Antibiotics are important drugs that help your body fight off potentially dangerous infections. But have we come to rely too much on these “miracle drugs?” Overuse of antibiotics in the past decade has created a global increase in antibiotic resistance. Many people develop bacteria that will not respond to antibiotics, and some of them will even die. The results of a new study review in the European Journal of Public Health could help to reduce that problem. The study revealed that giving infants and children probiotics on a regular basis may help to limit the amount of antibiotics they need.
The study review examined more than 17 published studies covering the effects of probiotics in relation to infectious diseases of children’s respiratory and digestive tracts. The review showed that daily use of probiotics was able to reduce antibiotic prescriptions by 29% in comparison to those who received a placebo. In looking at only the 5 highest quality studies, that number went up to 53%.
Dr. Andi Shane, researcher at Emory University School of Medicine, co-authored the review. She believes her analysis proves that adding a probiotic supplement to a child’s daily regimen was more effective than placebo at decreasing the number of acute respiratory tract infections, acute digestive tract infections, and acute ear infections. The duration of these illnesses was also reduced. These results also mean that adding a probiotic supplement to a child’s daily routine could reduce their need for antibiotics.
Although the researchers can’t explain exactly why the probiotic supplements prevent and reduce illness, their hypothesis is that it has to do with the gut. Because 75% of the immune system is located in the gut, the healthy bacteria found in probiotics can help to boost immune health and rid the body of dangerous pathogens. The healthy bacteria in the gut also might help to reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the body.
How can you increase probiotics in your child’s diet?
You can certainly add a probiotic supplement to your infant or child’s diet. Probiotics designed especially for young children usually come in drop or powder form and can be mixed with water or sprinkled on food. Always check with your child’s pediatrician before starting a supplement.
Another way to increase probiotic intake is simply through your child’s diet. Healthy bacteria are found naturally in fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, and fermented drinks. There are many products on the market now, some designed especially for young children, that can help to boost your child’s gut health.