12 Best Probiotics For Kids

best-probiotics-for-kids

Are you looking for the best probiotics for kids? 

This article will answer your questions on the health benefits of probiotics for kids and probiotics foods.

If you want to avoid flushing your hard-earned cash down the loo, pick the best probiotics for kids proven to improve their digestive health.

Good probiotics for children will offer surprising health benefits, but here’s a secret.

The health benefits of taking probiotics are down to choosing the best probiotic strains. 

Some strains are better for managing childhood eczema or digestive health, while other strains help with diarrhoea in children. 

The best probiotics for kids can, therefore, depend on the strains and their specific health benefits.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links to children’s probiotic brands that I recommend. 

These are the best probiotics for kids that I regularly use and recommend to my clients working with me at my Harley Street clinic and virtual consultations.

A quick look at the best probiotics for kids

Click on the images below to learn more about the following best probiotics for kids.

 Culturelle baby

Culturelle for toddlers and older children

Optibac Kids

Optibac Baby drops

Proven baby

Optibac Gummies

Bio 360 Kidz Pro

BioGaia Protectis Baby drops

What are the best probiotics for kids and are they worth taking?

It can be worthwhile trying a children’s probiotic for specific health conditions.  

But to best answer this question, let’s explore how probiotics work.

This article will examine the health benefits of kids’ probiotics and the available scientific evidence for whether probiotics actually work in children.

Are there health benefits of probiotics for children?

To establish the best probiotics for kids, it’s important to understand the potential health benefits of probiotics for children.

Some of the best probiotics for kids can offer the following health benefits which are also supported by scientific evidence:

  • support a healthy immune system
  • Reduce the duration of diarrhoea in children 
  • Reduced incidence of antibiotic diarrhoea in children
  • Reduced risk of acute diarrhoea in hospital
  • management of infant colic in breastfed babies
  • Reduced regurgitation in infants
  • Reduction in the incidence of common children’s allergies (eczema, hay fever)
  • Abdominal pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome 
  • Overall gut health
  • constipation management
  • management of necrotising enterocolitis

Probiotics are good bacteria and offer health benefits

Dr Kate Steed, a microbiologist from Optibac Probiotics compared probiotics to the coral reef during our Kids Nutrition Podcast interview. 

Our microbiome is a collection of live organisms of good bacteria, viruses and fungi that colonise and support our digestive system.

She too emphasises that the health benefits of taking probiotics depend entirely on choosing the right strains for the health condition.

Probiotics in a nutshell help by balancing the friendly bacteria in the gut. 

When there are higher numbers of good bacteria than “bad bacteria” colonising the gut, it provides a digestive advantage. 

The most common family of probiotic strains include Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria.

Probiotics help by triggering a cascade of chemical reactions in the body which can then offer health benefits. 

They are especially useful during illness, post-medical treatment and in certain disease prevention. 

The effectiveness of probiotics for kids will also depend on your child’s diet.  

Their fibre intake from prebiotics can influence their overall gut health. More on that later.

Something else to consider is the quality of the children’s probiotics and whether the probiotic supplement has been tested to survive the journey into your child’s gut.

 

How to choose a kid’s probiotic for your little one

A New Zealand study investigated the role of probiotics in atopic dermatitis. 

It showed that only Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 helped to reduce eczema and hay fever in school-aged children. 

When a similar group of children tried the strain Bifidobacterium lactis, it had no effect on the child’s eczema or hay fever.

This emphasises that when selecting probiotics for kids, the best probiotic for children depends on why they need one and the precise probiotic strain(s) that can help the problem.

Always check whether the probiotic strain has been demonstrated by research to help your child’s health condition. 

benefits-of-probiotics-for-kids

But wait, there’s more.

The truth is, the evidence behind the health claims and proposed health benefits of probiotics is still emerging. 

So there’s heated debate even amongst healthcare professionals on whether probiotics really help.

The good news is that for the majority of children, the various kid’s probiotic supplements recommended in this article are safe to give. 

So if you want to try a probiotic for your child, it’s usually safe to do so. 

 

Probiotics are not regulated

Before you buy a probiotic supplement, always check which probiotic strains are right for your child’s health condition.

The probiotic industry is currently exploding with new products but probiotics are not regulated.

If your child has a medical condition, talk to your healthcare professional or paediatric dietitian who is familiar with the research behind probiotics. 

They can then offer appropriate medical advice and recommend the best probiotics for children based on your child’s needs.

Top foods high in probiotics

Before we dive into the health benefits of probiotics, let’s take a look at where you can find probiotics. 

