A new study suggests that giving probiotics to children with diarrhea, from a viral infection, can shorten the illness.
A report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) finds that probiotics, “good” bacteria that colonize in the gut and may help improve digestion, immune defense and even metabolism, can have certain health benefits for some children.
The study published by the journal Pediatrics, says that when probiotics are given to children, who are otherwise healthy but are suffering with diarrhea from a viral infection, the duration of the illness is shortened. The review also found that probiotics may help prevent diarrhea in children who are taking antibiotics.
The AAP stopped short of recommending that probiotics be added to children’s formula, and warned that the live microorganisms should not be given to seriously ill children with weakened immune systems or who use intravenous catheters because serious infections have been reported. There’s also not enough data to recommend probiotics to kids for constipation, irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease, or to prevent asthma or eczema in children, the AAP reports.
Future research may find more benefits, the report says. And “prebiotics,” which contain fiber and other nutrients that feed probiotic bacteria, also may someday prove helpful.
The bacteria in the products are only helpful if they’re alive. “Consumers should keep in mind that a large percentage of organisms in a probiotic supplement may die before the product is even purchased and labels can be misleading or incorrect,” said Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of ConsumerLab.com, which tests products and reports on their quality. The company tested probiotic supplements last year. Two children’s probiotics contained only 7 percent and 21 percent of the listed amounts. Cooperman suggested that products be stored in sealed containers out of heat, light and humidity. He said it’s best to refrigerate them.