Probiotics are living micro-organisms …. often called ‘friendly bacteria’ and they may have positive health benefit within the body. Many of these bacterias are found naturally in the body, particularly in the digestive tract. I will explain what probiotics do and why manufacturers are starting to add them to their organic baby gripe water.
Probiotics have become popular food supplements, used to promote healthy digestion. They are found in fermented foods such as yoghurt, fermented soy products, ‘shot’ drinks (contain much higher levels than found in fermented foods), capsules and tablets. To be a probiotic, the supplement must contain viable bacteria that are ‘alive’ when consumed. Some over the counter products lack the live bacteria, or indeed the strains that are probiotic, which actually makes them not probiotic! Care should be taken when buying over the counter supplements, especially with probiotics if you have certain medical conditions, probiotics can make the condition a whole lot worse.
What Do Probiotics Do?
The common understanding of probiotics is that they help balance the level of micro-organisms in the digestive tract, in particular the intestines and reduce down the number of ‘bad’ bacteria that lead to diarrhoea or constipation.
Some probiotics are thought to attach to the surface of the bowel, maintaining a natural gut function and help reduce the risk of gastroenteritis. Once attached they are also thought to prevent other bacteria, those that have no place in the gut, such as Staphylococcus aureus (we have this on our skin) from being able to take hold and cause illness.
Other probiotics move directly through the digestive tract, maintaining a healthy gut and bowel by suppressing the growth of those bacterias that cause digestive illnesses. They can also reduce the chance of constipation. The Bifidobacteria group is a group of naturally found gut bacterias that ferment dietary fibre as they move through the digestive tract, creating short chain fatty acids that keep the cells of the large bowel or colon, healthy. So it is reasonable to think that by ingesting these bacterias in the form of a probiotic yoghurt or shot drink that this would give some relief to irritable bowel syndrome for example.
These good bacteria have colonised your babies gastro-intestinal tract since birth, the good bacteria in your babies intestines is called gut flora, they will have also picked up a few more passing through the birth canal. If your babies were born by caesarian section, they will not have acquired these extra bacterias and initially will have a different collection of flora in their gut – this is what is understood by Mary Ellen Sanders, a microbiologist at the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics.
Nursing your babies help them to build more good bacteria as breastmilk contains probiotics that promote the growth of healthy gut flora. They give nutrition to the living bacteria already there and help the bacteria to thrive in your childs gastro intestinal system. It appears that the breastmilk helps ‘educate’ the developing immune system.
Once your babies start on mixed feeding and are weaned, the gut flora will change and this will then remain pretty constant through their lives. Although there are other outside factors that can affect the balance of ‘good’ bacteria in gastro intestinal system, such as antibiotics. Have you ever had antibiotics and wondered why you then get diarrhoea? This is due to the medication affecting the balance of gut flora in the colon.
Organic Baby Probiotics
You may have noticed over the last year or so that more and more probiotic products have been appearing on the stores shelves both for yourself but for your babies too, telling you they prevent diarrhoea or calms colic. But is there sufficient evidence that they will improve colic or reduce eczema ? Will your baby really have improved health as a result of eating probiotic enriched foods?
Every child will have a different footprint of good bacteria, unique to them and the types of probiotics that are available work in different ways, like an antibiotic for a throat infection wont work on a urinary tract infection. There are two main types of good bacteria occurring naturally in the body are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium which probiotics support, however its not just getting the right type of probiotic but also the amount of live bacteria the probiotic contains that matters. No point using one that is in just too small quantities to have any effect. But bear in mind that probiotics do not build up in your babies gastro intestinal system, once you stop giving the probiotic food or supplement, the gut flora will return to original levels. But to be totally transparent about this, studies have not shown how long the bacteria remain ‘alive’ once ingested or indeed once packaged to the point of being eaten.
The shortage of scientific studies on food products doesn’t mean that these probiotics are not effective. Some foods that contain a high probiotic content such as 1 billion CFU (Colony Forming Units) include foods like Activia Yoghurt, Yakult Cultured Milk, Yo-Plus Yoghurt. They are recommended for young children but research into their effectiveness still remains lacking. Despite this the added nutrition that your babies will receive from eating these products cannot be in question – protein, calcium and in some Vitamin D too ( we make Vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, problems arise if children do not spend enough time in sunlight to create sufficient Vitamin D to grow healthy bones)
Will It Help My Babies?
There are many probiotic products available for babies from birth. Having read all the information above, you feel that it is worth trying your babies with probiotic supplements to help with colic, diarrhoea or eczema, take a look at the information below on the over the counter products. However always bear in mind that if your babies have been suffering from acute diarrhoea, not related to feeding, or other acute symptoms, you must seek professional medical opinion first to rule out any medical condition.
Mommy Bliss Probiotic Drops
These are a natural immune builder to help babies with indigestion, gas, diarrhoea, constipation and may ease colic symptoms.
Contain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG.
Easy droplet form
Suitable from Birth
100% natural, 100% vegetarian and vegan, no additives, chemicals or parabens. No artificial flavours or colours. No dairy, gluten or soy.
MommyBliss Probiotic Drops Amazon USA $17.80
MommyBliss Probiotic Drops Amazon UK £19.99
Many parents are convinced that this has helped their babies with gas and colic.
Wellements Gripe Water with Probiotic
Promotes digestive health and improved immunity.
No artificial ingredients or chemical preservatives.
Paediatrician recommended and safer for everyday use.
Wellements Probiotic Gripe Water – Amazon.com $18.99
This is currently only available within the USA but I am sure over the coming months it will be released in the UK too.