Probiotics are live microorganisms that occur naturally in the human digestive system. They chiefly colonise the colon and benefit the health of the individual by acting as a digestive aid and boosting the immune response. Low levels of beneficial bacteria and microorganisms in the colon provide a greater opportunity for pathogenic bacteria to become established. Probiotics may be beneficial in reducing the severity and incidence of gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, and colic in babies. They can also benefit children's health by supporting the developing immune system but should not be seen as a panacea or as an alternative to a healthy lifestyle or diet. The level of probiotics in the colon can be boosted by a healthy diet containing plenty of grains, fruit and vegetables. It can also be boosted by probiotic supplementation. Supplementation by the probiotic L. reuteri has been studied in major scientific trials and proven to be safe and effective with no reported side effects.
Key words: probiotics; supplementation; infants; children; diarrhoea; gastroenteritis
* Probiotics are live microorganisms that occur naturally in the colon where they aid digestion and boost the immune response. When levels are low there is more opportunity for pathogenic bacteria to become established
* Probiotic supplementation has been shown to be useful for the treatment of babies and children with diarrhoea and gastroenteritis
* Supplementation by the probiotic L. reuteri has been studied in major scientific trials and proven to be safe and effective with no reported side effects
The human gut is home to around 100 trillion ([10.sup.14]) microorganisms made up of more than 500 different species. The majority of these bacteria are located in the large intestine (or colon) and the digestive system cannot function efficiently without them. Some are known as the "good" or "friendly" bacteria and benefit the health of the host individual, while others are pathogenic and contribute to gut-related illnesses such as diarrhoea and gastroenteritis.
Dairy products such as yoghurt and buttermilk containing beneficial microorganisms including Lactobacilli have long been known to be safe and act as aids to digestion. More recently foods or drinks supplemented with probiotics have become readily available in most supermarkets. Probiotics are "live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host" (1). A probiotic supplement contains large numbers (over [10.sup.8] organisms per gram of supplement) of beneficial bacteria that reach the colon alive and colonise the tract at the expense of the bad bacteria. Examples of the health-giving microorganisms used in probiotics include strains of the Lactobacillus species (Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus acidophilus),...