Yesterday afternoon I took my youngest daughter into the doctor to have her ears checked. She’d been congested for a few days and had a runny nose even longer. After a quick look in her ears, her doctor determined that she did indeed have an ear infection and needed to go on antibiotics to rid the infection.

As a mother, I want my kids to be healthy and comfortable. At the same time, I don’t want to medicate for every sniffle and sneeze. In this case, my little one probably had the ear infection longer than a couple days and needed relief fast. I always think of antibiotics as a blessing and a curse. Blessing because they are one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. They were developed to make sick people well. And for the most part, they work. Curse because they’re used in ridiculously convoluted ways today. I’ll stop there and save the rest of my thoughts on misuse of antibiotics for another day.

I picked up the prescription for my daughter and asked my husband for a little help in getting the antibiotics into the belly of my less-than-compliant 2-year-old. We managed to get the first dose down in 10 easy steps.

Step 1: Dad holds child on lap while restraining arms and draping a large towel over her body.
Step 2 : Mom places hand over child’s legs and slowly raises antibiotic-filled syringe to child’s mouth.
Step 3: Child immediately shuts mouth and turns head.
Step 4: Dad reaches over and squeezes cheeks.
Step 5: Mom attempts to inject a small amount of the 4ml into child’s mouth
Step 6: Child immediately begins to gargle with the fluid – mom gently places hand over child’s mouth
Step 7: Liquid splats everywhere and mom promises chocolate if child cooperates.
Step 8: Child refuses bribe, and father simultaneously goes into a reclined position so child is horizontal.
Step 9: Mother leans over the top of child and father, slowly injecting remaining liquid into child’s mouth.
Step 10: Mission Completed.

I’ve taken my fair share of antibiotics over the years. To combat the downside of antibiotics, as well as some questionable nutrition choices over the years, I take probiotics every morning. My eldest daugher, who is four, has been curious about what they are. I’ve tried to break it down for her by explaining it in terms of “soldiers.” We have good soldiers (probiotics) and bad soldiers (bacteria) in our belly. The good soldiers help to fight off the bad soldiers as much as possible. Medicines like antibiotics get rid of a lot of the good soldiers in our belly, so we need to take probiotics to build them back up.

Kids get sick a lot and it’s not uncommon for them take antibiotics. Probiotics are important for all of us, kids included, to help maintain a healthy ecosystem in our gut. A belly full of “good soliders” translates to a healthier body in general. Taking probiotics regularly help to replenish all the helpful flora that’s been diminished over the years. It’s never too soon, or too late to start take care of your digestive health.

Probiotic Benefits
Probiotics have been shown to benefit the body in many ways, including:

*Helping in the digestion of food
*Boosting your immune system in general
*Decreasing lactose intolerancs
*Preventing eczema
*Reducing the onset of yeast infections

The Right Probiotic

Did you know that 70% of your immune system is in your gut? Good bacteria plays a big role in how often you get sick.

Probiotics are found in fermented foods, including yogurt, kefir, tempeh (femented soy), sauerkraut and buttermilk to name a few. Aside from foods, supplements are everywhere for adults and children in capsule, powder and liquid form.  Capsules generally have the longest shelf life of the three. Small children, however, are born pill-poppers, so adding a liquid or powder form to their favorite juice or water is easier to get down. My personal favorite brands are Garden of Life (for my kids) and Florajen (for me). They can get kind of expensive, so before you commit to a brand, shop around. Whole Foods 365 brand is less expensive and effective, too!

Look for a probiotic that contains Lactobacillus bulgaricus (helps the small intestine) and bifidobacterium (helps the large intestine).

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