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Prebiotic or Probiotic for Toddler Constipation: Which One to Choose?

Published December 03, 2023

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Prebiotics and probiotics can both promote a balanced gut microbiome in our kiddos. For toddlers that struggle with constipation, the journey for digestive relief solutions is a common conversation among parents. There are a variety of solutions available, but the specific strategy that works will vary from kid to kid depending on their condition and symptoms. Probiotics and prebiotics have shown promising evidence to support gut health in kids [1]. Let’s review what science tells us and if parents should implement prebiotics, probiotics, or both for toddler constipation.

Prebiotics vs Probiotics: The Differences

  • Probiotics: These are live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, offer health benefits like regularity and digestive health by maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria [1]

  • Prebiotics: In contrast, prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that serve as nutritious food for the beneficial bacteria in the gut. They stimulate the growth or activity of good bacteria, supporting a healthy gut environment and potentially providing constipation relief in toddlers through softer stooling [2].

Begin Health Expert Tip: Probiotics can be found in a variety of foods - check out what our dietitian says are the Top Sources of Probiotic foods for Kids.

Role of Prebiotics and Probiotics in Constipation Support

  • Probiotics: Certain strains of probiotics, particularly those from the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus families, have shown promise in promoting regular bowel movements in kids [3]. These live bacteria help in softening stools and improving gut transit time, potentially easing constipation discomfort in toddlers.

  • Prebiotics: By providing nourishment to the beneficial bacteria in the gut, prebiotics indirectly contribute to better digestive health. Studies suggest that prebiotic supplementation might enhance stool consistency and frequency, making it easier for toddlers to pass stools regularly [2].

Begin Health Expert Tip: Prebiotics can be naturally found in foods such as berries, apples, and carrots. For pickier eaters or kiddos who have a difficult time consuming vegetables daily, incorporating Growing Up Prebiotics is an easy way for little ones to get the benefits of prebiotic fiber in a tasteless and textureless way. It’s made with only two simple ingredients that work to promote regularity and less painful poops in kiddos: chicory root fiber and 2’FL-HMO (human milk oligosaccharide). Every serving provides 3g of daily fiber for happier and healthier poops.

Incorporating Prebiotics and Probiotics: Considerations for Parents

  • Start with Natural Sources: Incorporating prebiotic-rich foods into your toddler's diet, such as bananas, berries, and apples, can be a gentle and natural way to promote a healthy gut.

  • Gradual Supplement Introduction: If opting for supplements, choose high-quality options that are third-party tested. Start with small doses and observe your toddler's response. Gradually increase the dosage per the supplement guidelines.

  • Consistency: Both prebiotics and probiotics might take time to exhibit noticeable effects. Consistency in daily usage along with a balanced diet will play a pivotal role in maximizing their benefits.

  • Consultation: Before introducing any supplements, it’s best to consult a pediatrician or a healthcare professional first, especially if your little one is dealing with other health conditions. They can guide you in choosing the right probiotic or prebiotic suitable for your toddler's needs.

In your little one’s journey to alleviate constipation, the choice between prebiotics and probiotics doesn’t need to be exclusive. A combined approach, under professional guidance, might offer a more comprehensive solution.

Summary: When it comes to toddler constipation, a balanced approach might yield the best results. While both prebiotics and probiotics offer digestive health benefits such as regularity and softer stooling, incorporating them together might provide a synergistic effect. This will help promote a more diverse and robust gut microbiome to help give your toddler some relief from constipation symptoms [1].


[1] Miqdady M, Al Mistarihi J, Azaz A, Rawat D. Prebiotics in the Infant Microbiome: The Past, Present, and Future. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2020 Jan;23(1):1-14. doi: 10.5223/pghn.2020.23.1.1. Epub 2020 Jan 9. PMID: 31988871; PMCID: PMC6966216.

[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.

[3] Tabbers MM, de Milliano I, Roseboom MG, Benninga MA. Is Bifidobacterium breve effective in the treatment of childhood constipation? Results from a pilot study. Nutr J. 2011 Feb 23;10:19. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-19. PMID: 21345213; PMCID: PMC3048518.

May Zhu, RDN

May Zhu, RDN

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