The human body contains 10 times more bacteria than the number of cells, and we are only just beginning to understand the great significance of this truth. An increasing number of studies show that the balance between what is called ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut is important, not only for babies but also for later life, and for health.
The growth and balance of intestinal bacteria during and after birth are influenced by many factors. For example, babies born vaginally show different types of bacteria in the intestine than babies born by cesarean section. Feeding also affects the growth of bacteria in the intestinal tract. Breast milk is a natural source of many probiotics that babies fed with infant formula may not have. Probiotic supplements may reduce this difference.
So, although the research so far is not enough to say that every newborn should receive a probiotic supplement, in certain situations these bacteria have a distinct role. Of course, luckily, probiotics, in general, are very safe. Many studies in premature babies have shown no complications from probiotic use, only benefits through the prevention of serious diseases.
There are many types of probiotics on the market, and it’s not always easy for consumers to decide which ones work and which don’t. Many products claim to have probiotic effects.
But often no scientific research is conducted. It is important for a probiotic to be helpful in that the bacteria need to survive passing through the stomach and intestines. That probiotic also needs to be feasible – that is, contains bacteria that live in many formulations sold. Some names may be listed such as capsules, liquid and infant formula.
It should also be noted that not all probiotics are created equal. Just as we use scissors to cut paper, not to split firewood, some probiotics are useful in some cases, but not for others.
If parents want to see a particular effect on their children, they need to be specific when choosing the right probiotic to meet their expectations. I find that sometimes parents are more knowledgeable than doctors, because they are often more motivated to learn for themselves.