Probiotics, which has many health benefits, are here to stay. And, for good reasons. Probiotics are nothing but 'good' bacteria (and some yeasts) in live form. They occur naturally in fermented foods like curd and pickles. Your child has a unique set of microorganisms in his digestive system called gut flora, which includes the good bacteria that help in digesting food and keeping germs at bay.
Probiotics have attained a celebrity status due to their ability to boost immunity and treat infections. Around 70 to 80 per cent of our immune cells lie in the gut, so, a balance of bacteria in your child's tummy means a healthy immune system and a healthy child.
Here are top six reasons why you should choose probiotics:
- Builds Immunity: The bacteria in your child's tummy secrete special enzymes to break down food and absorb nutrients. If there is a shortage of good bacteria in your child's tummy, her food may not be digested properly, because of which she may lose all the vital nutrients necessary for her growth. Poor nutrition leads to low immunity and increased number of colds and fevers. So, offer probiotic foods to your child to keep his immune system in prime condition.
- Combats digestive disorders: A healthy gut has a balance of 85 per cent good and 15 per cent bad bacteria. When your child consumes probiotics, they aid in balancing the bacteria in her stomach. This ensures that your child's body is digesting food properly and absorbing all the essential nutrients. If there is an imbalance, your child may have digestive disorders like bloating, gas or constipation. Also, the latest studies suggest that probiotics help in treating diarrhoea.
- Prevents allergies: With the easy availability of processed and packaged food, unhealthy eating is rampant among today's children. Consumption of junk foods can cause inflammation in your child's body. When inflammation occurs, the immune system works hard to keep up. The result? Allergies like asthma and eczema. Probiotics help in proper digestion and prevent inflammation, thus acting as a protective shield against these ailments.
- Manages metabolism and weight: Regularly eating probiotic-rich foods can improve your child's metabolism and help him stay in shape. With childhood obesity rising sharply, this is good news. Adding probiotics will not only increase the good bacteria in your child's gut but also the different strains of bacteria become 'friendly' with each other and work together as a team. This makes your child more active and keeps her weight gain in check.
- Boosts brain development: Do you know there is a second brain in your body? Yes — there is a 'backup brain' in your intestines with millions of neurons and many neural activities. Remember the butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling when you're nervous or stressed out? Blame your second brain for it. The bacteria in the stomach are responsible for producing more than 30 chemicals, including serotonin, the happiness chemical. When there is an imbalance in your child's gut flora, it may affect the levels of these chemicals, which will further affect his mood, attention, memory and concentration. With poor digestive health, your child is also susceptible to anxiety and depression.
- Safeguards against side effects of antibiotics: Infections are common in school-aged children. Every other month, your child may come up with a spell of cold or a tummy infection. And, sometimes your child may have to resort to antibiotics to get rid of the persistent infection. Antibiotics do not specifically target bad bacteria, it affects good bacteria too. As a result, your child will be running low on the good bacteria that are critical for recovery and improving immunity. If you supplement your child's diet with probiotics during medication, it can speed up her recovery. They also help in alleviating antibiotic-induced diarrhoea.
Safety Note: Probiotics from natural foods are the safest options for your child. If you think your child will benefit from probiotic supplements, have a word with your doctor, and opt for a reputed brand. Although probiotic supplements are safe, they are known to cause digestive issues in some people.
Indian cuisine is full of natural probiotics; curd, buttermilk, cheese, lassi, pickles, idli, dosa, fermented rice/millet porridges and dhokla are all good choices. A bowl of curd rice along with traditionally made pickles can do wonders for your child's overall health. You can also make flavoured yoghurts at home with fresh fruits and offer them to your child.
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