Understanding Probiotics: A Guide for Parents and Caregivers


Probiotics are often referred to as “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep the gut healthy. They are live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host. For children, especially, probiotics can play a key role in maintaining health and preventing disorders.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. We usually think of these as germs that cause diseases. However, your body is full of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.

Types of Probiotics

There are several different types of probiotics. They include a variety of organisms, but two main kinds are:

Lactobacillus: This may be the most common probiotic. It’s the one you’ll find in yogurt and other fermented foods. Different strains can help with diarrhea and may help people who can’t digest lactose, the sugar in milk.
Bifidobacterium: You can find it in some dairy products. It may help ease the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other conditions.

Saccharomyces boulardii is a yeast found in probiotics. It appears to help fight diarrhea and other digestive problems.

How Probiotics Work

Probiotics work by balancing the levels of microorganisms in the intestines. They drive down the numbers of harmful bacteria. They also seem to boost the body’s immune system and aid digestion and nutrient absorption.

Benefits of Probiotics in Pediatrics

Probiotics can provide numerous benefits for children, including:

Preventing diarrhea: Probiotics are widely known to reduce the risk and severity of diarrhea from various causes.
Boosting immune function: Regular intake of probiotics can help children fight off infections more efficiently.
Managing symptoms of colic: Probiotics, particularly Lactobacillus reuteri, have been found to reduce crying times in colicky babies.
Reducing the risk of allergies and eczema: Some strains of probiotics may reduce the incidence of respiratory allergies and eczema in children.

Recommendations for Use

While probiotics are generally safe for children, it is crucial to consult with a pediatrician before starting any probiotic supplement, especially for children with immune deficiencies or those who are critically ill. The dose and suitability of probiotics can vary based on the child’s age and health condition.

Choosing the Right Probiotic

When selecting a probiotic, it is important to:

Look for the specific strains: For specific health concerns, certain strains of probiotics are more effective than others.
Consider the form: Probiotics are available in foods like yogurt and supplements, including capsules, tablets, and powders.
Check the viability: Ensure the probiotic contains live and active cultures.

Incorporating Probiotics into Your Child’s Diet

Incorporating probiotics into your child’s diet can be done effectively through:

Fermented foods: Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and miso are great sources.
Supplements: If dietary sources are not an option, supplements can be a good alternative. Always choose high-quality brands recommended by healthcare providers.


Probiotics are a valuable addition to a child’s diet, contributing to digestive health and immune function. By understanding the types and benefits of probiotics, parents and caregivers can make informed decisions about incorporating these beneficial bacteria into their children’s daily regimen.