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5 Little-Known Things Killing Your Kid's Gut Bacteria

by Grace McCalmon


5 Little-Known Things Killing Your Kid’s Gut Bacteria

by Grace McCalmon

Bacteria and children. It’s safe to say that most parents spend a large amount of time trying to ensure the two stay as far apart as possible, or, at least my mother did. As a kid in the late 80s, bacteria was something that fell into the Dirty and Potentially Dangerous category and was to be avoided or washed off as quickly as possible. But we now know that dirt may not be so dangerous, and all bacteria are not so bad. In fact, there are some kinds of bacteria that are very, very good. These kinds of good, or beneficial bacteria are known as probiotics.

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are naturally found in our bodies and have been shown to help support multiple areas of our overall health including digestion, nutrient absorption, mood and energy balance, and immunity.*

Research shows that this good bacteria can actually help keep kids healthy. Unfortunately, probiotic bacteria are fragile and can be killed easily by exposure to light, heat, stomach acid, as well as several aspects of modern life that you might not expect.

Here are five common threats to your kid’s beneficial gut bacteria – and what to do about them!



Parents have many, many jobs, and one of the toughest is probably trying to keep their kids clean.  However, research shows that there could be such a thing as too much sanitization.

According to the “hygiene hypothesis,” exposure to dirt, germs, and bacteria may actually be good for a child’s immune system.

Conversely, a growing body of research indicates that overuse of antibacterial agents, including certain medications, hand soaps, and cleaning products, may alter the balance of our gut bacteria and cause harmful bacteria to become stronger. In September 2016, the FDA banned the use of 20 antibacterial chemicals based on supporting data which suggests that long-term exposure to ingredients such triclosan, found in liquid soaps, and triclocarban, found in bar soaps, could pose health risks including bacterial resistance and hormonal effects.

What to do about it:

Get dirty! Research shows that there is edible good bacteria in soil – the same soil that gets on your kid’s hands when they play outside and clings to organic fruits and vegetables. According to the FDA, there isn’t enough science to show that over-the-counter antibacterial soaps are better at preventing illness than washing with plain soap and water. So, instead of scrubbing your produce (or your children) into oblivion, you can relax. A little dirt don’t hurt and a light rinse is perfectly okay.

When shopping for soap and other cleaning products, check ingredient lists and make sure whatever you buy does not include triclosan, triclocarban, or any of the other 17 banned chemicals. For more info on safe cleaning and skincare options, check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, and Guide to Healthy Cleaning.



Kids are like magpies. They like shiny objects and bright colored things, which is why many processed foods marketed to children are more colorful than Katy Perry’s wig collection. But some synthetic food colorings have been shown to exhibit antibacterial properties which, in large doses, could potentially affect the balance of bacteria in our bodies.

What to do about it:

Try and keep your family on a diet of unprocessed food as much as possible. That said, we know this can be the impossible dream when it comes to feeding children (and some adults). When you or your kids do eat food that comes with a label, just make sure to read the ingredients and avoid synthetic dyes when you can.



Many people today use water filters. In fact, here in southern California, Brita pitchers are almost as common as kitchen sinks, since our tap water tastes like a combination of chemicals and dirty feet. But elsewhere in the United States, it’s perfectly acceptable, and palatable, to drink water from the tap. However, thousands of municipalities in the United States add chlorine to their water supply in order to kill pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and protozoans that commonly grow in reservoirs, on the walls of water mains, and in storage tanks. While this may sound like a good thing, studies on mice have shown that drinking chlorinated water can negatively impact gut bacteria.

What to do about it: 

Invest in a high-quality carbon-based filter. Tap filters from Paragon, Aquasana, Kenmore, Seagull, and others remove most if not all of the chlorine in tap water. If you’re interested in more extensive, whole-home filtration, the Radiant Life company has a wide range of options. Our favorite pitcher filter is made by Clearly Filtered and removes up to 99% of chlorine, lead, mercury, chromium 6, arsenic, pesticides, insecticides, and 90% of fluoride.



Probiotic bacteria need food to survive and thrive, and a certain kind of fiber, known as PRE-biotic fiber, is an ideal source of fuel for our good gut bugs. The foods highest in prebiotic fiber include chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, raw garlic, leeks, and onions. Unfortunately, you don’t hear too many kids shouting, “I scream for dandelion greens!”

What to do about it:  

Try incorporating the more kid-friendly prebiotic foods, such as bananas (especially the green ones), oats, and apples (with the skin) into your family’s diet. Some great options are banana smoothies, overnight oats, and baked apples. You can also supplement with soluble fiber in a gummy or chew designed for kids, like our SmartyPants Kids Complete and Fiber. Learn more about the best dietary sources of fiber here.



Glypho what? You may have never heard of Glyphosate, but it’s the active ingredient in Roundup – the most popular chemical non-organic farmers spray on GMO crops. Research shows that glyphosate has antibacterial properties which could negatively impact bacteria in the gut. If you eat foods that contain GMO ingredients, there’s a chance you’re also eating Glyphosate.

The most common GMO ingredients include corn, soy, cotton oil, and canola oil, which can be found, in some capacity, in nearly all processed foods. I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, given the choice between a bag of cheesy puffs and a bag of kale, I was going with the former. Most kids like processed foods: chicken nuggets, fries, chips, candy, soda. Of course, so do adults, but we at least know (a little) better and try to exercise restraint (sometimes).

What to do about it:

The number one way to avoid GMOs is to try and get your family to eat organic whenever possible. If you or your kids get a hankering for something not-so-natural, opt for brands that do it right and use high-quality, non-GMO ingredients. You can easily spot them by looking for the USDA Organic seal or the Non-GMO Project label.  Some of our favorites include Boulder Canyon potato chips, Justin’s peanut butter cups, and Straus organic ice creams.

At SmartyPants, we are proud to say that we have led the industry in using non-GMO ingredients, and all SmartyPants products are non-GMO. For more about all the goodness that goes into our gummies and why, read here.

If you’re curious to learn more about how you can support your family’s good gut bacteria, check out our article How To Pick a Probiotic, where we interview Dr. Pamela Peeke to get the scoop on probiotics, why they’re good for us, and how to choose the best ones.

Ready to jump aboard the probiotic bus? Then we’d like to introduce you to the newest additions to our SmartyPants family: SmartyPants Adult Probiotic Complete and Kids Probiotic complete, which combine multi-strain probiotics and Wellmune® prebiotic immune support, all in one amazingly delicious gummy (that could be our tastiest yet!)




Posted on November 29, 2016

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Grace McCalmon

Grace is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) and a graduate of Duke University. She received her nutrition certification from the Nutritional Therapy Association, and her training is based on the work of Dr. Weston A Price, as well as the latest peer-reviewed, scientific research.