Children’s Health

baby health, children’s health, colic, breastfeeding, Mom health

illustration of c. diff bacteria

Protecting Your Child From C. Diff Diarrhea

When health experts talk about Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections in the news — the most common superbug that causes life-threatening diarrhea — it’s largely associated with overprescribing antibiotics to older people in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Those concerns are warranted, considering about 500,000 Americans are sickened by C. diff infections and nearly 30,000 die from them annually.

However, C. diff infections are equal-opportunity offenders that can be a serious problem for young children too, according to findings published recently in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology.

Based on a meta-analysis of 14 studies and 10.5 million children, prior exposure to antibiotics was the main culprit, nearly doubling the risk of C. diff infections in young children, compared to kids who hadn’t taken antibiotics.

But that’s not all…

Researchers also cited exposure to heartburn drugs — better known as proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) — as another C. diff risk factor for children. That’s not surprising given many adults rely on them too often and for too long at the expense of disrupting the healthy balance of their gut bacteria.

A study published last fall in the Journal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection backs up this link between severe cases of C. diff related to children taking PPIs.

The concerns about PPI use are so critical and obvious that the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (connected with the National Institutes of Health) felt it was important enough to devote a detailed section to treating acid reflux in children and teens.

The good news: There’s growing consensus among health experts that taking a daily probiotic can be a very safe and effective solution for preventing C. diff infections altogether.

Additionally, recent scientific evidence has shown the benefits of treating patients with probiotics made with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria were very effective in preventing C. diff infections.

One safe and natural way to protect your young child from C. diff infections, especially if they are taking an antibiotic: Talk to your doctor about giving him/her a probiotic, like EndoMune Jr. Powder (recommended for children to age 3) or EndoMune Jr. Chewable Probiotic (ages 3-8).

Both varieties of EndoMune Jr. contain four strains of beneficial bacteria, along with a prebiotic (FOS).

baby looking up at a baloon

Give Your Baby a Gut-Healthy Start

As you know, infants receive many health benefits when their Moms are able to make some simple gut-smart health choices via breastfeeding and vaginal delivery.

But how does natural childbirth and breastfeeding really benefit an infant and why?

It’s very possible those beneficial bacteria introduced first into the gut have a head start and make a lasting and healthy impression, according to new research from a group of American and Canadian scientists featured in the journal eLife.

Scientists came to this conclusion by transplanting four different species of gut bacteria from older mice into the gastrointestinal tracts of young, genetically identical mice raised in a germ-free environment.

The primary takeaway: The gut bacterial diversity of younger mice over several months eventually resembled or was often dominated by the species that was transplanted in them first in repeated experiments.

That’s an intriguing outcome, considering genetics, environment, diet, physiology and lifestyle — all important factors to human health on their own — only account for less than 30 percent of any variations of the gut microbiome, says Dr. Jens Walter of the University of Alberta.

“Each of us harbors a microbiome that is vastly distinct, even for identical twins. Microbiomes are important for our health, but they appear to be shaped by many unknown factors, so it’s hugely important to understand why we are all different.”

Not only does this research show how the introduction and timing of bacteria in newborns could grow and dominate, it may also provide a bridge to better understand how the microbiome may be disrupted and harmed due to the use of antibiotics or C-section deliveries.

Dr. Walter believes science will figure out ways that infants can be colonized with specific bacteria that will steer their health in beneficial ways, but even he speculates that’s a 30-40-year journey.

Until that time comes (if ever), there are steps new Moms can take to protect the gut health of their babies right now, even if natural childbirth isn’t possible.

Breastfeeding is a great first step, as it provides the right mix of fats, protein and vitamins for newborns along with antibodies that boost their growing immune systems.

Unfortunately, some new Moms may not be able to breastfeed for as long as they planned or can’t due to health problems. Plus, their babies may be missing out human milk oligosaccharides (HMO), the largest solid component of breast milk apart from fat and carbohydrates and a natural prebiotic component of breast milk.

In these cases, new Moms may want to consider giving their babies a multi-species probiotic like EndoMune Jr. Powder (recommended for young children up to age 3) that contains four strains of beneficial bacteria along with a natural prebiotic (FOS) that feeds their growing gut microbiomes.

Before you consider giving your newborn a probiotic, always talk to your pediatrician or doctor first.

window cleaner next to paper towels

Household Cleaners Could Harm Your Child’s Gut

Keeping your home a bit “too clean” by using common multi-surface disinfectants could be changing and harming your child’s gut bacteria by making them more susceptible to obesity.

