Infants and children are exposed to tons of germs at daycare and school. Many parents worry about their young ones getting sick and look for natural ways to support a healthier immune system. From minimizing sugary treats that weaken the immune system to giving multi-strain probiotics, many parents try everything possible to protect against pathogenic bacteria and viruses.
Developing a healthy and strong immune system early in life is important.
A poor diet, high levels of stress, and a lack of sleep can all impact a young, developing immune system. Since 70% of the immune system lies in the gut, the ability to fight off infections is lowered with poor gut health.
The gut microbiome is made up of trillions of microbes that live in the small and large intestine. Many of these microbes help support a healthy immune system. You can think of these bugs as little soldiers that live in the intestines and work hard to protect your little ones from illness.
Bifidobacterium breve, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium longum and, to a lesser extent, Bifidobacterium bifidum are different types of bacteria that colonize the gut of healthy, full-term breastfed infants. Unfortunately, not all babies develop a healthy microbiome. Many factors in today’s modern world have a negative impact on the microbiome of babies. The rise of caesarean sections, formula feeding, and antibiotic use early in life all contribute to poor colonization of important protective bacteria.
In order for children to develop a strong immune system, they need healthy microbial colonization within the first two years of life. In my clinical practice, I recommend probiotics to infants and children who show signs of an unhealthy microbiome – allergies, eczema, asthma, digestive symptoms (e.g. constipation and colic), oral thrush, and recurrent infections (e.g. ear infections).
While many parents choose probiotic yogurt, others understand that most commercial yogurt does not provide adequate amounts of beneficial bacteria. For a child to get 10 billion active bacteria per day through yogurt, they would need to eat approximately 10 small cups every day.
And not just any kind of yogurt.
Drinkable and squeezable yogurts often come with additives and large amounts of sugar, which can affect the viability of the live probiotic bacteria. This is why many parents opt for kids probiotic supplements (in powder or chewable form) over foods like yogurt. Most kids prefer tasty supplements and think of them as candy.
In addition to probiotics, fibre is also important. Fibre-rich foods act as fuel or food for the gut microbes – also known as prebiotics. A diet that contains prebiotics can help bacteria thrive and support a healthier microbiome. Just one avocado offers up to 13 grams of fibre.
Not sure how to introduce avocados into your child’s diet?
Why not replace unhealthy store-bought pudding with homemade chocolate avocado pudding? You can easily make this delicious treat at home in the food processor. All you need are ripe avocados, coconut milk, raw cacao powder, pure vanilla extract and maple syrup. Your kids might not even notice the mashed avocado. This tasty prebiotic dessert is always a huge hit.
Unlike most of the bugs in daycares and schools, a healthy dose of ‘friendly’ probiotic bugs may be just what the doctor ordered.
By: Dr. Sara Celik, ND
FloraBABY 4 Billion – for infants from 1 day old and up. Renew Life’s flavourless powder contains 5 different strains of probiotic bacteria. The powder can easily be mixed into warm or cool drinks such as infant formula, water, juice, milk, and/or soft foods such as yogurt and apple sauce.
Ultimate Flora Kids Probiotic 10 Billion – for children ages 3 and up. Comes in a convenient ‘once a day’ serving and contains 9 different strains of probiotic bacteria. Your kids will love the tasty berry flavour. Renew Life’s kids probiotic is free from common allergens like peanuts and does not contain artificial colours, preservatives or fillers.
FloraBEAR 1 Billion – for children ages 4 and up. This citrus flavour chewable tablet contains 4 different strains of probiotic bacteria that could promote a favourable gut flora. Renew Life’s kids probiotic is free from common allergens like peanuts and does not contain artificial colours, preservatives or fillers.