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Probiotics are living microorganisms or “healthy” bacteria that may help balance normal intestinal bacteria, regulate various bodily functions, and enhance a person’s health. In fact, research has shown that probiotics such as lactic acid–producing bacteria may help prevent infection, reduce inflammation, and improve digestion.
This study looked at the effect of probiotics on winter illness in children and randomly assigned 135 children, ages 3 to 7 years, to receive a placebo or a daily supplement (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052, Bifidobacterium infantis R0033, Bifidobacterium bifidum R0071, and fructooligosaccharides) for three months. The participants had experienced at least three episodes of ear, nose and throat, respiratory, or gastrointestinal illness during the previous winter.
“Lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria are increasingly being administered to infants with the intention of improving health and, in effect, probiotic therapies are entering the therapeutic mainstream of pediatric disease,” said Mario Cazzola, MD, lead author of the study.
Further research is needed on the important topic of probiotics and health. Parents should always check with a knowledgeable pediatrician or other healthcare professional before giving their children probiotics.
(Ther Adv Respir Dis 2010;4: 271–8)