That’s the chief finding from data culled from an examination of fecal samples collected from 757 Canadian babies, along with their exposure to various cleaning products, according to a recent report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Babies living in homes where disinfectants were used every week were twice as likely to have increased levels of one bacteria (Lachnospiraceae), according to researchers.

That difference in one strain of bacteria was enough to elevate the chances of young children being overweight by age 3, compared to kids who weren’t exposed to disinfectants as infants, says Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj, the principal investigator on the SyMBIOTA project that examines how altering the gut health of infants impacts their health.

Canadian scientists could see the connection, especially as they discovered babies living in households with greater use of more eco-friendly cleaners had a decreased risk of becoming overweight or obese.

Although this study cited concerns about the use of antibacterial cleaners, researchers didn’t track the kinds of chemicals being used to clean the homes where their participants lived as babies.

Still, these results may be more evidence of the hygiene hypothesis, in which the body’s immune responses are reversed due to continuing exposure to disinfectants, antibacterial chemicals, antibiotics and bottled water, all of them intended to make our lives way too clean.

(The hygiene hypothesis can also work to protect kids from health problems like asthma. For example, Amish children surrounded by nature, farm animals and common house dust — a less hygienic environment than most homes — were less likely to suffer from asthma, according to a New England Journal of Medicine report.)

Fortunately, there’s a simple and healthy solution to protect the delicate balance of bacteria in your baby’s gut and reduce his/her risks of obesity at the same time (especially for moms who can’t breastfeed for very long or at all).

A quarter-teaspoon of EndoMune Jr. Powder, recommended for children up to age 3, contains four strains of beneficial bacteria from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria families along with a prebiotic (FOS) that keeps their gut health in balance.

a mother holding her bareskin baby

Protect Your Baby’s Health From Allergies Early

One of the best things an expecting mom can do to protect the health of her baby from all kinds of health problems, even before he or she is born, is to take a probiotic.

An extensive meta-analysis of studies by researchers at Imperial College London published recently in PLOS Medicine supports those benefits, showing how probiotics and fish oil may reduce problems in a baby’s early days with eczema and allergies.

Out of more than 400 studies that were examined, 28 trials determined moms who took a probiotic from the 36th week of their pregnancies, then for up to six months while breastfeeding, lowered by 22 percent their baby’s risks of eczema, a skin condition that causes the skin to be irritated or inflamed.

Overall, up to 20 percent of infants are affected eczema, which shows up as patches of red, dry or itchy skin.

Many of the probiotics identified by researchers in their meta-analysis contained Lactobacillus rhamnosus, one of 10 strains of beneficial bacteria found in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.

A similar pre-birth benefit was discovered by moms who took fish oil daily. Starting from the 20th week of their pregnancies up to four months of breastfeeding, babies avoided common allergies to eggs by a nifty 30 percent.

Interestingly, a mom’s avoidance of foods like nuts, dairy and eggs during her pregnancy made no difference in her baby’s risks of experiencing allergies or eczema.

Your breastfeeding wakeup call

At this juncture, It’s good to remind moms that breastfeeding (along with natural delivery) does a great deal of good for the health of their newborns, as it gives them an extra gut health boost that helps their tiny bodies fight off diseases naturally.

While most experts recommend that moms breastfeed their newborns for as long as they’re able — the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least 12 months — even the best choices can fall by the wayside due to unexpected health concerns, like a caesarean (C-section) delivery.

However, moms who can’t breastfeed as long as they planned or at all can do a lot to protect the health of their babies, just by giving them a probiotic made just for them, like EndoMune Jr. Powder recommended for children up to age 3.

Like its “big brother,” EndoMune Jr. Chewable, EndoMune Jr. Powder contains four strains of beneficial bacteria from the Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus families along with a prebiotic (FOS) that feeds the growing and diverse group of critters in your baby’s gut.

a woman holding a baby

Help Your C-Section Baby With Breastfeeding and Probiotics

Nearly a third of all babies born in America are delivered via C-section (Cesarean), surgery that brings an infant into the world through incisions in a woman’s uterus and abdomen.

There are many reasons why your obstetrician may recommend a C-section, especially if your baby isn’t getting enough oxygen or your baby isn’t positioned head first in the birth canal (breech or transverse).

Yet, a fair number of women request C-sections merely for the sake of avoiding labor or convenience, and even some hospitals tend to encourage them.

