Is it appropriate to give probiotics to very young babies? What is the risk of changing the intestinal flora of an infant? Before making any decisions related to your child’s health, it is important to clarify certain uncertainties.
Probiotics are living microorganisms that we add to certain aspects of our diet and that remain active in the gut. Thanks to their activity, they change the intestinal flora of the digestive system of those who eat them.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), they provide many health benefits if we consume the right amount. Among probiotic foods we find fresh yogurt, kefir, fermented cabbage and many more.
A balanced microbiota in the gut is important for human health The cooperation between the person and the microorganisms that live in them is crucial for both long-term and short-term health.
According to several studies, the bacterial flora that lives in the gastrointestinal tract has several benefits. For example:
- They help with the specialization of lymphoid tissues associated with the lining of the gut. This translates into synergy with the immune system, which learns to recognize beneficial bacterial strains and prepare for future diseases. In short, it helps the immune system.
- Intestinal bacteria recognize and break down certain plant-based polysaccharides that we could not do on our own. According to scientific publications, this activity is 10% of a person’s daily calories.
- Because the digestive system is open to external factors, there is always a risk that external agents will attack it. Normal bacterial flora colonizes surfaces in contact with the outside world, and prevents foreign bodies from multiplying.
These are some benefits that gut bacteria give people. It is a symbiotic relationship, as we would not exist without them, nor those without us.
Probiotics for babies
Probiotic foods contain bacteria that are beneficial to the overall function of the intestinal microbiome. Some of these are Lactobacillus , Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces boulardii .
Healthy microbiota already contains these microorganisms, but increasing the amount of them can be good if the person using them does not have pre-existing diseases. Is this really different for newborns?
Studies that favor the use of probiotics for babies
A survey conducted in 2014 showed the following results:
- They monitored 589 newborns during the first 90 days of life. Some received the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus reuteri , and others received placebo.
- Parents were asked to monitor how often they gulped, how long they cried, the number of visits to the pediatrician and hospitalizations, among other factors that indicate the intestinal health of the baby.
- There was a significant difference in variables between babies who took probiotics and those who did not. Which suggests that the microorganisms protected newborns from intestinal disorders.
However, that is not all, as other studies like this also show the benefit of the Lactobacillus reuteri bacterium for the gut to function properly. In this case , a reduction in symptoms associated with colic was observed in infants by ingestion of probiotic drops in breast milk.
General benefits of probiotics
It is generally estimated that probiotics help adults and children on several fronts:
- First, they promote the growth of beneficial bacteria when those who eat them take antibiotics.
- They reduce symptoms of intestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
- Finally, they also prevent diarrhea caused by infectious substances.
Risk of probiotics for babies
Probiotics are usually safe, but certain scientific sources warn that complications can occur with their use.
People with a weakened immune system, heart valve disease or premature babies are possible risk groups. This is because the bacteria in these situations will tend to multiply disproportionately, generating gastrointestinal inflammation, excessive activation of the immune system and in the worst case bacteremia.
We do not know the full extent of these diseases in newborns. The effect of long-term use of these bacteria on the development of children is also difficult to determine, as this will mean several years of follow-up of babies who ingest them.
Probiotics for babies: What to remember
The use of probiotics in infants seems to have several benefits. Nevertheless, scientific sources warn that we must continue to study the interaction between these microorganisms and the intestinal health of the newborn. Potential risks and side effects should also be considered.
Therefore, it is always best to seek advice from your child’s doctor before performing it, because they know the newborn’s medical history better than anyone else and want to know what is best. Not everyone should take probiotics, but the amount of probiotics in their parents’ home should be considered.