Prebiotics and Babies
Probiotics are now a household name in the wellness space and gut health is finally getting the attention they deserve. But prebiotics, the nondigestible carbohydrates that fuel probiotics, have acted more as the stage mom, quietly in the back responsible for the success of the main act. Prebiotics nourish probiotics so they can proliferate and multiply. Do babies need prebiotics and where can they get them? Let’s get into it!
To start, let's discuss the basics of gut health. The “gut” is a term used to describe our microbiome, the trillions of microorganisms that make up the digestive tract. A healthy microbiome is abundant probiotics which boost overall health but in particular immunity, energy, and digestion. When our microbiome becomes compromised by the “bad” bacteria or infection, we are more at risk for infection, fatigue, and digestive issues. We nourish our probiotics with prebiotics, which are essentially food for the healthy bacteria in our gut.
When babies are born vaginally, babies are immediately exposed to a large amount of beneficial bacteria through the vaginal canal which helps them establish healthy gut bacteria.
As far as supplements, you can discuss with your pediatrician whether an additional supplement is recommended for your baby, which brand, and when to introduce them. The research on infants and pre/probiotics is still lacking. Take for example probiotics - there are millions of strains that act in different ways! However, they have been deemed generally safe by many pediatricians and recommended especially for babies who have to be put on antibiotics or who experience gastrointestinal distress.
Once children introduce solids, yogurt and kefir are excellent natural sources of probiotics and high fiber fruits and veggies like artichokes, onions, apples, asparagus, bananas and oats are sources of prebiotics to help fuel the healthy bacteria. Fun fact- dirt is one of the best sources of healthy gut bacteria, so allowing your little one to play in the dirt is actually benefiting their health!
The bottom line is that babies get just what they need through breastmilk or formula, but as our children get older it is important to encourage pre and probiotic-rich foods to help them maintain and strengthen their strong microbiome.