Antibiotics are medications that destroy bacteria. Intended to treat bacterial infections, antibiotics are so effective in killing bacteria that they often wipe out healthy bacteria in the colon along with the harmful bacteria. Probiotics are fermented foods or dietary supplements that contain the healthy bacteria needed for optimal colon ecology. Probiotics are beneficial to both children and adults, especially during or following antibiotics treatment.
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Children and Probiotics
Probiotics are always helpful for the adult digestive system, which is populated with many different kinds of bacteria. The intestinal tract of a child differs in that there are not as many kinds of bacteria. Up until the age of 7, children carry only a few strains of intestinal bacteria. Between the ages of 7 and 12 is when the intestinal tract matures and becomes populated with more strains of bacterial cultures, according to Danielle Perrault, in her book, ''Nutritional Symptomatology." Giving probiotics to children before their intestinal tract naturally contains all the strains of bacteria is safe because those specific strains simply will not populate in the colon, and be passed with other dietary waste. The bacteria cultures that are present in the child's system will take hold and re-populate from the probiotics that are being ingested.
Taking Probiotics While on Antibiotics
While antibiotic treatment is underway is one of the most important times to be taking a probiotic. Since antibiotics will kill all bacteria, the colon ecology may suffer during antibiotic use. When taking a probiotic and an antibiotic at the same time, it is a good idea to take them at different times of day to give the probiotic bacteria time to take hold in the colon before the next dose of bacteria killing antibiotics comes in. Since digestion of probiotic foods normally takes 3 to 4 hours, according to Perrault, wait that long between probiotic consumption and antibiotic use.
Taking Probiotics After Antibiotics
Probiotics can also be taken after antibiotic treatment to replenish lost beneficial bacteria. While taking probiotics during antibiotic use can help keep some bacteria present in the colon during that time, replenishment after antibiotic use is the most beneficial time for the intestinal tract, states Perrault. Good bacteria can then repopulate and stabilize the colon, allowing conditions to return to normal. Probiotic supplements or probiotic foods can be taken daily.
Sources of Probiotics
Probiotics can be found in fermented foods such as kefir, a dairy product. Each tablespoon of kefir contains about 5 billion good bacteria, which is enough for a day's supplementation. Regular consumption of kefir is a good way to keep the colon healthy. Other foods with probiotics include yogurt, miso and tempeh. Alternatively, probiotics can also be purchased in supplements that are swallowed like pills and taken daily. Children's probiotic supplements would likely contain only the strains that are commonly active in a child's intestinal tract. A nutritionist or naturopathic doctor can suggest a dose appropriate for children based on their age and health condition.