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Should Kids Take Prebiotics Everyday?

As a Registered Dietitian, I'm asked frequently about which nutrients to prioritize for growing kids. One common question related to this is whether kids need prebiotic fiber every day. Just like how your kiddos need a variety of vitamins and minerals daily, regular prebiotics are essential because it helps maintain bowel regularity and a healthy digestion. Let’s review the health benefits of daily prebiotic consumption for kids and how as parents, we can make incorporating prebiotics into your little one's diet a seamless and enjoyable experience.

Benefits of Prebiotics for Kids

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that cannot be digested by our bodies but serve as a crucial food source for the beneficial bacteria living in our gut, known as probiotics. The relationship between prebiotics and probiotics is a fundamental one that holds the key to many health benefits, particularly for our little ones:

  • Digestive Health: Prebiotics promote the growth and activity of probiotics, helping maintain a balanced gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome is linked to regularity and a reduced risk of gastrointestinal issues in kids, such as constipation and diarrhea [1].

  • Immune Support: A strong immune system is essential for kids, as they are often exposed to various pathogens and infections. Prebiotics help stimulate good gut bacteria such as bifidobacteria, which can help enhance the immune response in the gut to build a stronger immune system in kids [2].

  • Nutrient Absorption: A well-balanced gut microbiome ensures efficient absorption of essential nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium, which are vital for a kid’s growth and development [3].

  • Mood and Behavior: Emerging research suggests a connection between gut health and mood. A healthy gut microbiome can potentially influence your kiddos’ mood and behavior in a positive way and help reduce the risk for symptoms linked to anxiety and depression [4].

Why Should Kids Take Prebiotics Every Day?

It’s estimated that up to 95% of kids do not meet their recommended daily intake of fiber [5]. The role of dietary fiber to help promote good health and reduce risk for several chronic diseases is supported by years of dietary recommendations and scientific research. Studies show a positive effect of dietary fiber intake in the treatment for constipation in kids and increasing the fiber consumption is the first treatment option for chronic constipation in healthy kids [6].

Another study linking fiber to kiddos, specifically prebiotic fiber, found that daily consumption of prebiotics such as chicory root inulin was associated with softer stools, higher counts of beneficial bacteria (Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus) in stools, and fewer infections in kids that require medical attention [7].

Begin Health Expert Tip: Incorporating prebiotics into a kid’s diet can sometimes be a challenge, especially if they are picky eaters. This is why we formulated our Growing Up Prebiotics - it’s tasteless and textureless, making it easy to add 3 grams of fiber per serving daily to your kiddos' favorite foods and drinks.

How to Include Growing Up Prebiotics in Your Kid’s Diet Daily

  • Smoothies: Blend Growing Up Prebiotics into your kiddos’ morning smoothie. The neutral taste won't overpower the flavors of their favorite fruits.

  • Oatmeal or Cereal: Mix it into a bowl of oatmeal or the milk of your choice in their favorite bowl of cereal.

  • Yogurt Pops: Mix into yogurt of choice and freeze into popsicles for a delicious, prebiotic boost.

  • Baking: Add it to your favorite homemade muffins, pancakes, or cookies recipes for a nutritious way to boost fiber.

  • Sauces and Soups: Stir it into sauces and soups, perfect for kiddos who prefer savory options.

Summary: Research shows that daily consumption of prebiotics such as chicory root fiber can help with softer, more frequent stooling and a decrease in painful bowel movements within six weeks of use [8]. Prebiotic consumption can help support immunity, digestive health, and improved nutrient absorption in kids. Try incorporating prebiotics daily by adding into your little one’s smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt, soups, and even into homemade baked goods such as muffins or pancakes.

Resources

[1] Rodríguez, D. A., Popov, J., Ratcliffe, E. M., & Monjaráz, E. M. T. (2021). Functional constipation and the gut microbiome in children: preclinical and clinical evidence. Frontiers in Pediatrics, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fped.2020.595531

[2] Lin, C., Lin, Y., Zhang, H., Wang, G., Zhao, J., Zhang, H., & Chen, W. (2022). Intestinal ‘Infant-Type’ bifidobacteria mediate immune system development in the first 1000 days of life. Nutrients, 14(7), 1498. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14071498

[3] Iddrisu, I., Monteagudo-Mera, A., Poveda, C., Pyle, S., Shahzad, M., Andrews, S. C., & Walton, G. (2021). Malnutrition and gut microbiota in children. Nutrients, 13(8), 2727. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13082727

[4] Tan, H. (2023). The microbiota-gut-brain axis in stress and depression. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 17. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2023.1151478

[5] Quagliani, D., & Felt-Gunderson, P. (2016b). Closing America’s fiber intake gap. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 11(1), 80–85. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827615588079

[6] Kranz, S., Brauchla, M., Slavin, J. L., & Miller, K. B. (2012). What Do We Know about Dietary Fiber Intake in Children and Health? The Effects of Fiber Intake on Constipation, Obesity, and Diabetes in Children. Advances in Nutrition, 3(1), 47–53. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.111.001362

[7] Lohner, S., Jakobik, V., Mihályi, K., Soldi, S., Vasileiadis, S., Theis, S., Sailer, M., Sieland, C., Berényi, K., Boehm, G., & Décsi, T. (2018). Inulin-Type Fructan Supplementation of 3- to 6-Year-Old Children Is Associated with Higher Fecal Bifidobacterium Concentrations and Fewer Febrile Episodes Requiring Medical Attention. Journal of Nutrition, 148(8), 1300–1308. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxy120

[8] 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

May Zhu, RDN

May Zhu, RDN

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



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