Baby with pink microbes in the back

Your Guide to: Probiotics for Children

CDHF

Written by: CDHF

Updated: February 8th, 2023

As a parent, you want to give your baby the best start in life. You are conscious of your baby’s health and development and want to ensure they grow up happy and healthy. There is a lot of talk today about probiotics for children and how probiotics can benefit children.

If you didn’t know, The World Health Organization defines probiotics as ‘Live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’. In plain language, probiotics are “good microbes” that help us digest food, maintain health and fight disease. Many Canadians are hearing about how great probiotics are, and are looking to supplement their diet with them. 

Not every child will need to be given probiotic. Early life exposures to microbes in the world we live in, playing outside, having a pet, eating variety of food are all factors supporting good gut microbes and in turn good health.  There are numerous reasons why probiotics may be beneficial for your child, but you’ll want to make sure they take the right one, for the right reason.

With so many probiotics available on the market – how do you choose which one is best for your child?

Probiotics have been identified as a treatment for specific conditions and for symptom relief. It’s important that you talk with your doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian FIRST before taking a probiotic, to ensure your child has a proper diagnosis, or know why your child may take it. Together, you can select an appropriate probiotic that is the most suitable for them.

The Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products can help

The issue of choosing the right probiotic for the right reasons has been addressed in the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products. The Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products is an evidence-based decision-making tool for clinicians, which is independently prepared and updated every year. This project has been going on since 2008, and has been recognized as the only reliable resource by international healthcare associations providing health care professionals and consumers with a list of probiotic formulations that have been specifically clinically tested – so they can select the appropriate product, dose, and formulation for a specific indication. To be included in the guide, all of the inclusion criteria must be met:

1. Commercially available in Canada (or the US) as a supplement or probiotic-containing food
2. Generally Recognized as Safe status (FDA) and/or Natural Product Number (Health Canada) for probiotic strain(s) used in the products
3. Favourable published clinical evidence for the particular strain(s) present in each product
4. For products containing multiple strains, the evidence must be for the specified combination and NOT extrapolated from the evidence for the separate probiotic strains

Alliance for Education on Probiotics (AEProbio) supports publishing and distribution of this Guide.  

Within the Guide, the recommendations are tied to brand names, making it easier for you to select the recommended product when purchasing in stores. Probiotic strain names and doses are also listed. Favorable published clinical evidence for the particular strain(s) presented in each product are given and include numerous gastrointestinal conditions.  

The handy acronym list makes it easy for you to find the product that has clinical evidence for your specific condition:  

There, you will also be able to compare products based on the level of evidence, as it is graded with a I, II, or III, with level I being the highest level: 

level of evidence probiotic chart

To make things even EASIER, the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products also includes symbols to indicate whether or not the product is gluten free and requires refrigeration.  

probiotic chart symbols

For example, if your child suffers from constipation – probiotics can help. Referring to the Clinical Guide to Probiotic Products, under the pediatric health indication (page 11 of the PDF), you would see that there are four products that have favourable published clinical evidence on relieving constipation –  all which have level I evidence.

clinical guide to probiotics pediatric levels of evidence for constipation

How to use the guide:

See the full guide to review brands and strains for other conditions such as Colic, IBS/FAP (functional abdominal pain), antibiotic associated diarrhea – prevention, and much more.  

View the full guide online at Probioticchart.ca or download the PDF.

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