For years, researchers have felt that some species of bacteria introduced into the stomachs of children make their immune systems stronger and better able to fend off illness. As a group, these microbes are termed probiotic. A few years ago, physicians in Israel put this theory to the test and found that, indeed, some types of bacteria (Lactobacillus Reuteri and Bifidobacterium lactis) did make young children more able to fight off gastrointestinal viral infections. Recently, in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics, we now have good evidence that children on this side of the Atlantic get benefit from the same type of healthy probiotic bacteria.
Dr. Pedro Gutierrez-Castrellon, MD, DSc studied 336 children attending daycare in Mexico City. The study was designed well, being randomly assigned, double blinded, and placebo controlled. Studies designed this way generally yield accurate results, and indeed, the results were dramatic. Children who received the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus Reuteri had very dramatic improvement in the following health measures: the number of days with diarrhea or respiratory illness was reduced among the treatment group by a whooping 66%; antibiotic use, days absent from daycare, and number of visits to a healthcare facility were also significantly reduced. What is not to love about probiotics for children?! We now have two well designed studies coming to the same conclusion: certain types of probiotics improve the health of young children.
Integrative pediatricians have been telling us for years that probiotics and cultured/fermented foods, loaded with bacteria and other microbes, improve the health of both children and adults. This latest study proves that they were right. It is time that we stop looking at all microbes as our enemies and learn how to harness the incredible power of some of earth’s smallest creatures. For more on this fascinating subject, take a few minutes and listen to integrative pediatrician Sheila Kilbane talk about the power of probiotics on an archived DocSmo.com:
Your comments are welcome! Until next time.
Written by Paul Smolen M.D.