Children and probiotics: how do they work? - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Children and probiotics: how do they work?

A probiotic is a dairy food or supplement containing live bacteria that replace or add to the beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. (Source: KPLC) A probiotic is a dairy food or supplement containing live bacteria that replace or add to the beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract. (Source: KPLC)
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

In the disinfecting and antibiotic-heavy society we live in today, many medical experts say we are killing off the good bacteria that offers protection.  That is what has led to a surge in probiotic purchases, but what is this bacteria touted to coat our guts with the "good stuff?"

If you walk down a medicine or dairy aisle, no doubt you will see probiotic packages with hard to pronounce ingredients.  While spelling words like "lactobacillus" and "bifidobacterium" can be difficult, pediatrician Anatole Karpovs with The Children's Clinic of Southwest Louisiana says the task of these probiotics is a pretty simple one.

"A probiotic is a microscopic organism that can be beneficial when you take it in a sufficient amount, it might benefit your help in some way," he said.

Dr. Karpovs says probiotics help restore normal bacteria in your child's gut, boosting natural immune defenses, and promoting digestive health.

"Oftentimes it does help if you have chronic diarrhea-type illnesses or bad gastroenteritis," he said.  "I've also seen some studies showing that it may benefit for prevention of certain kinds of stomach viruses or occasionally I've seen studies about cold symptoms."

So why do we need to put bacteria into our bodies?  Dr. Karpovs says it is because we have reduced the amount of good bacteria in our surroundings through disinfecting and in our bodies through antibiotics.

"Many times we've learned early on that bacteria are bad for us, we have to sanitize everything, we have to stay really clean or else we get infections from bacteria, but actually that ends up being just a very small percentage of bacteria that we come into contact," said Dr. Karpovs.

With so many options on the market, Dr. Karpovs says it is best to go with name brands in stories, versus shopping around online.  He also says yogurts can help, along with a balanced diet that can offer prebiotics.

"The more fruits and vegetables that you eat, whole grains, nuts, things like that.  Those kind of things help establish those normal bacteria within your system," said Dr. Karpovs.

If you are giving a probiotic to your child, make sure you follow the recommended amounts.  For babies, breast milk is the perfect probiotic and prebiotic.

Click here to read about foods that naturally offer pre/probiotics.

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