Welcome to another edition of docsmo.com, the home of pedcasts. We talk all things kid here with portable, practical pediatric information. Today, we are going to explore something you are undoubtedly hearing a lot about, probiotics. Can they really help you and your children be healthier, you ask? Well, I am going to help you answer that question. So sit back, crank up the mp3 player, and enjoy today’s informative pedcast.
You would have to be in a coma for the past 5 years not to notice that people who manufacture and sell probiotics are making a lot of claims that taking probiotics, large amounts of bacteria and yeast, will benefit our health. Like after the discovery of penicillin, the thinking was…lets try it on everything. It’s got to be good for you.
Is there any science behind all the talk you ask… you know proof of effectiveness or… is this all hype? To answer that let’s take a spin down “Science lane” for more understanding. The 20th century was an era when medical research focused on how microbes caused disease. Germs were seen as our enemy pure and simple. The concept of bacteria and yeast being GOOD for our health, well that was heresy. It turns out that having a robust amount of the right microbes, especially in our gut, is vital to your children’s good health. The process of getting these microbes starts right at birth when we get our mother’s germs during the birth process and all through life as we consume cultured food like yogurt and even dirt. So how do germs help our health you ask? Well, in many ways. Germs are on the front line of toxins we consume and so they sort of run defense for us there. They seem to get to the toxins before we do and inactivate them. They also stimulate our own immune system to react to threats by stimulating our immune cells to divide and by stimulating the production of our surface antibody, IgA. These microbes also crowd out the bad mean nasty bacteria that try and set up shop in our bodies both on the inside and outside. They literally crowd out the nasty germs chasing them away. Our bodies encounter the germ world on our skin and inside at the wall of our gut. Healthy bacteria in these locations seem to be very protective in these locations, preventing the leaky gut syndrome and maybe even eczema.
Based on my reading and understanding of the newest information, I think probiotics may help in the following situations:
-Treatment of infant colic
-Prevention of antibiotic associated diarrhea caused by a germ called C. Diff. More on that at (post)
-Help with irritable bowel
– Shortening of common diarrhea illness in children
-Shortening of diarrheal illness in children
-There is a good possibility that they may help prevent allergic disease
-Reduce common viral illness in children attending daycare
-Treatment of Crohn’s disease and possibly other autoimmune illnesses.
Well, I am an inquisitive person so I recently decided to put probiotics to the test myself. I live essentially in a daycare center myself, working with sick children all day. Since my level of exposure is so high to common viruses, my level of illness should be a good indicator or whether probiotics provide benefit in preventing illness I thought. Typically, summers are good for my health, but I get my first respiratory illness by October and I am usually not well again until May or June. Remember, I have 32 years of in pediatrics. I am pretty sure of this pattern, believe me. Sinus infections, bronchitis, sore throat are my usual companions for the winter months… this is despite getting a yearly flu shot and meticulously disinfecting my hands at least 50 times a day.
This year, I decided to take a probiotic to see if it would help like my integrative colleagues suggest so frequently. My wife takes it and she thinks it helps her stomach. I must say, I have been thrilled with the results to date. No colds to speak of, no diarrheal illness, and only a minor respiratory illness so far. It’s March and I am whole! Yahoo! Coincidence?, placebo effect?, possibly, but I don’t think so. I literally touch another sick child every 15 minutes. My body is bombarded with pathogenic viruses daily and so far, my defenses are working well fighting off what, until this year has been inevitable for me. If anyone should be sick at this time of year, it should be me, and I am NOT. Something is bolstering my immune responses and I think it is the probiotic I am taking.
Probiotics remind me of that old DocSmo pearl, “Prevention beats treatment, every time.” Try it with your little ones and see if it doesn’t keep them spry and active. I certainly hope it does.
Thank you for joining me today. I welcome your comments at my blog, www.docsmo.com. This is Dr. Paul Smolen, your pedcast host, hoping this cast helps you come to terms with those little germs, experts call probiotics. Until next time.
- Z. Weizman et al, Effect of a probiotic infant formula on infections in child care centers: comparison of two probiotic agents, Pediatrics,2005 Jan; 115 (1): 5-9
- B. Kligler et al, Probiotics, Am Fam Physician. 2008 Nov 1; 78(9): 1073-1078
3. http://blog.ted.com/2012/07/10/6-great-things- microbes-do-for-us/