Since the start of this year, and throughout the circuit breaker in Singapore, nine-year-old Aly has been in the pink of health. Her mother, artist and Lula J Jewelry founder, Jamie Yeo, attributes Aly’s strong immune system to Enterogermina probiotics, which Aly has been taking every day. Jamie’s son Luke, two, also takes the same probiotics, albeit on every alternate day. “I especially like Enterogermina because I’m not a fan of sweet probiotic drinks for kids,” Jamie says.
Whether you are looking to enhance your child’s immune system, or boost good bacteria in their gut (which helps with immunity), probiotics can help.
In children, probiotics can also help prevent frequent digestive upsets, says Dr Lee Bee Wah, a paediatrician at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre. Modifying lifestyle factors such as reducing stress, and maintaining a well-balanced diet with fibre, can also ensure that your child’s digestive system — commonly known as the gut — stays healthy, she adds.
The body’s “second brain”
Probiotics work in the gut, which is why you may have heard the term “gut health”. This refers to the state of your digestive tract, and its importance in our lives cannot be overstressed.
The gut contains 70% of the body’s immune system1, and is often referred to as the body’s second brain,
says Professor Hugo Van Bever, a Senior Consultant at the Division of Paediatric Allergy, Immunology & Rheumatology at the National University Hospital.
This is because a healthy gut serves many essential roles in sustaining and protecting our overall health. In addition, it absorbs nutrients and provides energy for the whole body.
Apart from giving children a better quality of life — without tummy troubles — having a healthy gut will naturally strengthen a child’s immunity, and help protect the child against infection, Dr Lee says.
Beyond this, it can also lead to a healthier home and family, and ensure that kids do not miss valuable experiences to learn and play. “When a child suffers from digestive upset, it leads to knock-on effects directly on the child, and indirectly on family members,” says Prof Van Bever.
Here’s how it works
There is more bacteria than cells in our bodies. That’s right. Every one of us is a thriving ecosystem of bacteria. Even our brains contain germs!
And while we have mostly been taught to associate germs with disease, that is not always accurate. Firstly, some bacteria are beneficial to us. Secondly, the human body can never be healthy without bacteria.
Bacteria in our bodies have multiple functions. One is that they train the immune system to do its work, helping to regulate itself and to stimulate good immune functions. Without these bacteria, none of us would survive.
Together with other viruses and fungi, they form what is called a microbiome in the gut. The microbiome works in tandem with the immune system to control how your body responds to infection2.
This is where probiotics some in. Probiotics help the gut microbiome stay healthy, hence ensuring that your immune system continues perform at peak level.
Other Benefits of Probiotics
When there is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, digestive upsets occur.
Probiotics can help maintain gut balance by lowering the amount of bad bacteria in your gut, and replacing them with good ones. Consequently, a healthier gut will lead to a healthier immune system, and fewer illnesses.
When your child is having a bout of gastroenteritis, taking probiotics can reduce the duration and frequency of diarrhoea. It can also aid with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) issues, and help ease constipation.
(See also: Does your Child have Good Poop?)
Probiotics may even help children before they are born. If a mum-to-be has eczema, taking probiotics during pregnancy may have a small effect in helping prevent her baby from having eczema3, Prof Van Bever shared. A study of children whose mothers took probiotics during pregnancy showed that these children had an 83% lower risk of developing eczema in the first two years of life4.
How to Choose the Right Probiotics
Many varieties of probiotics are available in pharmacies island-wide. They can also be bought online. When choosing one for your family, do your research first. The most important criterion is the clinical studies, says Prof Van Bever. Check:
- Has it been proven to be safe?
- Has it been proven to be effective?
- Does it have a good research history?
- Can it reach the gut alive, and multiply once there?
- Is it easy for your child to consume?
At the end of the day, safety is the most important point to consider, Prof Van Bever reckons. When giving your child probiotics, take note of the dose and the duration of the course. Follow the recommended dosage, or what your child’s doctor has recommended.
If your child is having diarrhoea, for instance, you can give the child probiotics until all the symptoms have stopped. This can take from six to eight days, adds Prof Van Bever.
Finally, as Jamie, who realised the importance of probiotics after Aly had a prolonged episode of digestive upset while on vacation, reasons, “We can’t be with our kids every step of the way, no matter how much we try. So, it becomes important to strengthen their gut health to prevent and avoid digestive upsets in the first place.”
:: Giveaway :: (CLOSED)
In conjunction with the launch of Enterogermina® in Singapore, three SingaporeMotherhood readers stand a chance to win health-friendly gift sets! Each gift set is worth $60 and contains:
- 2 x face masks for children (with drawings)
- 1 x sanitiser
- 1 x water bottle with fruit infuser
How to win:
- Like and share the post on Facebook
- Answer the simple question (see it on the FB post)
- Tag two friends
Closing date: 12 noon, 16 July 2020