As common as C-sections are, they do come with long-term health risks for your baby via problems with their tiny gut microbiome, according to a recent Canadian study appearing in JAMA Pediatrics.

Gut health a factor

This study from the University of Alberta (Canada) tracked the health of 935 pairs of Moms and their babies to determine if C-section deliveries made babies more prone to obesity, paying close attention to babies born to overweight Moms.

Compared to being born naturally by a Mom of a healthy weight, babies born to overweight women were three times more likely to be overweight at ages 1 and 3.

Those risks of early weight problems for babies exploded to a factor of five among overweight women delivering their babies via C-section.

While examining infant gut microbiomes, scientists found a major gut health disparity – larger amounts of Lachnospiraceae — in babies born by overweight women and those delivered via C-section.

“Given that infant overweight and obesity are a major public health problem, our results reinforce increasing concerns over rising Cesarean deliveries and affirm the role of the gut microbiota as a ‘super organ’ with diverse roles in health and disease,” says lead study author Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj, according to a press release.

Probiotics and breast milk

If a Cesarean may be the best health choice for a new Mom, what can she do to protect her newborn from obesity? In a recent interview with the New York Times, Dr. Kozyrskyj mentions breastfeeding as an effective tool.

In fact, breastfeeding in tandem with a beneficial probiotic may do just the trick, according to research appearing in mSphere from the University of California, Davis.

Scientists tracked the health of 66 breastfed babies over several months. A little more than half of the infants were treated with a subspecies of Bifidobacterium longum (one of four strains of beneficial bacteria found in EndoMune Jr. Powder and EndoMune Jr. Chewable) for three weeks, while the remainder received no extra probiotic help.

Compared to the smaller group, larger amounts of the Bifidobacterium longum subspecies were found in fecal samples taken from babies treated with the probiotic. Plus, those beneficial concentrations remained intact for at least 30 days after the probiotic period ended (and were still thriving up to six months later).

The probiotic babies had lower amounts of potentially harmful pathogens and high levels of acetate and lactate, important, beneficial products produced by the fermentation of human breast milk sugars by the Bifidobacterium subspecies.

Even more revealing were the changes in the gut health of babies born via C-section versus vaginally. In the beginning, both groups of infants were colonized by different gut bacteria.

After both groups were given the same Bifidobacterium longum subspecies, the microbiomes of the C-section group began to resemble that of the naturally born infant group.

“The probiotic was able to eliminate the differences inherent to C-section delivery,” lead study author Dr. Mark Underwood told Popular Science.

So, what if Mom can’t breastfeed? Dr. Underwood suggests giving your baby a three-week course of this probiotic and a formula with added human milk oligosaccharides could help with colonization and may continue as long as he/she is on that formula.

Before you consider giving your newborn a probiotic, always consult with your pediatrician or doctor first just to be on the safe side.

a woman getting ready to sneeze

Get Ready for Allergy Season: Take Your Probiotics

No matter where you live, if the 2018 allergy season hasn’t started already, it will very soon for up to 30 percent of American adults and 40 percent of kids.

If you’re dealing with hay fever, one of the most common seasonal allergies around, you already know the routine. Exposure to outdoor or indoor allergens (not to mention strong chemical odors from cleaning products and perfumes or smoking) can trigger a stuffy or runny nose, which can lead to sneezing, upper respiratory congestion and fatigue.

Unfortunately, avoiding allergens in our polluted environment can only get you so far and taking medications can be a hit or miss.

Are you tired of the usual rounds of nasal sprays, antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops and allergy shots that only keep seasonal allergies at bay? Taking a probiotic may be a smarter solution to ease your allergy symptoms, according to research appearing in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

University of Florida researchers randomly split 173 healthy adults who suffered from seasonal allergies, either into a placebo group or a second one that was given a probiotic containing multiple species of beneficial bacteria.

(Two of the three bacteria species tested in this study included proprietary blends of Bifidobacterium bifidum and Bifidobacterium longum, key ingredients in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic. All three species were chosen based on their performance in previous studies and their ability to boost the immune system.)

During the eight-week research period – deliberately scheduled during the height of the spring allergy season — patients reported their symptoms regularly via online surveys and provided fecal samples to monitor any gut bacteria changes.

Those who took probiotics experienced improvements in their symptoms, including fewer allergy-related nasal problems. Plus, patients in the probiotic group reported far fewer problems with constipation too.

This isn’t the first time we’ve discussed the benefits of using a probiotic containing another EndoMune species (Lactobacillus casei) to combat hay fever naturally by supporting the body’s immune system.