Probiotics are packaged as supplements (powder, capsules, chewable tablets, drinks or pills).

Probiotic supplements can also be found in the following fermented foods.

Yoghurt is an easy choice of probiotic food for kids. 

If your child is following a dairy-free diet, check whether probiotics have been added to the dairy-free alternative

Tempeh is a delicious soy food and a good protein alternative for kids who refuse meat.

Kefir water is another good alternative for children who need to follow a dairy-free diet. Sauerkraut and kimchi may need to be reserved for the more adventurous eaters.

The common types of live cultures in yoghurt, fermented milk and certain cheese include lactobacillus casei

Our bodies naturally contain lactobacillus casei, in our digestive system. I’ll take you through the benefits of this good bacteria later.

Other probiotic strains that can be found in fermented foods include E. faecalis, L. mesenteroides, L. Brevis, P. cerevisiae and L. Plantarum.

Are probiotics helpful to manage diarrhoea in kids?

The short answer is yes!

The two main probiotic strains that help with toddler diarrhoea include L. rhamnosus GG ATCC 53103 and Saccharomyces boulardii.

Keep reading to learn more about these children’s probiotics and which brands to buy.

IMAGE

Probiotics for toddler diarrhoea

L. rhamnosus GG is one of the best probiotics for kids. It’s no surprise that it’s often featured as one of the top 10 probiotics for kids.

L. rhamnosus GG, in particular, has been very widely studied through clinical trials. 

This strain was first discovered by two scientists in 1985. 

The brand Culturelle Kids contains the specific rhamnosus GG that has been tested in clinical trials and is one of the good probiotics for kids.

What’s unique about rhamnosus GG is that it can survive stomach acids, travel to the colon and bind to the gut wall. 

This makes Culturelle Kids one of the best probiotics for children. 

On flourishing in the gut, it stops other pathogens from binding and growing.

 This ultimately reduces the risk of intestinal infections like Clostridium difficile (C.difficile), which is a type of bacterial infection that triggers diarrhoea in children.

probiotics-for-diarrhoea

For children with this type of acute diarrhoea, Rhamnosus GG could be beneficial. 

Although previously the scientific evidence wasn’t robust enough for it to be routinely recommended during infectious diarrhoea, you can now use paediatric probiotics to reduce the duration of gastroenteritis. 

Other probiotic yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii can also be effective (but more on this further down the article).

The evidence for supplementing with rhamnosus GG is also strong in children with rotavirus and other types of infectious diarrhoea. 

It may particularly be helpful in reducing repeated episodes. The main downside of the research is the small patient numbers.

Probiotics and antibiotics

Better yet, the strongest evidence for rhamnosus GG is in preventing antibiotic-related diarrhoea. 

It is not clear whether the probiotic needs to be started before or at the same time as the antibiotics. A dose as small as 1-2 billion CFU (colony forming units) is effective, whilst up to 10 billion CFU was used in other trials.

Summary: best probiotics for toddler diarrhoea

(antibiotic-related) are available in powder or as drops for babies

Rhamnosus GG (e.g. Culturelle) (powder for infants)

Rhamnosus GG (Culturelle) chewable tablets for toddlers

Saccharomyces boulardii (40 capsules)

How probiotics help the immune system

Did you know that 70% – 80% of the immune cells reside in the gut?

Probiotic bacteria support the immune system in the gut by competing with potentially harmful bacteria. 

They attach themselves to the lining of the gut, therefore preventing infection. 

An example of this is that research has shown that probiotics can cut the severity and duration of coughs and colds.

A clinical trial of toddlers under 5 years of age who consumed the three strains Lactobacillus acidophilus Rosell-52, B. bifidum Rosell-71 and B. infantis Rosell-33 showed reduced rates of respiratory infections in children who previously required at least one hospital admission per month.

The benefits were observed after three months of taking the probiotic supplement daily.

Unfortunately, Optibac has now discontinued its range of this particular kids’ probiotics.

Probiotics for toddlers

Another study of toddlers aged 3-5 years of age, investigated Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM on its own and as a blend with Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07. 

This clinical trial found that when children took the combination of probiotics for six months, they benefited from enhanced immunity.

More good news for parents. The children who tried the probiotics experienced a shorter duration of fever, coughing, and rhinorrhea (runny noses) by 30-50%, compared to those who didn’t take the supplement.

This, of course, meant that children who took the probiotic supplements didn’t need to take as much time off daycare and school.

