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When is the Best Time for Kids to Take Prebiotics?

Published November 21, 2023

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Prebiotics can help support a healthy digestion in your kids by boosting the overall amount of friendly gut bacteria. Studies tell us that daily, consistent intake of prebiotic fiber can help with softer, more frequent poops within six weeks [2]. However, is there an optimal timing or age range for kids to take prebiotics? Let's explore this question and consider the age ranges and specific scenarios where prebiotics can offer the most significant benefits.

Toddler Years: Laying the Foundation for Healthy Microbiota

For toddlers, introducing prebiotics can be especially beneficial as their digestive systems are still developing. The first 1000 days after birth is a critical window for gut microbiome development, which is essential for immune system maturation and overall health [1]. Diet and environment can change the gut microbiome during this period. Disruptions to the microbiota early in life can have lasting health effects, including increased risks of inflammatory disorders, autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders, and obesity.

Breast milk is the gold standard in nutrition for infant growth, naturally containing prebiotics to provide essential nourishment for the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Toddlers can get similar benefits by Incorporating age-appropriate prebiotic supplements or introducing prebiotic-rich foods like mashed bananas or pureed peas during weaning stages can contribute to the establishment of a robust gut microbiota.

School-Age Kids: The Need for a Fiber Boost

Studies reveal that 95% of kids do not consume or meet the recommended amount of daily fiber [3]. As toddlers and kids progress into school-age, consuming fiber-rich foods consistently can provide additional support to their evolving digestive systems. Constipation is particularly common during the transition times between toddler to school-age years, making fiber more important than ever to reduce the risk for uncomfortable stools [4]. Not only does prebiotics offer the benefits of fiber, but studies have found that consuming prebiotic fiber specifically from chicory root fiber can help promote softer and more frequent stools within six weeks of daily use [2].

Begin Health Expert Tip Breakfast or afternoon snack-time can be strategic opportunities to incorporate prebiotics. Including fiber-rich foods like berries, apples, or pears can offer sustained support to their growing digestive systems. Prebiotics such as Begin’s Growing Up Prebiotics can also be an easy way for kiddos to get a fiber boost. Every serving provides 3 grams of fiber and can be added to water, juice, or their favorite drink without changing the taste or texture.

Teenage Gut Health: Promoting Healthy Habits for a Lifetime

Adolescence is also a critical time for growth and development, and supporting a healthy gut becomes increasingly important. Data from studies reveal that constipation during the teenage years can increase the risk for behavioral and emotional problems [5]. Prebiotics, whether derived from foods via fruits/vegetables or incorporated into a daily routine through supplements, can contribute to digestive balance and support symptoms from mood disorders such as anxiety during these transitional years [6].

Prebiotic Timing Throughout the Day

While age-specific needs are important to consider, consistency and daily use - regardless of when you take it during the day, is more important to promoting good gut health and getting the most benefits out of prebiotics. Find a time that makes the most sense for your little one to commit to daily so that taking prebiotics becomes a healthy, consistent habit.

For more ideas on how to incorporate prebiotics, check out our gut-friendly prebiotic smoothie recipes here.

Summary: From the toddler years to adolescence, incorporating prebiotics can help support overall digestive and immune health. Consistent, daily prebiotic use can help contribute to the long-term integrity of the gut microbiota by supporting healthier and more regular poops.

References:

[1] Pantazi AC, Balasa AL, Mihai CM, Chisnoiu T, Lupu VV, Kassim MAK, Mihai L, Frecus CE, Chirila SI, Lupu A, Andrusca A, Ionescu C, Cuzic V, Cambrea SC. Development of Gut Microbiota in the First 1000 Days after Birth and Potential Interventions. Nutrients. 2023 Aug 20;15(16):3647. doi: 10.3390/nu15163647. PMID: 37630837; PMCID: PMC10457741.

[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] Quagliani D, Felt-Gunderson P. Closing America's Fiber Intake Gap: Communication Strategies From a Food and Fiber Summit. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016 Jul 7;11(1):80-85. doi: 10.1177/1559827615588079. PMID: 30202317; PMCID: PMC6124841.

[4] Rajindrajith S, Devanarayana NM. Constipation in children: novel insight into epidemiology, pathophysiology and management. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2011 Jan;17(1):35-47. doi: 10.5056/jnm.2011.17.1.35. Epub 2011 Jan 26. PMID: 21369490; PMCID: PMC3042216.

[5] Rajindrajith S, Ranathunga N, Jayawickrama N, van Dijk M, Benninga MA, Devanarayana NM. Behavioral and emotional problems in adolescents with constipation and their association with quality of life. PLoS One. 2020 Oct 12;15(10):e0239092. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0239092. PMID: 33044960; PMCID: PMC7549826.

[6] Liu L, Zhu G. Gut-Brain Axis and Mood Disorder. Front Psychiatry. 2018 May 29;9:223. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00223. PMID: 29896129; PMCID: PMC5987167.

May Zhu, RDN

May Zhu, RDN

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