A healthy tummy does more than just support a healthy digestive system. Increasing evidence has linked changes to the delicate balance of intestinal flora with the development of common allergies in children including eczema and hayfever. It also suggests that probiotics may have a positive effect in reducing the risk of allergy symptoms in some people.
Gut bacteria balance and allergies
A healthy digestive system is home to around 400 different species of good bacteria,1 which support normal digestive processes, play a role in healthy immune system function and help to crowd out microorganisms that may cause harm. This delicate balance of microflora can be disrupted by antibiotics, a poor diet and other digestive conditions, which may have an adverse effect on various aspects of health.
Some research points to a link between the increased use of antibiotics and the increasing rate of allergic conditions, which is thought to be connected to their negative effects on numbers of beneficial bacterial flora.2 One study showed that low bacterial diversity in the digestive tract of infants is associated with an increased risk of developing allergies such as hayfever in their first six years of life.3 Babies acquire their unique populations of tummy bacteria when they’re exposed to their mother’s microflora in the womb, during the birthing process and with breastfeeding or a probiotic‐containing formula.
Probiotics and allergies
Probiotics are types of beneficial bacteria similar to those found in your digestive tract that are available in some foods as well as supplements. Studies have found that women who take probiotics in pregnancy and/or give their infant probiotics can reduce the risk of the child developing eczema later in life. Eczema is an allergic condition that affects the skin causing dryness, itchiness and sensitivity.
How can I support my kid’s tummy health?
To promote a happy, healthy tummy in kids:
- Take a probiotic supplement before they are born and while breastfeeding to help establish a healthy balance of microflora in their digestive tract early on.
- Encourage your child to eat probiotic rich foods such as yoghurt, miso, kefir, kimchi andunpasteurized sauerkraut.4
- Include sources of ‘prebiotics’ in their diet. These are essentially food sources for the beneficial bacteria in the gut and may help them grow and flourish. Prebiotics are found in bananas, leeks, asparagus, soy beans, garlic, chicory root and onions.4
- Consider a specialised probiotic supplement for kids for digestive and general wellbeing. Look for the strains lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium lactis, which are wellknown and thoroughly researched.