in select infant formulas in the next couple of years.
Bifidobacterium lactis. If you look at the colonic inhabitants of the typical breastfed infant you’ll find mostly bifidobacteria. In fact, it’s been suggested that this abundance of bifidobacteria accounts for the remarkable health enjoyed by breastfed babes. Bifidobacteria as a probiotic has been shown to prevent infectious diarrhea, shorten the course of infectious diarrhea once its taken hold, and decrease the shedding of rotavirus. B. lactis has been shown to increase the production of secretory IgA (one of the first lines of defense) in the intestinal tract which is always a good thing. Look for B lactis in Nestle’s Good Start with Natural Cultures.
Sarcomyces boulardii. This is the only probiotic on the list that isn’t a bacterium but rather a yeast. S. boulardii is best known for it’s effects in reversing the diarrhea often experienced during antibiotic use, and specifically against the infection Clostridium difficile. Personally in my clinic I have used this to combat toddler’s diarrhea with some success. Available as Florastor sachets, 1 packet or 5 billion bugs per day.
As probiotics represent a practically unregulated industry remember that what you read on a manufacturers label may not be what you’re putting into your child’s mouth. Stick with reputable brands as I have suggested.