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Child Development

How to Choose the Best Probiotic Supplements for Your ADHD Child

May 18, 2023
Table of Contents

    Probiotics are considered live microorganisms that are vital for immune function, the restoration of healthy gut bacteria, as well as other health benefits. There has been an evolving interest in research on the impact of probiotic supplementation on the treatment of neurodevelopmental disorder, psychiatric disorders, as well as its role in mental health functioning. You may be wondering if probiotics are beneficial and safe for children with ADHD. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of probiotics, how they work, factors to consider when choosing a probiotic.

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    What are Probiotics?

    Probiotics are known as the "good bacteria" that live naturally in our body. Good bacteria is important for eliminating bad bacteria and keeping the body balanced. Probiotics include a combination of live bacteria and yeasts that make up the microbiome.

    The microbiome is considered a large diverse community of organisms that work together to keep the body healthy and balanced. The microbiome is made up of trillions of microbes, which are a combination of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and protozoa.

    How do Probiotics Work?

    Probiotics main function are to maintain a healthy balance of healthy bacteria in the body. Good gut bacteria fight off bad bacteria and keeps individuals healthy by supporting immune health and controlling inflammation.

    Additionally, certain beneficial bacteria are important for helping our body digest food, keeping bacteria from getting outnumbered, creating essential vitamins, and being responsible for the breakdown and absorption of medications.

    Individuals can consume more probiotics by eating certain foods or by consuming probiotic supplements. Probiotic supplements come in many forms such as food, drinks, pills, powders, and liquids.

    Reasons for Choosing a Probiotic for an ADHD Child

    There has been discussion in research around the connection between gut health and the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) brain. This connection involves a hypothesis that any changes in our gut can directly impact our brain and vice versa.

    The gut brain axis is thought to play a role in the development of various neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD. For instance, research has suggested that individuals with ADHD have a unique gut microbiome compared to those without ADHD. Therefore, incorporating probiotics and a probiotic supplement is thought to promote a healthy gut microbiome and control various ADHD symptoms such as hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity.

    Benefits of Probiotics for ADHD

    While we know that there is no "cure all" for ADHD symptoms, there are definitely a variety of lifestyle changes, medication options, and natural supplements that can be incorporated to promote a healthier life. Probiotic supplements not only can help improve healthy gut bacteria in children, but some individuals report that it can even help improve ADHD symptoms.

    Improved Mood

    The gut brain axis are linked through various biochemical signaling between the central nervous system and the digestive tract. The primary connection between the nervous system and the gut is the vagus nerve, which is the longest nerve in the body. The gut has also been considered the "second brain" because it produces many key neurotransmitters that play a key role in regulating an individual's mood.

    90% of serotonin, a neurotransmitter important for improved mood, is made in the digestive track. Therefore, consuming probiotics has been associated with improved mood and mental health due to it's significance in gut health.

    Reduced Hyperactivity

    Probiotic supplements have been associated with a reduction in ADHD symptoms in children. Research suggests that introducing an early probiotic intervention for neurodevelopment disorders, such as ADHD, found that incorporating probiotics in infancy can reduce the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders later into childhood. After looking at 75 infants and comparing the results between the probiotic group and the placebo group, there was a notable difference.

    In addition, research has also suggested that after 4 to 8 weeks of taking a probiotic supplement, participants experienced a decrease in hyperactivity and impulsivity.

    However, the sample size in both studies were relatively small and it is unclear what effect probiotic supplements have on a child's symptoms of ADHD.

    Improved Cognitive Function

    Probiotic supplements have also been associated with an improvement in cognitive functions. For instance, research has indicated that individuals with Alzheimer's disease who drank milk that contained four good bacteria species for 12 weeks scored better on cognitive related tasks than individuals within the control group.

    Improved Digestive Health and Immune System

    Probiotic foods and probiotic supplements have been associated with various health benefits such as improved digestive health and immune function. They are known to reduce intestinal inflammation, promote healing in the gut lining, and increase microbiome diversity.

    Best Probiotic for ADHD Child

    At this time, clinical studies have been relatively inconclusive when it comes to utilizing probiotics as a means to improve ADHD symptoms. However, there are a variety of other health benefits to taking probiotics such as improved immune function and digestive health, therefore, they should be considered as part of your child's daily routine and diet.

    Factors to Consider When Choosing a Probiotic

    There are a variety of factors that should be considered when choosing a probiotic supplement. For instance, know the ingredients. Know the quality, potency, and safety recommendations of the probiotic supplements you are considering for you child.

    Probiotics as well as vitamins and other supplements are not regulated by the FDA. Therefore, check with your child's pediatrician before giving probiotic supplements to your child.