Best probiotic strains for immunity:

Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM

Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07

B.infantis Rossel-33, L.acidophilus Rossel-52 and B.bifidum Rossell-71

Lactobacillus acidophilus in VSL#3

probiotics-immune-system
What are the benefits of probiotics for kids?

Probiotics for the prevention of atopic dermatitis

Eczema is a common type of atopic dermatitis. It affects 15% to 20% of children and 1% to 3% of adults worldwide.

A systematic review and meta-analysis recommend starting probiotics early during pregnancy and for the first 6 months of the baby’s life. This could be advantageous particularly if a pregnant woman has a history of allergies and eczema herself.

To prevent atopic dermatitis, supplementing with  L. rhamnosus and L. paracasei during pregnancy and beyond were shown to be the most effective. However, no benefits were documented when supplementation continued beyond the baby’s 1st birthday.

Rhamnosus should not be confused with the probiotic rhamnosus GG. A meta-analysis of 5 randomized clinical trials found that the latter did not reduce the risk of eczema in children. This was the case even if taken early during pregnancy.

probiotics-atopic-dermatitis

Here’s an exciting piece of research. A New Zealand study was the first randomised controlled trial to show that Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 can be beneficial for childhood eczema. 

The key is to start supplementation with rhamnosus HN001 early from 35 weeks of pregnancy until two years of age.

The health benefits of rhamnosus HN001 include reduced risk of childhood eczema by 44% until the child’s 6th birthday and beyond. 

The protection continued even after supplementation was stopped by the child’s 2nd birthday. This confirms that not all probiotics are the same.

Rhamnosus HN001 is also thought to reduce symptoms of postpartum depression in women.

For pregnancy (30 capsules) Optibac Probiotics also contain Rhamnosus HN001

For babies & children by Optibac Probiotics

Best probiotics for kids to reduce eczema/prevention of atopic dermatitis:

L. rhamnosus HN001, L. paracasei, L.rhamnosus HNOO1

L. paracasei present in VSL#3

L.rhamnosus (not HN001 specific) with other strains in a probiotic supplement by Natures Aid Kidz Pro-5

L.rhamnosus present (but not HN001 specific), in Vitabiotics Peppa Pig’s range (age 3 years onwards)

For daily immunity (L. paracasei by Optibac >open contents & sprinkle on food); note does not state paediatric product

kids-nutrition-podcast

EMAIL ME THE EPISODES!

 

Probiotics and milk allergy

Cow’s milk protein allergy is one of the most common types of food allergy in children. New research confirms that one of the health benefits of probiotics is their ability to help children outgrow their milk allergy earlier. 

This can be observed early between 24 and 36 months when probiotics are used in conjunction with their elimination diet and hypoallergenic formula.

Probiotics could potentially prevent allergy through interaction with the intestinal immune cells, especially in infancy. The most common strain trialled in babies with cow’s milk protein allergy is rhamnosus GG.

probiotics-for-kids-milk-allergy

One study reviewed the differences in the stools of babies when offered formula with added Bifidobacterium breve M-16V and prebiotics. Cow milk tolerance acquisition was not assessed in this study.

As with other strains, further long-term studies are required to confirm the benefits of probiotics in children with cow’s milk protein allergy.

If probiotics do appeal, the best probiotics to try are rhamnosus GG and Bifidobacterium breve M-16V.  

You can purchase the probiotics for children described above in the links below.

 

Probiotics for babies

Bifidobacterium Breve (Optibac)

Rhamnosus GG (e.g. Culturelle)

Bifidobacterium breve (VSL#3)

 

Probiotics for excess crying and colic

One of the suggested health benefits of probiotics is in the management of infant colic. Excessive infant crying is common but can be distressing for parents especially if it persists for over 3 hours daily.

A meta-analysis and systematic review published in JAMA showed a probiotic called Lactobacillus reuteri (L reuteri) could be worth exploring. This probiotic strain reduced the duration of crying, but only in babies who were breastfed, born at term and younger than 3 months.

A further meta-analysis in 2018 confirmed that L. reuteri may be beneficial for breastfed babies with colic, but not in formula-fed babies.

Five randomised controlled trials (highest quality evidence)

Best probiotic for babies with colic: L. reuteri as found in the branded product BioGaia.

9-FOODS-TO-AVOID

I WANT IT!

 

What are the best probiotics for kids with irritable bowel syndrome?

The jury is still out on whether probiotics truly help children with IBS.

Due to the gut-brain connection between the good bacteria in our gut and the brain, probiotics may help children with IBS.  It’s thought to work by influencing the overall gut microbiota (amount of friendly bacteria) positively.

