Probiotic use has gained significant attention as a potential solution for various health concerns. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for restoring the balance of the gut microbiota of our digestive system and have been widely studied for their potential to improve gut health and overall well-being. While probiotics have been extensively researched in adults, their use and effectiveness in teenagers have become a topic of interest.
Probiotics are live bacteria that live naturally in our bodies, can be found in certain foods, or can be taken as a supplement.
The effects of probiotics have been widely studied. Probiotics have shown benefits to the immune system and digestive health, among other body systems.
Recent research discovered there may be a link between probiotics and reducing inflammation. Inflammation is thought to play a role in neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD.
This article will explore the need for probiotic supplementation in teens and its potential benefits, as shown by current scientific evidence.
What are probiotics?
Probiotics are live bacteria microorganisms that can benefit your health. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most common bacteria found in probiotic supplements. Yeast like Saccharomyces boulardii may also be used in probiotic supplements.
Some bacteria help digest food, destroy disease-causing cells, or produce vitamins. The bacteria in probiotic supplements are the same or similar to those naturally residing in and on our bodies. Research has shown that probiotics may help support gastrointestinal health by restoring the gut microbiota in the digestive system.
Benefits of probiotics for teens
Probiotics have been heavily studied, and taking them may provide various benefits. New research suggests that there may be benefits for teenagers who take probiotics.
Probiotics can help restore the balance of your gut when there is an unhealthy level of certain bacteria. They can also secrete protective substances that help defend against pathogens. Additionally, much research has been done to determine how probiotics can benefit health.
Studies have shown that probiotics may provide the following benefits:
- Reduce or prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea
- Reduce the risk of Clostridium difficile in adults and children taking antibiotics
- Prevent constipation
- Prevent diarrhea in those receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments
- Improve symptoms caused by inflammation, such as those caused by inflammatory bowel disease
- Reduce symptoms of atopic dermatitis
Probiotics support gut health and reduce inflammation, and new evidence shows that some neurologic issues can be helped by supplementing with probiotics.
Studies have shown a relationship between the gut and the brain. When there is an imbalance of gut microbes, teenagers may experience changes in their mood and anxiety. The primary regulator within the gut-brain connection is the gut microbiota. Irregular signaling from the gut to the brain can create a stress response, creating an imbalance of gut microbiota and resulting in an inflammatory state within the gut.
Inflammation in the gut increases bacteria associated with inflammation. Research has shown that inflammation of the brain and nervous system has been linked to neurologic and psychiatric disorders, including ADHD, autism, and depression.
Taking a probiotic may help modify the gut bacteria, which can enhance the role of the gut barrier and reduce inflammation. Reducing inflammation can alter mood and behavior.
Additional research is needed to determine which probiotics are helpful and which are not. In addition, it needs to be determined the correct dosage of probiotics to achieve their benefits.
Foods that contain natural probiotics
There are natural ways to get probiotics in your diet besides taking supplements. Many foods naturally produce good bacteria. Probiotics are commonly found in:
- Greek yogurt
- Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut
Food manufacturers are not required to show a percentage of probiotics in their food, making it challenging to determine how much you are getting through your diet. Taking a supplement helps you to get a consistent dose, especially if you don't eat these foods every day.
Risks of taking a probiotic
While probiotics are generally safe to take, there needs to be more evidence to show how much and how often to take them. The risk of harmful effects of probiotics is more significant for those with weakened immune systems. Potentially harmful effects of probiotics may include:
- Production of harmful substances
- Transfer of antibiotic resistance genes from probiotic microorganisms to other microorganisms in the digestive tract
Many probiotics are sold as dietary supplements. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements. According to the FDA, these products are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Further, some dietary supplements have been found to contain ingredients not listed on their labels.
The use of probiotics in teenagers is a topic that warrants further investigation and consideration. While probiotics have shown promising results in improving gut health and overall well-being in adults, the evidence regarding teens is still limited. Recent research showed that teens may benefit from probiotic supplements for conditions like ADHD, autism, and depression.
However, other factors, such as diet and lifestyle, must be considered when determining the best treatment for these conditions. Before starting probiotics, you should talk with your healthcare provider to determine the best option for you.
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH). Probiotics: What you need to Know.
- Euroasian Journal of Hepato-Gastroenterology. Emerging Role and Place of Probiotics in the Management of Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Disorders.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Should you take probiotics?