There are plenty of reasons to take simple steps to prevent allergies from invading your home, even if you have to travel to and from your home outdoors at least once a day for work or to run errands.

That’s why taking a probiotic with multiple species of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic may be your best first step to protect your health during the coming allergy season.

Breastfed Babies With Colic Need Probiotics Too

There’s little doubt, colic is one of the most frustrating and upsetting problems Moms face with their newborns.

Although colic is a short-term problem that typically goes away by month 4 of an infant’s life, this knowledge provides little comfort to new Moms trying and failing to calm down their tearful babies after hours of non-stop crying.

Several health factors – food allergies, acid reflux, milk intolerance and gas – may contribute to colic, but no one really knows what triggers this alarming condition.

Over the years, probiotics have slowly emerged as a safe, cost-effective way to treat colic in previous reports we’ve cited here.

There’s even more evidence of such benefits for breastfed babies in a recent international study featured in Pediatrics that has attracted lots of attention.

A study of data collected from four double-blind trials conducted on three continents and 345 babies concluded that a proprietary strain of Lactobacillus reuteri reduced colic-induced crying after three weeks for children who are exclusively breastfed.

Breastfed babies treated with a probiotic were twice as likely to experience a 50 percent reduction in colic symptoms by day 21, says Dr. Valerie Sung, lead author of the study and Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

That’s a great step toward treating colic, but only for breastfed babies. Unfortunately, formula-fed infants weren’t included in this study, and there’s plenty of health-related reasons why some new Moms should breastfeed their babies.

Medical resources like the Cleveland Clinic and WebMD offer a variety of methods for treating colic ranging from the sensible (calming your baby) to the unproven and possibly unsafe (using herbal remedies).

Here are some safe, simple steps you can take to relieve your baby’s colic:

  • Cutting back on certain foods if you’re breastfeeding.
  • Introducing a pacifier.
  • Diverting your baby’s attention by playing soft music or rocking him/her.
  • Decreasing your baby’s exposure to outside stimulation.

Giving your baby a probiotic with four strains of beneficial bacteria and a prebiotic that feeds the good guys in his/her gut like EndoMune Junior could make a difference in your infant’s colicky symptoms and help you get a good night’s sleep too.

If you’re a new Mom and your baby’s colicky crying persists even after these simple and safe treatments, we urge you to schedule an appointment with your pediatrician for guidance.

Smarter Babies, Better Gut Health

For the longest time, we’ve discussed the connection between the brain and gut, better known as the gut-brain axis, and how it affects an array of human health variables from emotions to protecting your baby’s brain.

That connection may also be responsible for higher levels of cognitive development in young babies, depending on the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut, according to research featured recently in Biological Psychiatry.

Smelly diapers

To assess the relationship between the gut and brain development, researchers at the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) School of Medicine studied fecal samples from 1-year-old babies. Those samples were analyzed then separated into one of three microbial communities.

A year later, that same group of infants was given a series of cognitive tests that measured their language, perception and motor skills.

Overall, babies with higher concentrations of the Bacteroides bacterial genus did the best on cognitive tests. Interestingly, babies with more diverse gut microbiomes didn’t perform as well, a big surprise to UNC scientists.

“We had originally predicted that children with highly diverse microbiomes would perform better – since other studies have shown that low diversity in infancy is associated with negative health outcomes, including type 1 diabetes and asthma,” says Dr. Rebecca Knickmeyer, a member of UNC’s Department of Psychiatry, according to a press release.

“Our work suggests that an ‘optimal’ microbiome for cognitive and psychiatric outcomes may be different than an ‘optimal’ microbiome for other outcomes.”

Gut-brain communication

Another interesting aspect of this study is the realization that the guts and the developing brains of babies may be communicating in very unique ways we’re just learning about every day, Dr. Knickmeyer says.

“That’s something that we are working on now, so we’re looking at some signaling pathways that might be involved. Another possibility is that the bacterial community is acting as a proxy for some other process that influences brain development – for example, variation in certain dietary nutrients.”

Another huge takeaway from this study in measuring the microbiomes of infants: Adult-like gut microbiome communities emerging at such an early age, implying that the ideal age in which to intervene would happen before age 1, says UNC grad student Alexander Carlson.

“Big picture: these results suggest you may be able to guide the development of the microbiome to optimize cognitive development or reduce the risk for disorders like autism which can include problems with cognition and language,” says Dr. Knickmeyer.

