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Are Prebiotics Safe for Kids?

You might have heard about probiotics for kid’s gut health, but there’s another piece of the puzzle when it comes to a healthy digestion: prebiotics. There’s growing interest in prebiotics for kid’s digestive health and a common concern among parents is regarding safety for use in their little ones. Let's review what prebiotics are for kids and how parents can feel assured that it’s right for their kiddos.

Prebiotics and Kid’s Digestive Health

Prebiotics are natural plant fibers found in certain foods such as leeks, artichokes, and berries. They serve as healthy nutrition for the beneficial bacteria in the gut and help boost the overall good bacteria count for optimal digestion. Having the right balance of good bacteria in the microbiome is crucial to both digestive health and supporting the immune system.

Safety of Prebiotics in Pediatric Care

A study in the International Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences reveals that prebiotics, specifically in the form of inulin, is not only well-tolerated in kids for the long-term, but can also support softer and more frequent stooling [2].

Additional Factors Ensuring Safety of Prebiotic Supplements for Kids

Prebiotics are naturally occurring fibers found in plant foods. While we always suggest getting nutrients from whole food sources first, we know it’s much harder for little ones to get the right foods on a daily basis. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a prebiotic for your kiddos:

  • Natural Ingredients. Prebiotic supplements can be useful for kids, especially if they are also derived from natural plant sources, such as chicory root fiber and inulin. The best prebiotic supplements are also free from artificial additives, added sugars, or food dyes. Learn more about food additives here and which ones our Begin Health experts recommend avoiding for kids.

  • Regulatory Standard. Reputable prebiotic products comply with strict quality and safety standards established by regulatory bodies. Opt for supplements that are third-party tested to ensure safety and quality for your little ones.

  • Research-backed Formulations. Choose prebiotic supplements that have research and clinical evidence to back up their ingredients to support digestive health in kids.

Begin Health Expert Tip: Our Growing Up Prebiotics is specifically formulated for kiddos and provides 3g of prebiotics from chicory root fiber and human milk oligosaccharides (HMO’s), a gentle way to support a little one’s digestive health through softer stooling. Data from studies reveal both digestive and immune support benefits for kids through consuming chicory root fiber [2] and HMO’s [3]. For more information on choosing fiber supplements, check out our blog: How to Choose Fiber Supplements for Kids.

Addressing Common Concerns

  • Allergies. Prebiotic allergies are very uncommon, but it’s essential to note and review the ingredients to ensure compatibility with your kid’s potential dietary allergies. Growing Up Prebiotics is allergen tested and free from the top major allergens including peanuts, tree nuts, soy, gluten, eggs, wheat, shellfish, and fish. A new study reveals that consuming prebiotics may actually reduce the risk of allergic rhinitis by 66%, based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey [1].

  • Digestive Side Effects. Prebiotics are generally well-tolerated by most kids. However, the best practice is to introduce them gradually based on dosage guidelines and monitor your kid’s response. Side effects such as bloating and excess gas at first are normal as the body gets used to the extra fiber.

Summary: Prebiotics, both through food sources and supplements are considered safe and well-tolerated for long-term use in kids. Incorporating prebiotics in your kiddo’s diets can be a proactive step toward nurturing their digestive health and supporting their overall well-being. Prebiotics can be found in natural sources such as leeks, artichokes, and berries. Prebiotics can also be consumed through supplements such as Growing Up Prebiotics, which are specifically formulated for kids and third-party tested to ensure quality and safety. Also consult with your kid’s personal healthcare professional before introducing any new supplement to your little one’s routine, especially if they have specific health needs and goals.

References:

[1] Chang C, Wang Q, Li X, Tan H, Huang G. The relationship between prebiotic intake and allergic rhinitis. Laryngoscope Investig Otolaryngol. 2023 Oct 3;8(5):1146-1153. doi: 10.1002/lio2.1158. PMID: 37899852; PMCID: PMC10601581.

[2] Closa-Monasterolo, R., Ferré, N., Castillejo-DeVillasante, G., Luque, V., Gispert-Llauradó, M., Zaragoza-Jordana, M., Theis, S., & Escribano, J. (2016). The use of inulin-type fructans improves stool consistency in constipated children. A randomised clinical trial: pilot study. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 68(5), 587–594. https://doi.org/10.1080/09637486.2016.1263605

[3] Hill DR, Chow JM, Buck RH. Multifunctional Benefits of Prevalent HMOs: Implications for Infant Health. Nutrients. 2021 Sep 25;13(10):3364. doi: 10.3390/nu13103364. PMID: 34684364; PMCID: PMC8539508.

May Zhu, RDN

May Zhu, RDN

May is the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and nutrition expert at Begin Health.



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