As we start the New Year with resolutions for living healthy, I want to share with you an article(1) that assesses the healthy benefits of probiotics for children.

The December issue of Pediatrics included a report, “Clinical Report – Probiotics and Prebiotics in Pediatrics,” prepared by the Committee on Nutrition, a component of the American Academy of Pediatrics – an organization comprised of 60,000 pediatricians.

The purpose of the report was to provide guidance to pediatric health care providers on the usefulness and benefits of probiotics and prebiotics for children. In doing so, the committee:

  1. Reviewed published clinical studies that provided children with probiotics or prebiotics to prevent or treat a variety of health issues, and
  2. Analyzed the quality of the reports and determined whether there was enough evidence to recommend the use of probiotics for the specific disorders.

In the last five years there has been an explosion of clinical studies using probiotics. Most of the studies have proven efficacy or general positive benefits, leading to an increase in the recommendation of probiotics by mainstream medicine.

Committee on Nutrition: Probiotic Recommendations

After thoroughly reviewing and assessing previous studies, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee suggested probiotics and/or prebiotics may have a positive impact on the following conditions.
#1: Acute Infectious Diarrhea
The committee reviewed studies to determine if probiotics could prevent episodes of acute infectious diarrhea that occur in child care centers. Based on available studies, the committee did not recommend routine use of probiotics to prevent acute infectious diarrhea but did acknowledge there may be special circumstances that probiotics are beneficial.
#2: Viral Gastroenteritis
Trials of using probiotics to treat children with acute infectious diarrhea found that probiotics shortened the illness in children with viral gastroenteritis by one day. The conclusion stated “there is evidence to support the use of probiotics early in the course of childhood acute infectious diarrhea.”
#3: Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea
Review of trials using probiotics to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea found that probiotics were beneficial. Antibiotics can decrease the healthy intestinal bacteria population and allow the unhealthy bacteria to overgrow and cause diarrhea. The conclusion was that probiotics can be used to reduce the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhea.

The committee reviewed numerous clinical trials that used probiotics to treat and prevent other pediatric medical disorders. While some of these studies found specific benefits, the general recommendation was that further studies were necessary to prove efficacy for the following conditions:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Infantile Colic
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Eczema

Prebiotics and Allergy Reduction

The committee also reviewed medical trials using prebiotics. Prebiotics refer to a special class of fiber in our diet that acts as “food” for the healthy bacteria, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These bacteria use the prebiotic as a source of nourishment for their growth and activity.

Studies of adding prebiotics to infant diets found reduced incidence of allergies. The conclusion of the committee was that “confirmatory studies of the benefits of prebiotics….are needed before recommendations cam be made…”

Safe and Promising Supplements

The committee also commented on the safety of both probiotic and prebiotic supplement. They stated “to date, these products seem to be safe for healthy infants and children.” Caution should be used in giving probiotics to children with compromised immune function.

The committee was generally positive about the use of probiotics in children. But, it was being very responsible in not making general recommendations. Although there are positive studies for the clinical use of probiotics, the committee wants to see more studies to confirm the benefits. Further confirmatory studies are being accomplished to prove the clinical health benefits. We await the next updated report.

In the meantime, if your child is suffering with one of the disorders mentioned above, it seems reasonable to consider a therapeutic trial with a probiotic like EndoMune – a safe supplement that contains both probiotics and a prebiotic.

Wishing you and your loved ones a very healthy 2011.

Eat healthy, exercise and stay well.
Dr. Hoberman

References:

(1) Probiotics and prebiotics in pediatrics. Thomas DW, Greer FR; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. Pediatrics. 2010 Dec;126(6):1217-31.