Last Tuesday, I woke up early for Sweet Potato’s court date. Little Bean woke up early, too. And right away, I noticed that he felt warm. <sigh> (We’ve had a heck of a time keeping him well over the years.) I’ll spare you the details of all that next five days entailed. However, there was a lot of temperature-taking, laundry, Clorox wipes, and a long day in the ER. Kids and stomach bugs are just … hard.
So, as you can imagine, I spent the majority of that 5-day period waiting for the other shoe to drop. You veteran parents know what I mean. Mentally, I calculated how I’d continue to juggle all of the household needs if Sweet Potato caught this bug, too. Or worse yet … if I did. I overanalyzed every little cry she made, and the slightest hint of a tummy ache for me. Thankfully, though, the illness never spread.
Then, on what would have been Day 6 (except that Little Bean finally rebounded-YAY!!!!!), I received a follow-up call from the ER. (We had visited the ER on Day 3.) I really appreciated that they checked in to see how Little Bean was doing. But also, they mentioned that the labs had come back. (Because they took samples of all of the bodily fluids and functions while we were there.) And, much to my surprise, it turns out that what we had thought was a nasty battle with the stomach flu was actually… food poisoning!!
Needless to say, that didn’t sound right to me. I am a stay-at-home mom, and so we generally all eat the same stuff here (at home). However, in spite of the lack of sleep and such, … the rest of us had been healthy all week! So I asked him to repeat himself. And he reiterated that my son’s intense 5-day illness was, in fact, caused by a food-borne strain of bacteria.
My husband and I were perplexed. We talked about the timeline of his food poisoning and could not come up with any logical explanation. We were unable to think of any instance in which Little Bean had eaten something that the rest of us had not. So, I called a friend to tell her about it, and what she said was an epiphany for me.
Because each person has a unique gut flora (microbiome) makeup, not all bugs will affect everyone in the same way. (!!!) So in theory, our whole family may have eaten contaminated food. (And yes, the thought of that makes me queasy.) Yet, the only one who manifested symptoms was Little Bean. Because of what is going on in his gut.
Why are probiotics essential?
This event in the life of our family has only underscored my belief that probiotics are essential for our kids from hard places. I knew it before, but my son’s food poisoning brought it home to me in a tangible way. And I am recommitting myself to prioritizing them. More on that later, but first, I’d like to share a few reasons why I believe probiotics are essential for foster and adopted kids. Most kids from hard places have experienced some combination of the following:
- Inadequate nutrition in utero.
- Inadequate nutrition in the critical early days, weeks and months of life
- High probability of formula feeding as an infant.
- Constant stressors associated with foster care and adoption, such as removal from first family, subsequent moves to new homes, etc..
And if that wasn’t enough to motivate you, I have a few more compelling reasons to get some probiotics into your kids’ lives. In her article, entitled, Trauma, Adoption and Gut Health, Naomi Quick of 127 Living shares some very compelling information about specifically how trauma impacts gut health. I’m not going to rehash … just go read it … its really good! But to summarize, here are a few more key benefits of a consistent probiotic regimen:
- Hormone balancing: works to minimize effects of the negative hormones (cortisol) so they won’t rule the roost, and the feel-good (oxytocin) and rest (melatonin) hormones are able to rise to normal levels. (And who needs feel-good and rest hormones more than our kids from hard places??)
- Behavior improvement. (Can I get an amen?)
- Amelioration of anxiety and depression.
How to Add Probiotics In to Your Routine
I’m not a physician. I don’t even play one on TV. 🙂 So keep that in mind as you read. I am just a mama who has done a lot of reading and research on this subject. So I will share a few things that I’ve learned along the way. But always make sure you consult with your doctor for medical advice. Today, I’m laying out a “Good,” “Better,” and “Best” plan for adding probiotics into your life.
If you are new to probiotics, this may seem overwhelming at first. Don’t let it.If you are not currently using probiotics now, anything you do will be an improvement. As you get more comfortable, you may find that you’re able to add another and another. (I will give you a few affiliate links along the way, but only for products that are time-tested by our family, and used on a regular basis in our home.)
