Diarrhea, colic, allergies ... the applications of these microorganisms are multiple. Is it effective? Where are they found? The point with Dr. Florence Campeotto, pediatrician.
1. Probiotics, what is it?
- Probiotics are "good" bacteria or yeasts that, added to the diet, will have a beneficial effect on health. By this means, the existing intestinal flora is enriched, so that the percentage of "profitable" bacteria becomes more important. The organization is better prepared to defend itself against the different aggressors.
2. How does it work?
- Good and bad bacteria compete. The former are positioned on the intestinal mucosa, taking the place of pathogenic bacteria and thus preventing their adhesion to the wall.
- Secondly, probiotics increase the protective barrier function of the intestine, for example by enhancing the production of mucus or IgA antibodies.
3. What are the most common probiotics?
- The family of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli is mainly represented. These are the bacteria that participate in the production of yoghurt.
- Within each family, there are different species. For example, lactobacilli are subdivided into Lactobacillus acidophilus, casei or rhamnosus. Finally, each species of probiotic is composed of different strains that each have a specific property for health.
- Active yeast is also a probiotic. It consists of microscopic fungi, usually of the species Saccharomyces boulardii.
4. What symptoms are they used for?
- Probiotics have been shown to be effective in the prevention and treatment of acute rotavirus diarrhea, especially those affecting the baby in the winter. Ingested daily, these microorganisms reduce the risk of contracting the disease, and when it is triggered, decreases its duration, its severity (risk of hospitalization) and the number of stools.
- The same effects are obtained for diarrhea associated with taking antibiotic treatment. In this case, the intestinal flora is imbalanced, because the antibiotic does not only destroy the pathogenic germs but also those who live normally in the intestine. The addition of probiotics will restore a flora of quality. Among the species studied, Saccharomyces boulardii and Lactobacillus rhamnosus gave good results. In the field of allergy, probiotics also have a place of choice. In fact, children allergic to cow's milk proteins have seen their eczema decrease very markedly after the absorption of Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG type probiotics.
- Third area of action: respiratory infections. Rhinitis, bronchitis and otitis decrease in intensity on probiotic treatment. By regulating the immune system, these microorganisms could also reduce the importance of allergic rhinitis.
5. Can other disorders be treated with probiotics?
- An Italian study has highlighted the interest of a probiotic (Lactobacillus reuteri) to relieve infants with colic. After one week of treatment, the duration of crying was reduced by 74% in the group of babies receiving this type of probiotic. 20 days later, 96% of the infants were relieved and the time of crying was only 35 minutes per day, compared to 4h 30 at the beginning. In total, Lactobacillus reuteri reduced the daily cries of babies by 335 minutes.
- The idea is to act on the intestinal flora: the most recent studies have indeed identified that that of babies with colic is less rich in lactobacilli. It is this deficit which would be at the origin of the disorders and which can be palliated by the taking of a probiotic. Five drops a day are enough to provide the recommended daily dose of 100 million Lactobacillus reuteri bacteria.
6. Is there a single probiotic, how long can they be used?
- Probiotics can be consumed alone or in combination, either to achieve a different use or to achieve greater effectiveness. For example, the Lactobacillus reuteri strain has shown beneficial effects on infant colics. However, this same strain associated with another will improve the health of the teeth. For their part, Lactobacilli and Bifids often team up to track infectious diarrhea or reduce eczema in children at risk. Generally, the duration of treatment with probiotics lasts one to two months, at a rate of one daily dose.
7. Where are they found?
- Some brands of infant formula (Guigoz, Gallia, Nidal) contain in their formula bacteria resistant enough to counteract the acidity of the stomach and remain active until the colon. Probiotics are also administered in the form of drops, tablets, syrups, capsules (ultra-yeast) or simply yogurt. Be careful, the content of these products live and active bacteria can vary considerably from one brand to another. Avoid those that are pasteurized, brewed with fruit and prefer yogurts of recent date, less acid but richer in bacteria.
8. Are there any contraindications to the use of probiotics?
- Contraindications are extremely rare and only concern immunocompromised children.
Maryse Damiens, with the collaboration of Dr. Florence Campeotto, pediatrician at Necker Hospital-sick children in Paris.