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Probiotics and Kids: What You Need to Know


You’ve heard that probiotics are important for good digestion and immune function. Does that mean you should supplement your kids? We delve into the latest research about probiotics and health and provide tips for choosing the right supplements for kids. PLUS, learn about three supplement-free ways you can support your kids’ microbiome.

girl taking probiotic pill

Remember when we were kids, and our parents and doctors led us to believe that bacteria were just plain bad? The story went like this: bacteria made us sick, and antibiotics cured us by wiping out bacteria. Great, right? …

Except that scientific research from the last decade has shown that bacteria are not all bad. Most strains of bacteria in our bodies cause no harm whatsoever, and some, in fact, are downright important to our overall health.

We also know that our bodies are absolutely teeming with the little things. Our mouths, skin, and digestive tract host trillions upon trillions of bacteria: so many that the number of bacterial cells in our bodies roughly equals the number of our own actual cells!

All together, this community of bacteria inside our bodies is called our microbiome. And many doctors and pediatricians now recommend taking probiotic supplements to support a healthy balance in our microbiome.

Read on to learn about the health effects of probiotics, how to choose the right supplements for your kids, and a few non-supplement alternatives that can help kids maintain a healthy flora.

What are the Health Effects of Probiotics in Kids?

Research keeps uncovering more ways bacteria positively affect the health of adults and children. So far, we know that probiotics can prevent or lessen the severity of these conditions:

  • Digestive problems like diarrhea, constipation, and IBS
  • Allergic reactions like eczema and hay fever
  • Colic in babies
  • The common cold
  • Certain infections, like yeast and urinary tract infections
  • Autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease
  • Asthma

Are Probiotics Safe for Kids?

Probiotic supplements are safe for most kids, though they might have mild tummy troubles like bloating or gas for the first few days. Though rare, kids with serious immune system problems can have a reaction to these supplements. So if you have any doubt about whether it’s OK to try them out with your kids, make sure to talk to your family’s pediatrician first.

At the end of the day, deciding to give any supplement to your kids is a personal decision. But if your child is struggling with mild to moderate environmental allergies or digestive issues, supplementing with probiotics may help. And it’s unlikely to cause any harm.

mom choosing probiotics at the store

What to Look for in Probiotic Supplements

If you’ve decided to buy a probiotic supplement for your kids, prepare yourself for a dizzying array of options. The particular brand you purchase doesn’t matter as much as a few key criteria, which we’ve outlined for you below:

  • “Live, active cultures.” Make sure the supplement you choose contains this actual phrase right on the bottle, so you can be sure you’re getting an effective product. Some brands of probiotic supplements even come refrigerated to help protect these living cells.
  • High bacteria count. The concentration of bacteria in probiotic supplements is measured in CFUs (that’s “colony forming units.”) Look for a probiotic supplement that has, at a minimum, 1 billion CFUs.
  • Multiple strains. Balance matters! Different strains of probiotics can have different health effects. A supplement with eight or ten different strains of bacteria may help to diversify the bacteria that make up your kids’ microbiome.
  • Enteric coating. This refers to a hard coating on the outside of the pill that lets it survive the journey through the harsh, acidic stomach. An enteric coating means that bacteria are released in the intestines, where they can thrive.
cute toddler eating yogurt with probiotics

Three Supplement-Free Ways to Support Your Kids’ Microbiome

Maybe you’re not sold on giving probiotic pills to your kids. That’s totally OK. In fact, there are other ways you can support your kids’ microbiome, without supplementing at all:

  1. Serve probiotic-rich whole foods. Yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and other fermented foods contain live active cultures right in the food. You can even make these foods yourself at home! Here’s our recipe for culturing your very own yogurt in the Instant Pot.
  2. Let your kids get a little bit dirty. It turns out, letting kids play in the dirt, and skipping a bath here and there, is actually probably good for them. Early, consistent exposure to a wide variety of bacteria helps diversify their microbiome and improve immune health.
  3. Serve plenty of PRE-biotic foods. Yep, that’s different than PRO-biotics. “Prebiotics” is basically a fancy word for fiber, and it’s what the healthy bacteria in our bodies like to snack on. You can literally “feed” your kids’ microbiome by serving lots of fiber-rich fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, and whole grains.
Probiotics and Kids: What You Need to Know | Healthy Ideas and Recipes for Kids | Super Healthy Kids

Natalie Monson

I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.

