Experts recommend foods that contain Probiotics as part of daily nutrition to help support children's natural body defenses during their school years
"School years are a phase of rapid growth. Good nutrition is very crucial at this age because your child starts his physical growth spurt, and his bone and muscle development reaches an optimal level. It is important to provide him with healthy, balanced daily nutrition from all food groups, containing all necessary nutrients including various vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrates, and sugars in moderation," advises Dr. Reem Kanawati, Consultant Pediatrician.
School years are also when children are most eager to learn, explore and interact with their surroundings, which may expose them to a host of harmful germs, bacteria and viruses. "Your child needs continuous, active, natural protection; and this is where Probiotics come into play. Probiotics largely support natural body defenses when included in a balanced daily diet," says Dr. Kanawati.
The Digestive System and Immune Functions
"A strong digestive system is a key element in promoting good health, and it is important that we understand how it works," Dr. Kanawati points out. "Our bodies naturally host large amounts of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, known as intestinal flora. As the digestive tract constitutes the largest surface of interaction between the human body and its environment (functioning as a barrier), it is considered a major immune organ in the body.
"Intestinal flora has important digestive and immune functions: They help digest and absorb important nutrients, and they protect the body against germs, by helping the gut bar harmful bacteria, and stimulating the intestine's natural defense responses. Maintaining the natural balance of intestinal flora is crucial to maintain its functions, and this is where Probiotics play a vital role."
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are live cultures used in food, providing digestive and immune benefits to the body. The use of Probiotics looks back on a long tradition, as early physicians in the Near and Middle East used to prescribe fermented milk containing lactic acid bacteria for health benefits.
Since the early 20th century, Probiotics have become the subject of extensive research by scientists around the world. Nestlé Research was one of the first research centers to look at the relation between Probiotics and gut cells, and innovations resulting from their efforts rendered Probiotics applicable in many food products which contribute to the Nutrition, Health and Wellness of consumers.
Probiotics and Active Protection
Probiotics help maintain the healthy balance of intestinal flora which in turn is important to maintain a naturally sound digestive system.
Karine Antoniades Turk, Head Nutritionist, Nestlé Middle East explains, "The balance of intestinal flora is affected by exposure to the environment, composition of the daily diet, medication and the normal growing up process. To maintain the healthy balance of intestinal flora, and hence maintain its effective protective functions, a balanced and varied diet including foods that contain Probiotics is highly recommended."
Probiotics are found in fermented dairy products, such as yogurt and some cheese. They are also found in milks and foods fortified with specific Probiotics.
Although Probiotics are generally proved good for health, research shows many varying strains of Probiotics, each exerting a different effect. With that in mind, how do we know which Probiotic is best for our children?
"Probiotics are carefully selected based on scientific knowledge. A good Probiotic strain should have a research-supported benefit, and should be able to remain stable and efficient during the product manufacture, storage and consumption. In addition, in order for the Probiotic strain to confer the desired benefit, it should be contained in a food product that can be consumed as part of the daily balanced diet of the child," explains Turk.
An example of a stable Probiotic with a scientifically proven benefit, and which exists in a product that can be part of the daily diet is Lactobacillus PROTECTUSTM, available in Nestlé's NIDO® Fresh Laban.
"One serving bottle (180ml) of NIDO® Fresh Laban provides 28% of your child's daily recommended intake of calcium, the essential mineral necessary for optimal bone growth, and 36% of his daily recommended intake of Vitamin D, which optimizes the absorption of calcium," says Turk.
"Always remember," concludes Dr. Kanawati; "a varied and balanced nutrition is essential for your child's healthy growth. In the course of his recommended daily three main meals and two snacks, be sure to cover all the food groups - milk and dairy, meats, legumes, fruits, vegetables, and breads and grains. Also be sure to continue the daily support of your child's natural body defenses with Probiotic-containing foods."