The Good Plan
Get a store-bought probiotic and consume it daily. There ya go. Boom. Done! As with any other food or consumable, though, you get what you pay for. So bear that in mind. Generally speaking, the higher the price tag, the more strains of beneficial bacteria that you will be consuming, along with a higher quality of sourcing.
Personally, I am behind the Garden of Life brand. Their products are organic and non-GMO, and widely available at health food stores or online. Here are two options we have used and love:
- Garden of Life – RAW Probiotics Kids: super easy to mix in to a little yogurt or smoothie. Boom. Done!
- Garden of Life – Dr. Formulated Probiotics Organic Kids+ – Chewables: even easier! Just give your kid one a day! They taste like a kids’ chewable vitamin. Again: DONE. (But only for ages 4+.)
Taking a probiotic supplement is excellent, but many foods and beverages are naturally probiotic. And it is generally thought that the safety and bioavailability of probiotics found in foods are superior to those found in a supplement. But again, the thought of this can be overwhelming to an already overwhelmed foster or adoptive parent. So, here are some easy ways to get probiotics down the hatch without a big to-do.
- Kombucha. You can even find this at Target nowadays! My kids love it and fight over it.
- Store-bought fermented veggies. Its easier than you think. Raw sauerkraut is available everywhere now (thank you, Michael Pollan), and you really only need a tablespoon or two a day to reap the benefits. Personally, my kids love Bubbies Dill Pickles. (Don’t buy them here, though … they are MUCH cheaper at Whole Foods!!! I just wanted to show you.)
- Milk kefir. This is also super easy to find nowadays. The Lifeway Kefir is available just about everywhere now, but there are others. I prefer full-fat versions when the selection and budget allow. (BTW, you don’t normally have to commit to a 6-pack. For reference purposes.)
- Keep your eyes peeled for other options in your local stores! As demand for higher quality foods increases, the selections are improving. Other things I have found and love include probiotic hot sauce, Farmhouse Culture Gut Shots, raw honey (organic and local is best), and even probiotic chips!
I feel like this will sound judgey here, and that is never my intent. But I am a firm believer that food is fuel, and that what you get out of a body is a direct reflection of what you put into it. Because I’ve been perpetually swamped with the parenting duties for, oh, almost a year now, … we’ve been only sporadically living on the “better” plan. And even that has been pretty inconsistent.
But after what happened last week, I am motivated to prioritize this in the rhythm of our schedule. Because ultimately, this offers another opportunity to layer in support to nourish the minds, bodies and spirits of our children. So, in my opinion, the “Best” plan is basically … do it yourself.
The three main sources of probiotics (kefir, kombucha and fermented veggies) can all easily be made at home. (BTW, if you are probiotic curious, do click on that link. Donna Schwenk’s story of healing is amazing. As is her collection of resources for getting started with probiotics at home.)
When I first started fermenting veggies at home, I began with a class at our local natural foods coop. At the class, the instructor provided the materials and the step-by-step instructions. I highly recommend looking for something similar in your area. Its not difficult, but there are a few things to know. Taking the class gave me confidence to be able to tackle a few more things on my own.
Starter cultures can be purchased (Cultures for Health has a huge selection), or you can find them online. Most people who are passionate about home fermentation are more than happy to share their cultures as they grow. Connecting with your local Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) chapter is an excellent way to find people who are knowledgeable about fermentation and may be willing to share. I’ve gotten the majority of my cultures from like-minded friends and acquaintances (who have also shared some of their fermentation knowledge with me).
When it comes to making your own probiotics at home, the sky is truly the limit. This can be overwhelming, but I also find it to be a lot of fun. Some things will turn out awesome, and others might be a bomb, but that’s all part of the process. And over time, you will figure out which things you and your kids like the best.
Do you use and/or consume probiotics in your home on a regular basis? And if so, what is your favorite?