Research suggests that certain probiotic strains may work by changing your child’s perception of pain.

Probiotic supplements can therefore reduce your child’s symptoms of tummy pain and improve their digestive system by reducing bloating and pain in some children. 

Probiotic strains for IBS (to reduce severity and frequency of abdominal pain)

Culturelle Kids (sachets)

Culturelle Kids (chewable tablets with xylitol as an ingredient)

VSL#3 (Bifidobacterium Breve-16, VSL#3)

For your baby (Optibac Probiotics, Bifidobacterium Breve-16)

Kids Gummies (Optibac Probiotics, Bacillus coagulans Unique IS-2)

 
 

Probiotic strains for IBS (type constipation)

Suitable for children from age 3+ years

Kids Gummies (Optibac Probiotics, Bacillus coagulans Unique IS-2)

Apart from Bifidobacterium breve-16, this is one of the first probiotic strains that has been shown in randomised controlled trials to be helpful in reducing stool frequency, straining at defecation, incomplete evacuation and soiling (faecal incontinence) in children.

In this study by Saneian et al, 60 children randomised to try Kids Gummies by Optibac experienced an improvement in their symptoms of IBS-related constipation.

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SEND IT TO ME!

 

Probiotic yoghurt for kids

If you are looking for a probiotic yoghurt for kids, you may find that some yoghurt drinks contain Lactobacillus casei Shirota. This strain is present in the brand Yakult, one of the earliest commercial probiotics first sold.  Fun fact, it was discovered around 1935!  

In adults, this strain has been shown to improve constipation.

The opposite was found to be true in children.

 

Is Yakult good for kids?

Shirota helped reduce the symptoms of diarrhoea in a children’s trial in India but only by 14%.

Other benefits of this strain include reduced frequency of colds in athletes and in smokers.

Similarly, yoghurt ranges like Activia also contain added probiotic strains, including Bifidobacterium lactis. 

B. lactis BB-12 has been shown in adult clinical trials to be effective in relieving symptoms of constipation.  Again, the opposite was true for infants.  A clinical trial of 90 infants showed that this strain was effective in preventing diarrhoea.

As you can see, the best probiotics for children aren’t straightforward.  

The key message is to try the right strain for the specific symptom you wish to solve.

Prebiotics and Probiotics for kids

 Did you know that prebiotics are important food for probiotics? Prebiotics are the non-digestible food ingredients that probiotics feed on.

Probiotics feed on prebiotics to grow good bacteria in the gut. As these friendly bacteria grow and colonise in the gut, they can aid digestion and general immunity. They also enhance the production of fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin K) and water-soluble B vitamins.

Galactooligosaccharides (GOS) and Fructooligosaccharides (FOS) are two examples of prebiotics.

best-prebiotic-foods

Which foods contain FOS & GOS?

  • legumes and beans: falafels, all types of beans
  • some nuts: cashews, pistachios
  • some vegetables e.g. artichoke (globe), leeks, onions, garlic, spring onions, green peas,
  • bread & cereals e.g. wheat/rye/barley-based breakfast cereals and bread, pasta and pumpernickel bread, barley flakes, couscous
  • plant drinks: soy drink (from soybeans)
  • fruit: dried fruit (mango, fig, pineapple), dates, persimmon

As you can see, there’s a big range of foods that provide prebiotics so please don’t worry if your child hates artichoke! The key is to include a variety of these plant foods in your child’s diet.

Probiotics summary

The best probiotics for kids will depend on the key health problem that you would like to manage. The health benefits of probiotics for children do vary.

At present, research suggests that probiotics can help with enhanced immunity, reduced risk of antibiotic-related diarrhoea plus improved outcomes for eczema and dairy allergy. The overall quality of the research varies for each strain and its related health claims. Nevertheless, they are safe to take.  

If your child has a medical condition, you are pregnant, or your child has a compromised immune system, or diagnosed with short bowel syndrome, please talk to a healthcare professional and the probiotic manufacturer before starting probiotics.

Don’t be surprised if it takes at least a few months for your child to fully experience the promised health benefits. Sometimes, probiotics may not work and there are many reasons for this.  Where possible, do purchase pharmaceutical-grade probiotics and remember to check that they provide at least 1 CFU of live bacteria.

Children can also eat probiotic foods such as yoghurts to nurture their digestive system.

Finally do remember to include prebiotic foods in your child’s diet. Variety is key and your child’s digestive system will be thankful for the fibre-rich prebiotic foods.

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