Learn More about Natalie

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This post is so informative! I hope the Ultimate Flora probiotics help your son. We’re a soccer family too and I know I would try everything if it meant my kids could keep doing what they enjoy. Thanks for the post Amy!

Timely post. I was just this morning wondering if a probiotic might help my son with his acne.

Taking a probiotic everyday did help my son who would wake up with a stomach ache in the mornings. After a while he didn’t need them anymore.

Great post! I would LOVE any and all information about how your son responds and any alternative methods you’re using to control and eliminate his asthma. I have a 3 yr old with asthma and I am trying some alternatives and REALLY want to get her off her breathing meds ASAP. They just suppress the symptoms and don’t address the root cause!

Thanks Kristy- You’ll help to keep me accountable. Sometimes I start off excited about things like that and quickly forget to follow through. Knowing that you are waiting to see how it goes is going to help us stay consistent!!

Here’s an article I received via email this morning about probiotics and the acne connection. This is in reply to the one about who was wondering.
Also, Amy, you may find some of your great questions answered just by reading information on the body ecology website in general. Great info on what you’re looking for! We make our own homemade probiotics over here (sauerkraut, coconut water kefir) and have seen great improvements with health.


I have a 3 year old son with asthma that has been on meds for a year. He had a very serious asthma attack the beginning of January. His pediatrician increased his steroids to help with the symptoms, which it did. We took him to a natural medicine doctor, learned through testing that he has a lot of food allergies that can be a trigger for his asthma. We started him on probiotics and a couple other supplements 5 weeks ago. We have been able to reduce his meds in half and he has been symptom free for the first time in a year. In addition to the probiotics we made some major food changes and eliminated all the food allergy items. Do your best to stay consistent and see if it helps. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to see my child running around and playing.

I have a 10 year old son who suffers from asthma. Could you please tell me what type of probiotic you gave him and what else you would suggest he try. Thankyou very much

Amy–this was really helpful. I’ve had Hashimoto’s for 19 years (medicated) but have recently had new symptoms–not gastro-but have wondered if probiotics might still be helpful. I appreciate your insight!

I just found your website and this is the first post I looked at. I really enjoyed it. I’ve been using goat milk kefir for about two years now and it’s done amazing things for me. I digest food a lot better and don’t have to eat as much. I have a sister-in-law who uses it for her children’s breakfast. Probiotics are amazing!

have you looked into raw milk at all? I started reading about it recently and I don’t know what to think. apparently dairy has all kinds of controversies.

Milk IS controversial! My goodness- However, I will not purchase raw milk for the only reason that I’ve seen/read too many kids get sick from Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. These can be fatal and is not worth the risk in my opinion. The harmful germs that are killed during pasteurization in my opinion is more important than keeping the good germs in milk. I think pasteurization is a good thing. 🙂

It’s worth a try! I think it is super helpful for any gastro problems- but hard to say if others would have the same success! I’d love to know if you try it. I’m headed to get some kefir this morning!

Hi Jen- I haven’t heard that homogenization is a harmful process. But, I haven’t investigated it either. Full fat milk I believe for children is great!

Awesome article! I think that too many people under-value the role of probiotics in their digestive health. My wife suffered from IBS symptoms for years before the doctor got her on a daily probiotic. She still has occasional bouts, but it is MUCH more manageable now. It’s also interesting to see how probiotics can affect thyroid health.

