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How Do I Know If My Kids Need Prebiotics?

Published December 06, 2023

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Are your kids struggling with painful poops and constipation? If so, adding prebiotics, which are naturally occurring plant fibers, into your little one’s diet might be beneficial for their overall digestive health. Digestive health is often used as an indicator of the overall health status in your kiddos [1]. With all the buzz around prebiotics and gut health, it’s natural to wonder if your kid could benefit from consuming prebiotics. Let's review how to discern if prebiotics might be the right fit for your kiddo and how parents can incorporate them into their kiddos’ daily routine.

Signs of Digestive Health Imbalance in Kids

Your kiddo’s digestive system is a complex ecosystem. Factors such as diet, stress, antibiotic use, and underlying medical conditions can disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria in their gut [2]. A gut imbalance might manifest through various signs, including:

  • Digestive Discomfort. Signs such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, or irregular bowel movements might indicate an imbalance in gut bacteria.

  • Frequent Illness. Up to 80% of our immune cells live in the gut microbiome [3]. Kids experiencing regular periods of illness or weakened immune systems could potentially benefit from improved gut health to help with overall immunity.

  • Dietary Habits. If your kid’s diet lacks diversity and includes an excess of processed foods, it might not provide enough nourishment for beneficial gut bacteria to thrive.

How Prebiotics Help Kids Digestive Balance and Health

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that act as healthy nutrition for the beneficial bacteria in the gut. These special fibers help build and maintain a healthy balance of gut microflora. A balanced gut environment with plenty of good gut bacteria is crucial to supporting optimal digestion through softer and more frequent poops [4].

Signs Your Kid Might Benefit from Prebiotics

Considering these factors, here are signs that suggest your kids might benefit from prebiotic supplements:

  • Digestive Issues. If your little one experiences frequent digestive discomfort, such constipation or irregular bowel movements, prebiotics can re-establish regularity and support with softer stooling [4].

  • Antibiotic Use. Antibiotics can disrupt the gut flora and reduce bacterial diversity, leading to digestive disturbances such as the symptoms listed above. After a course of antibiotics, introducing prebiotics into the diet may help restore the balance by boosting good gut bacteria [5].

  • Lack of Diversity in the Diet. Fiber plays an important role in overall metabolic and digestive health, but an estimated 95% of kids do not meet the daily fiber recommendations [6,7]. A diet lacking in diverse, fiber-rich plant foods might not adequately support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

Where to Get Prebiotics

Promoting a balanced diet rich in diverse nutrients and fibers helps build a strong foundation for a healthy gut. Prebiotic fibers can be found in plant foods such as apples, berries, carrots, bananas, and artichokes. However for pickier eaters or little ones who have a more difficult time eating a balanced diet, adding a prebiotic supplement such as Growing Up Prebiotics can be a helpful addition to boost their intake. Just mix into their favorite water or beverage for an easy way to support their digestive health - every serving provides 3g of prebiotic fiber to support softer, more frequent stooling and happier tummies [4].

Summary: Prioritizing your kid’s digestive health is essential for their overall well-being. Prebiotics are naturally occurring plant fibers and can support your kiddo if they struggle with digestive discomfort such as constipation or irregularity, frequent illnesses, or dietary imbalances. Prebiotics can be found in foods such as apples and berries, but for pickier eaters, incorporating a daily prebiotic supplement such as Growing Up Prebiotics can also be a helpful addition to support digestive health.

References:

[1] Hills RD Jr, Pontefract BA, Mishcon HR, Black CA, Sutton SC, Theberge CR. Gut Microbiome: Profound Implications for Diet and Disease. Nutrients. 2019 Jul 16;11(7):1613. doi: 10.3390/nu11071613. PMID: 31315227; PMCID: PMC6682904.

[2] Bull MJ, Plummer NT. Part 1: The Human Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Dec;13(6):17-22. PMID: 26770121; PMCID: PMC4566439.

[3] Wiertsema SP, van Bergenhenegouwen J, Garssen J, Knippels LMJ. The Interplay between the Gut Microbiome and the Immune System in the Context of Infectious Diseases throughout Life and the Role of Nutrition in Optimizing Treatment Strategies. Nutrients. 2021 Mar 9;13(3):886. doi: 10.3390/nu13030886. PMID: 33803407; PMCID: PMC8001875.

[4] 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

[5] Patangia DV, Anthony Ryan C, Dempsey E, Paul Ross R, Stanton C. Impact of antibiotics on the human microbiome and consequences for host health. Microbiologyopen. 2022 Feb;11(1):e1260. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.1260. PMID: 35212478; PMCID: PMC8756738.

[6] Barber TM, Kabisch S, Pfeiffer AFH, Weickert MO. The Health Benefits of Dietary Fibre. Nutrients. 2020 Oct 21;12(10):3209. doi: 10.3390/nu12103209. PMID: 33096647; PMCID: PMC7589116.

[7] 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

May Zhu, RDN

May Zhu, RDN

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

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