Although researchers were hesitant to speculate how probiotics may play a role, a severe imbalance of gut bacteria — specifically Lactobacillus reuteri — may be a trigger for autism, based on a recent study conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine.

These deficits, along with the exploding growth of babies being delivered via Cesarean section in America, puts the health of our most vulnerable at risk from the very beginning of their lives.

A targeted, non-drug solution like a probiotic, like EndoMune Junior Probiotic, may be a safe way to promote better gut health and smarter brains.

 

Probiotics: The New Treatment for Peanut Allergies

Allergies to peanuts have become such a big problem for adults and kids — from diarrhea and hives to shortness of breath and life-threatening anaphylaxis — many people avoid them altogether.

Despite federal regulations that ensure packaged foods list the presence of the eight major food allergens, including peanuts, paying attention to the fine print on food labels (especially foods bought in bulk) and restaurant menus requires consumers to be constantly vigilant.

You may recall the results of an Australian study conducted at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) I posted a while back that found children taking probiotics containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus along with increasing amounts of peanut protein “trained” their immune systems to develop a tolerance to small amounts of peanuts without a problem.

Combining doses of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, one of the 10 strains of beneficial bacteria contained in EndoMune Advanced Probiotic, with peanut protein would shift the body’s allergic response to one of tolerance, researchers said.

At the time, all but five of the 28 children who received this treatment consumed peanuts with few problems. So, would this protection to severe allergic symptoms last?

Commonly, the benefits of such therapies extend for a short time, and very few patients enjoy this protection over the long term, according to medical experts.

The results of follow-up research with 48 children from the previous study (featured recently in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health) were far better than many expected.

Two-thirds of the kids who were treated with probiotics four years ago and could eat peanuts safely back then were still able to do so.

Even better, more than half of those young patients in the probiotic group were eating 2 grams or more of peanuts at least once or twice a week.

“These children had been eating peanut[s] freely in their diet without having to follow any particular program of peanut intake in the years after treatment was completed,” says lead researcher Dr. Mimi Tang, according to a press release.

“The importance of this finding is that these children were able to eat peanut[s] like children who don’t have peanut [allergies] and still maintain their tolerant state, protected against reactions to peanut[s].”

Now, Australian researchers are hoping to duplicate these impressive results on a larger scale with a larger follow-up study already taking place, says Dr. Tang.

Still, rolling out an effective protocol for patients and doctors could take at least five years if not longer.

Until then, you’ll want to review my tips for avoiding peanut allergens and discuss any strategies to treat them with your family physician first.

How Do You Take a Probiotic?

So, you’ve finally realized there are many reasons why you need to take a probiotic, but that’s only the first step toward improving your gut health.

How you take a probiotic — ideally with multiple species of beneficial bacteria — is even more important, as it helps you get the best value for your family’s health and your pocketbook.

Healthy kids and adults

Most healthy adults will get a much-needed boost to their immune system and gut health if they take a probiotic, ideally, about 30 minutes before eating a morning meal on an empty stomach.

This simple routine for most adults makes sense, based on the findings of a 2011 study featured in the journal Beneficial Microbes, that showed fewer good bugs contained in multi-species probiotics survived in smaller numbers through the upper gastrointestinal tract after a meal (when stomach acid is usually at its highest).

For small children age 3 or under, parents can protect their developing immune systems and reduce episodes of colic or diarrhea by sprinkling a probiotic in a powdered form (like EndoMune Junior) in a noncarbonated formula or liquid or on soft foods before or with a meal once a day.

Then, once your kids reach age 3, they can “graduate” to a chewy, fruity probiotic of their own (like EndoMune Junior Chewable).

When you’re sick

Another important consideration is how to take a probiotic when you’re sick. In fact, it’s becoming more common to see people taking a probiotic when their doctor prescribes an antibiotic, based on growing concerns about antibiotic-resistant infections.

Antibiotics can do a great deal of harm by wiping out the healthy bacteria in your gut and allowing bad bugs to hang around and cause more problems, like the persistent diarrhea associated with Clostridium difficile (C.diff).

Ideally, you’ll want to give your body at least a two-hour break in between taking a probiotic and antibiotic to allow those live and very beneficial probiotic bacteria an opportunity to protect your gut.

Before you begin taking a probiotic, it’s also critical to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have, especially if you have a health condition that requires taking specific drugs, like antifungal products or immunosuppressants.

Deciding on adding a probiotic to your daily routine is one of the easiest things you can do for your health. But knowing how and when to use a probiotic effectively can make all the difference in your health for the long haul.

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