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Hi Amy,

I’m currently battling a persistent bacterial infection that refuses to go away even after a course of antibiotic treatment. What’s the next best thing after antibiotics? I want to be able to beat this infection for good (doctor narrowed it down to an E Coli infection).


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What are the best brands of probiotics to use? Or what brands are your favorites? I would like to find a good one for my son that has Celiac Disease and really bad acne. I haven’t wanted to take him to a dermatologist because I know he will want to put him on an antibiotic that will mess up his gut even more.

As a dietitian I put my son on probiotics 8 years ago for lactose intollerance. He also drinks kefir and lactose free milk. He now only has problems if he does large amounts of dairy products and misses his probiotics for many days.
I have IBS and started probiotics 8 years ago too. Symptoms went away also with diet and exercise. 6 months ago my probiotic brand reformulated and the change caused symptoms to come back. Every probiotic works differently for different bacteria/issues. Try different ones. Love probiotics.

Thanks for such an informative post! I take probiotics for UTI health and since starting this supplement, I have gone from a UTI every six weeks to just one in a year. It works. I recently heard two researchers speak about the gut microbiota, Justin and Erica Sonnenburg, authors of The Good Gut. I plan to purchase the book, and I’ve been following their Facebook page for updates on the latest probiotic research. They encourage a high-fiber diet as a way to “feed” good gut bacteria and consuming fermented foods as a way to populate the gut with good microbes. I’ve been making a huge effort to get more fiber into my family’s diet since hearing them speak. And Janice and I hope to have them on our podcast in the coming months… so stay tuned! http://sonnenburglab.stanford.edu/press.html

Not trying to do the big sell here, but after trying multiple probiotics, my family and I have really had great results from the Plexus Probio5. It’s freeze-dried, shelf stable and has the coating that allows it to survive your stomach acid, includes the 2 strains you mentioned along with others and has an anti fungal. Please consider looking into it. It has helped considerably with asthma and allergies.

Great Article and very timely. I would like to give me 2 and 6 year old proboscis but they can’t swallow tablets. How would the probiotics survive if they are not coated and have you heard of any good brands for kids?

I recently discovered your site, made your zucchini bran muffins and me and my 1 year old loved them! Regarding this post, are you still taking medication for your thyroid and colitis? I’d be curious if you were able to wean off meds due to probiotics? I have thyroid issues and my husband has ulcerative colitis

Hi Erica- I do still take Thyroid medication, although the dosage has been lowered every single year since my diagnosis. I started at 125 mg, and now I’m down to 75mg. I do not take medication for ulcerative colitis. I am not consistent with probiotics, although I strongly believe a high plant diet encourages natural bacteria growth, so I do my best to get lots of fruits and veggies! Good luck to you!

I believe home made Yogurt is a good probiotic with good bacteria. Mostly Store bought yogurts contain bad bacteria. I make yogurt at home with whole milk and feed yogurt to my kids daily.

I started Giving my children a daily probiotic because my daughter was having serious immune system problems, and allergies to medications. Although it does not help with her allergies to medications, it has made an extreme difference in her overall health!! I am a firm believer in probiotics!

Diagnosed with severe Ulcerative Colitis at age 20. Medical grade probiotics VSL 3 (450 billion good bacteria per sachet) did NOT put my illness into remission. However, since my large bowel was removed the issues that I now have can be improved overnight but taking VSL. So I think it depends what condition you are hoping to improve by taking it and the amount of live bacteria in the probiotic as to how effective it will be.

My son battled ecxema and ring worn since he was 3 weeks old. Now he’s on a daily chewable vitamin with probiotic and his symptoms have almost gone away. We’re still working on his diet. He’s 3, and only likes bread, cheese and fruit. He also has daily stools that seem easy to pass, which has helped with potty training.

I agree with you that taking probiotics must come hand in hand with your healthy diet. And we all have sort of problems in diet with our babies as well as with us. Considering the help of supplements that will add up good bacteria to your body may be helpful. Nice blog!