One reality about probiotic treatments is this: those who may benefit the most may be least likely to receive them. The fragility of the very old and the youngest of our species often deters the usage of live organisms at times of disease.
Many studies have assessed the probiotic effect in prevention and/or treatment of pediatric disease:
- prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm infants
- treatment of acute diarrhea and antibiotic-associated diarrhea
- reduction of colic and irritable bowel
- allergic diseases
- respiratory infections
Conflicting evidence on these outcomes is most likely due to study design, and differences in strains, doses and length of trials.
Still as research mounts in favor of usage it will be important to identify factors that may impede or promote usage.
One way to find out? Ask mothers of infants.
Canadian researchers surveyed mothers with a child aged two years or younger enrolled in the Alberta Pregnancy Outcomes and Nutrition (APrON) study via a web-based questionnaire.
- Of the 1327 contacted, 413 returned it.
- 99% heard of probiotics
- 87% knew probiotics had live bacteria
- 89% of mothers had used a product containing probiotics for themselves
- 51% of mothers had given a product with probiotics to their infant.
- None of the women thought probiotics were harmful yet one-third did not feel well enough informed to make a decision about whether probiotics were safe to use in infants.
Once again we learn that education and translation of the literature—for both pediatric clinicians as well as parents– are key to harvesting the power of probiotics.