Do you know that a child\u2019s gut microbiota (a complex community of microorganisms) undergoes the most rapid growth and development during the first 3 years of life? A young child\u2019s gut microbiota establishment undergoes two main transitions: The first transition occurs soon after birth, during lactation; while the second transition occurs during the weaning period, with the introduction of solid foods and continuation of breastfeeding. This early establishment of gut microbiota can be disrupted by several factors such as caesarean delivery, formula feeding, type of weaning foods, and antibiotic use. Image credit: xFrame Why are we talking about your child\u2019s gut microbiota? Because it plays a crucial role in digestion, nutrient absorption, bowel movement and modulation of the immune response. In short, the organic superfoods and healthy options you pick for your children\u2019s mealtimes will not benefit them much if their gut microbiota is not mature enough to enable the gut\u2019s digestion. Bacteria is usually viewed in a negative light as something that makes you sick. We were always taught to fight off and eliminate bacteria. However, you have two kinds of bacteria constantly in and on your body\u2014good bacteria and bad bacteria. What are probiotics? Image credit: Pexels If there is a buzzword for eating healthy, probiotics would be in the top 10 list. But other than hearing about people talking about how great it is and what it can do for the body, do you know that it is also good for your children to start taking probiotics as well? Probiotics and a healthy gut go hand in hand. They are friendly microorganisms, mostly live bacteria (though some are yeast), that help sustain a healthy gastrointestinal (GI) tract to keep your body healthy and working well. We are encouraged to take probiotics and children are, too (there are special ones for children). What are probiotics for? Image credit: Nutrition Society of Malaysia Balance. Balance does not only exist in yoga, sustainable development and mental health - it is also a must for your physical body. And probiotics is the instrument that will help maintain balance in the gut microbiota. A good microbiota balance is 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria. Too much good is no good, too much bad is no good and flushing out the microbiota is definitely a no-no. A healthy gut microbiota is the key to maintain a healthy gut and support overall health. When bad bacteria enter your body and increase in number, this knocks your body out of balance and may result in upset stomach, diarrhoea, constipation or food intolerance and poor appetite. Imbalanced gut microbiota can also increase health risks in children and negatively affect their health and growth later in life. Probiotics work to fight off the bad bacteria and restore the balance within your body, making you feel better. It also helps the body digest food, keeps bad bacteria in check, creates vitamins, promotes bowel movement and helps support the cells that line your gut to prevent bad bacteria that you may have consumed (through food or drinks) from entering your blood. Lack of sleep, stress, inactive lifestyle and an unhealthy diet can also disrupt the balance in the gut. Want balance for you and your child? Probiotics are the answer! Is it safe for my child? Image credit: xFrame It is thought that an unhealthy gut is responsible for many diseases. Probiotics play a role in providing a healthy gut. When choosing probiotics for your child, choose a strain-specific probiotic which is clinically identified and clinically proven. Only clinically identified probiotics have a specific strain name, and they are all linked to health benefits supported by clinical studies involving the human subject. General probiotics species (e.g. Bifidobacterium lactis) may not work the same as strain-specific probiotics (e.g. Bifidobacterium lactis, BB-12\u00ae). For starters, we will list the three most important strains. Image by Nestle from Flickr Are you ready to learn a few tongue-twisty strain names? The first is Bifidobacterium lactis, BB-12\u00ae, the most documented Bifidobacterium in the world. It is a popular choice because it is tough enough to survive the journey through the gastrointestinal tract. It is known to improve digestive, respiratory, immune and skin health while reducing excessive crying and fussing among babies and young children. A clinical trial saw the reduction of acute diarrhoea and rotavirus shedding when BB-12\u00ae and TH-4\u2122 (the next strain we will look at) was introduced. The next notable strain is Streptococcus thermophilus, TH-4\u2122. In a clinical trial, BB-12\u00ae and TH-4\u2122 showed reduced issues of colic and a lower frequency of antibiotic use after long-term consumption by babies. Last but not least, is the strain named Lactobacillus paracasei, L. CASEI 431\u2122. For parents who worry because their children find it hard to poo-poo, both parties can find relief from this strain. In a clinical study, infants introduced to L. CASEI 431\u2122 and BB-12\u00ae produced softer and more frequent stools at the end of the study. These three strains, BB-12\u00ae, TH-4\u2122, and L. CASEI 431\u2122 are trademarks of Chr. Hansen A\/S, a global bioscience company based in H\u00f8rsholm, Denmark. What must I look out for when purchasing probiotics for my child? Image credit: Pexels Other than the type of probiotic strain, be sure to pick one with an effective CFU (colony forming units) count. More does not mean better, choose probiotic strains with effective CFU counts tested in clinical trials. Next, choose one that comes with prebiotics to promote the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Prebiotics is a type of soluble fibre that acts as the food for good bacteria. Together with probiotics, they become the perfect pair named synbiotics. These two work together in the digestive tract. An example of prebiotics is inulin. Now, probiotics are gentle little things. They can only survive in a very delicate environment - that is why most of them need to be kept refrigerated. We need to be sure they are alive when consumed because only live probiotics confer health benefits to humans, not the dead ones. By choosing the one developed through appropriate technology, probiotics product does not require refrigeration and can stay dormant at room temperature until consumption. It is especially helpful when you are travelling and would not want to pack probiotics that need to be kept in a cool environment. Last but not least, check the sugar content. It is best to opt for probiotics without added sugar because your child does not need extra sugar that can stir up hyperactivity - added sugar is not good for health, anyway. Probiotic benefits beyond digestion\u00a0 Image credit: Shutterstock Other than digestion, there are so many health benefits probiotics provide for your child. First, it helps build your child\u2019s immunity by increasing good bacteria count in their gut. After all, the gut is the main entry point for bugs to get into the body. It also promotes the production of natural antibodies to fight these nasties. In fact, 80% of the body's immune cells reside in the gut. With a good defence system, your child will feel energetic and healthy. A poor balance of bacteria in the gut during early childhood can increase the risk of gut-related allergies like asthma and eczema. But remember, probiotics are not just good for the gut, they also help improve emotions. Did you know that 95 percent of serotonin is produced by the gut bacteria found in the intestine? Low serotonin can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. You see, probiotics bring good to the whole body! Introduce Probiotics to Your Child Image credit: Pexels If your child experiences tummy discomfort, don\u2019t just shrug it off or tell them they did not wash their hands before picking up food - it could be a reason, but it is no solution. Most children benefit from a probiotic supplement. Probiotics are especially helpful for kids who suffer from digestive issues and those prone to allergies and frequent illnesses. Thus, aid your kids' health and include probiotic supplements into their diet today! This article is brought to you by Biogrow. Visit Biogrow\u2019s website for more information, or here to purchase.