Probiotics and Prebiotics for Kids: What's the Difference?

Healthy germs are all the buzz these days.  What are they? And how do we incorporate them into a kid’s diet? 

First, let’s start with the cringeworthy fact that we host trillions of microbes in and on our bodies.  Most of these reside in our gut and are actually quite beneficial for maintaining a healthy body. A healthy gut consists of 85% beneficial bacteria and is directly linked to an enhanced immune system – forming a natural barrier to infections and viruses, promoting a healthy heart and brain, good digestion, sound sleep and even improved mood.

Unfortunately, lifestyle factors disrupt the balance of healthy bacteria in our gut. High levels of stress – even in kids, as well as the use of pesticides, antibiotics and toxins in foods and the environment are all to blame.

Both prebiotics and probiotics play an essential role in keeping a child’s gut microbiome in check. They are especially effective when consumed together because they each perform a distinct, yet complementary role.

Prebiotics naturally stimulate the ‘good bacteria’ in the intestinal tract. They feed and nourish the important probiotic flora in the body. Prebiotics are soluble fibers found in foods like Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, berries, garlic, raw oats, asparagus, onions, shallots and leeks.  Probiotics, on the other hand, are the actual good bacteria themselves. When kids consume foods that contain probiotics, they increase the ratio of good to bad bacteria. Daily consumption of probiotics helps to replenish the trillions of microbes living in their intestines. 

In recent years, probiotics for kids have flooded the shelves in the supplement section of health food stores. One main reason for this is the overuse of antibiotics.  While antibiotics are sometimes necessary and life-saving, they are also known to wipe out many good bacteria in the process of killing off the bad.

One way to help restore kids’ bacteria balance after an antibiotic treatment is by giving them foods that contain friendly bacteria. Probiotics are naturally occurring in fermented foods – if you can get your kids to drink or eat them. Yogurt, kefir, apple cider vinegar, miso soup, and sauerkraut are some top probiotic sources. 

Parents with picky eaters who struggle with getting their kids to eat enough prebiotic-rich foods like papaya, sweet potato or chicory can turn to LYNQfruit and veggie-based powdered drinks which deliver a fiber-rich, delicious way to get their prebiotic intake, especially when they would rather not swallow a pill. These powdered drink mixes are made with whole organic fruits and vegetables, and chicory root fiber, an excellent source of prebiotics. Parents can easily sneak them into any drink or food – even tomato sauce, smoothies and pancakes.

Luckily, it is easy to add a daily prebiotic and probiotic source to kids’ diets and help them replenish their delicate microbial balance so that the “good bacteria” can do their job keeping our little ones healthy.

 

Mia Scaff, O.D., D.Hom, ND, is the co-founder of LYNQ.