The health community has been buzzing about the importance of probiotics for a while, and new studies confirming the health benefits of this good bacteria seem to make the news every week. Millions of adults pop a probiotic pill daily to do everything from keep their digestive system on track to ward off liver cancer.
But what about kids? Do they need a supplement, too? For Julie Smolyansky, the CEO of Lifeway Foods, it’s a resounding yes. Smolyansky released a probiotic for kids, ProBugs, in 2014 based on the scientific findings that started emerging — and continue to emerge. We talk to her about the benefits of probiotics for kids and why their diets might not be enough.
Gives a weak immune system a boost
It’s no shocker that kids get sick all the time, and Smolyansky tells us that an unfortunate side effect of taking antibiotics is that they kill off the good bacteria in the gut, too.
“Probiotics can help counter that, but also, it helps give them a stronger immune system so they don’t get sick [as much] in the first place,” she tells us. “New research is showing how important it is to build an immune system early on in life. Baby formulas have actually started including probiotics,” she says, adding that it’s naturally in breastmilk.
It’s good for the brain
Smolyansky tells us that there’s a huge mind-body connection when it comes to probiotics, and kids are no exception. “The gut is the second organ of the body filled with the most neurons, after the brain, and the brain and gut are constantly sending messages to each other,” she says. That means, feelings like anxiety, stress and depression can affect your digestive system. Anew studypublished in the Pediatric Research journal found that this brain-body connection could help prevent ADHD and autism.
The study followed 75 infants for 13 years. Some took probiotics as infants and children, some took a placebo. At age 13, 17 percent of the children in the placebo group were diagnosed with ADHD or autism. As for the probiotic group: zero.
How to get your kids to take them
Most kids aren’t big sauerkraut and kimchi fans, but yogurt is a great staple to add to your kids’ diet. And there’s also of course Smolyansky’s on-the-go snack ProBugs, which comes in kid-friendly flavors like creamsicle and strawberry-banana. Probiotic brandCulturellealso sells packets that can be mixed in with kids’ foods, so resourceful parents can sneak them into their food. However your kids consume ’em, it will do their little bodies good.
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