    There are numerous probiotic supplements available in stores today and each of them serve a specific function. It is important to know what you are buying and the quality of this item. Be sure they are free of harmful substances such as artificial flavors, synthetic colors, and sweeteners.

    In addition, choosing a vegan probiotic strain is always a good option, as these will be free of substances such as gluten.


    The potency of children probiotics is also an important factor to consider.

    For instance, experts recommend choosing probiotic supplements that contain 1x10 CFU (1 million) or more per dose. CFUs are colony forming units, which show how many viable bacteria are in each dose. If you give your child any less, then the digestive system will kill the bacteria, which will not have any benefit on the body.


    Probiotic supplements are generally considered to be safe for consumption. However, there are risks associated with these supplements and can include developing an infection, developing resistance to antibiotics, and developing harmful byproducts from the probiotic supplement.

    Medical News Today chooses vitamins and supplements based on important criteria such as the ingredients, dosage, serving size, third-party testing, and available certificate of analysis.

    Before giving your child a probiotic supplement, discuss the safety and any dosage information with your child's doctor to determine if your child will benefit.

    Types of Probiotics

    There are a variety of probiotic strains. The most common probiotic strains used within probiotic products are lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium, and saccharomyces. These strains are associated with human health and disease.


    Lactobacillus rhamnosus gg has been used regularly in the treatment of diarrhea in children.

    One study also found that children who took lactobacillus rhamnosus gg had an improvement in hyperactivity symptoms and inattention compared to a placebo group. Children in this study ingested 10 CFUs daily.


    This probiotic strain has been associated with an improvement in cognitive functioning. It has been shown to have a positive effect on the gut brain axis.

    Research has also suggested that bifidobacterium plays an important role in treating gastrointestinal infections and improving overall immune function.


    Saccharomyces is a yeast that is commonly found in probiotics. This yeast is important for aiding the body in digestion and improving the gut microbiota. It has also been used as a treatment in gastrointestinal infections.

    Saccharomyces are typically found in fermented foods such as milk, yogurts, and cheeses.

    How to Administer Probiotics to an ADHD Child

    There are numerous avenues to take when consuming probiotics. This can include incorporating more probiotic rich foods into your child's diet and adding probiotic supplementation through drinks, probiotic powders, probiotic pills, and chewable probiotics.


    Individuals can increase the amount of good bacteria in the body through foods, drinks, and supplements. When adding probiotics through a dietary supplement, be sure to choose foods with the recommended daily amounts of necessary vitamins and nutrients.

    Fermented foods are known to include a host of good bacteria that are beneficial for the digestive system and the body, overall. Other foods also contain probiotics which can benefit the health of the gut microbiome.

    Some common probiotic rich foods that you can start incorporating into your dietary supplement include:

    • yogurt
    • buttermilk
    • sourdough bread
    • cottage cheese
    • kombucha
    • tempeh
    • fermented pickles
    • fermented sauerkraut
    • kimchi
    • miso soup

    Balance is important. While probiotic rich foods offer health benefits, it is important to maintain a balanced diet and eat a variety of foods for every meal.


    There are commercially beneficial probiotics for kids, which can be helpful in relieving constipation, acid reflux, diarrhea, gas, and excema in children. Probiotics not only promote gut health but can also aid in brain development in children.

    Child probiotic supplements can come in the form of:

    • probiotic powder
    • chewable probiotic
    • probiotic gummies
    • probiotic pills or capsules

    When choosing a probiotic for your child, talk with your child's pediatrician. They will be able to provide you with the guidance and knowledge needed to choose what probiotic form is best for your child.

    Probiotic Drinks

    Many probiotic supplements are also available in drink forms for children. This makes it easier for children to add healthy bacteria into their diet, especially if they are unable to tolerate a probiotic in a pill form.

    Probiotic drinks also come in many flavors and make probiotic supplementation fun for kids!


    If you are interested in probiotic supplementation, it is worth a consultation with your child's doctor. As mentioned previously, probiotics are important healthy bacteria that live within the gut microbiome and help us with many daily functions, such as digestive health. Adding probiotics to your child's daily routine is a good way to add the healthy bacteria to your child's body.

    While probiotics can support your child's gut health and potentially improve symptoms of ADHD, they are just one small piece to the puzzle. Incorporating a healthy lifestyle such as adequate sleep, a daily routine, balanced meals, plenty of exercise, and vitamins and supplements will help your child live a healthier and happier life!


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.


    Sarah Schulze MSN, APRN, CPNP

    Sarah is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a specialty certification in pediatric mental health. She works at a clinic in Champaign Illinois, providing care to children and adolescents with mental health disorders. She obtained her bachelor's in nursing from Indiana State University in 2011 and completed her master's in nursing from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2014. She is passionate about helping children create a solid foundation on which they can grow into healthy adults.