We have an interconnected relationship with the bacteria in and on our bodies, so when our gut microbe population is unhealthy or imbalanced disease can occur. As the in-house holistic nutritionist for the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), I knew about the many benefits of probiotics and had been taking them for years before becoming pregnant. But since becoming a mom, I’ve developed an even greater appreciation for the role these beneficial bugs play in the health of my family.
Bacteria thrive in most environments, including hospital birthing units, your home, and the toys your kids love to play with. Right from birth, the good bacteria in your baby’s gut battle against invading bugs to keep a healthy and balanced microbiome, which in turn fights off infections and may even contribute to preventing allergies from developing.
As they grow, many young kids develop stomach aches for countless reasons, some more serious than others. Rotavirus, for example, is a nasty bug that causes stomach pain, diarrhea and fever in kids, and is easily spread through contaminated surfaces and toys handled by other children. Using probiotics can help treat or ease the symptoms of rotavirus, as well as reduce their duration and frequency. Regular consumption of probiotics has also been shown to help prevent gastrointestinal issues, including persistent diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as allergies and the severity of atopic dermatitis.
Probiotics are present in many fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kefir — but many kids don’t like to eat these. Because of this, and also because it’s easier to control the quantity and quality, I prefer to use a probiotic supplement for my family to ensure they receive these benefits. Even the pickiest eaters won’t know that you mixed in some probiotic powder in their morning smoothie or favourite juice.
There are many formulations and strains of probiotics available, so it’s important to find the ones that will provide the most benefit to your family. Speak with your health care practitioner about how to best incorporate probiotics into your health regimen, and explore the aisles of your local CHFA Member health food store for the products that are best for you. Learn more about probiotics and get more natural health tips at chfa.ca.
Michelle W. Book is the in-house holistic nutritionist for CHFA, an organization that educates Canadians about the benefits of natural health and organic products. As a busy professional with a young family, Michelle strives to spread the message that small changes in our everyday lives can have significant positive effects on our health.