Are probiotics a health cure or a pharmaceutical con? And can they prevent kids from getting sick this cold and flu season? These are the questions I found myself asking this week after an overzealous GP (not my regular) shoved a wad of probiotic information my way after I took my one-year-old baby to see him after she’d contracted the latest vicious daycare bug from her two-year-old sister.
“Why aren’t your children on probiotics?” he lectured, all patronising condescension. “I’ve just got back from an international medical conference and probiotics are the way of the future”. Why indeed, I thought? Silly me, I assumed feeding my kids healthy food – plenty of fresh fruit and veg – was enough.
Probiotics are beneficial forms of gut bacteria which are said to help stimulate the natural digestive juices and enzymes which keep our digestive organs functioning well. In addition to taking a probiotic supplement, you can also eat probiotic foods which are a host to these live bacterium, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and more. Said GP was quick to point out he received no kickbacks for plugging www.mylifespace.com.au, his preferred probiotic supplier, and helpfully printed off key health benefits of the The Life Space Probiotic For Baby, including that it: promotes the healthy development of a baby’s immune system; protects against viral illness such as rota virus; promotes healthy bowel movements and alleviates constipation; provides symptomatic relief of baby colic; and reduces the risk of allergies such as eczema and hayfever by up to 44 per cent.
Still sceptical, I spoke to leading Brisbane naturopath Alisha Lynch, who is another passionate advocate of probiotics. With two young kids herself, Ms Lynch knows full well the horror of the seemingly neverending, wide range of debilitating daycare bugs which travel through the whole family. She talks a lot about gut health increasing immunity at her website: www.naughtynaturopathmum.com.au.
A naturopath for 13 years, Ms Lynch, 36, also believes probiotics are the bomb. “Gut health is so important,” she says. “Toddlers have to catch bugs to build up their immunity, but you can decrease the severity and the frequency of infections by loading them up with probiotics.”
And given it’s a rare toddler indeed who will willingly eat probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, the naturopath said a daily dose of probiotics to toddlers in powder form was the easiest method. You can then mix it into their drinks, smoothies, yogurt and cereals. “It’s vital you give probiotics daily – not just when they’re sick or during winter,” Ms Lynch says. “You are building up good bacteria of their gut and helping downgrade inflammation of the gut lining.
“It’s so stressful when your little ones are sick, but they have to get sick so the body learns how to fight off illness.” And fun fact: 80 per cent of our neurotransmitters are in the gut lining, Ms Lynch says, so stress and moods can greatly impact our gut health.
“You know the saying ‘I’ve got butterflies in my tummy’? That’s when you literally feel sick with stress,” she says. Hmm, I think I’d better investigate probiotics for my good health, too.
Image via Flickr
By Nicole Carrington-Sima