The importance of the probiotics in senior health cannot be overstated. The large population of beneficial bacteria that call the gut “home” are there for a reason!
Sadly, as we age, our bodies undergo various changes, including alterations in our digestive system which can lead to an increased susceptibility to digestive issues and a decline in overall gut health. This is where probiotics come to the rescue!
Knowing how to use probiotics properly will greatly improve your digestive health, Use them the wrong way and, of course, encounter digestive discomfort. Too much of any good thing can be bad for you!
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Importance of the Probiotics in Human Health – Senior Benefits
For seniors, probiotics offer several key benefits. Note that taking antibiotics during an illness can drastically deplete the population of these helpful bacteria in the gut, and it is necessary to replace them by taking fermented dairy foods such as yoghurt, or probiotics as dietary supplements.
Importance of the Probiotics – How to Use
While there are several noteworthy benefits, remember that every senior’s health needs are unique, and it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplements, including probiotics.
A healthcare provider can assess your specific health situation, consider any potential interactions with medications, and make personalized recommendations.
The health benefits cannot be generalized and are bacteria species and strain specific. Not all probiotics are created equal, so when shopping, you will need to check the label on the product.
Look for products with live cultures of lactobacilli, acidophilus or bifidobacteria in the billions.
Ward Off Constipation and Bloating
First, they help alleviate common digestive problems that tend to affect older individuals, such as constipation, bloating, and irregular bowel movements. By restoring balance to the gut microbiota, probiotics can improve digestion, promote regularity, and reduce discomfort.
Moreover, seniors often face challenges when it comes to nutrient absorption. The aging process can compromise the body’s ability to break down and absorb nutrients from food.
Probiotics can help enhance this process by aiding in the breakdown of food particles and increasing nutrient absorption, thereby ensuring seniors receive the vital nutrients their bodies need for optimal health.
Strengthen the Immune System and Reduce Risk of Infections
As you age, your immune function naturally declines, making you more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
Probiotics can help strengthen the immune response in older adults by supporting the gut-associated lymphoid tissue, which is an essential part of the immune system located in the gut.
By bolstering the immune system, probiotics can help seniors stay healthier and reduce the risk of infections.
Alleviate Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Probiotics have shown promise in addressing specific age-related conditions. For instance, seniors often experience a higher prevalence of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Probiotics have been studied for their potential to alleviate symptoms and promote remission in these conditions, offering a more holistic approach to their management.
May Enhance Cognitive Health
Cognitive health is another area where probiotics can be beneficial for seniors. Research has highlighted the connection between the gut and the brain, and disruptions in gut health have been linked to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
Probiotics may help support brain function and mental well-being in seniors, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline.
What are The Best Forms of Probiotics for Seniors?
When it comes to choosing the best forms of probiotics for seniors, it is important to consider specific needs, preferences, and any underlying health conditions.
You should note that seniors may have specific dietary restrictions or preferences that could affect their choice of probiotics. For example, lactose intolerance or dairy allergies may require that they opt for non-dairy probiotic sources or lactose-free options.
Furthermore, seniors on certain medications, especially immunosuppressants or antibiotics, should consult their healthcare provider before starting any probiotic regimen to make sure that there are no potential interactions.
Lastly, keep in mind that probiotics are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Different individuals may respond differently to various strains and formulations.
It is advisable for seniors to consult with their healthcare provider or a registered dietitian who can assess their specific health needs and provide personalized recommendations on the best forms and strains of probiotics for them.
Remember, the goal is to find a probiotic approach that suits the individual’s needs and promotes optimal digestive health in a safe and effective manner.
Common and Effective Forms of Probiotics
Probiotic-Rich Foods: Encouraging seniors to incorporate probiotic-rich foods into their diet is a great way to obtain beneficial bacteria naturally.
Foods like yogurt (varieties with live and active cultures are best), kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso are excellent sources of probiotics.
These foods not only provide probiotics but also offer additional nutrients and fiber, supporting overall digestive health.
You may even choose to make your own probiotics at home and there is no shortage of recipe books to choose from.
Check out 7 of the best probiotics recipe books.
Probiotic Supplements: Probiotic supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, powders, and chewables.
These supplements offer a concentrated dose of beneficial bacteria, making it convenient to ensure an adequate intake.
Look for supplements that contain a diverse range of strains, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species, which are known to be beneficial for gut health.
Prebiotics and Synbiotics: Prebiotics are substances that act as food for probiotics, promoting their growth and activity. Synbiotics, on the other hand, combine both probiotics and prebiotics, working together to support gut health.
They can be especially beneficial for seniors as they help nourish and maintain the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Foods rich in prebiotics include bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and whole grains.
Fermented Foods: Fermented foods provide a double benefit by offering both probiotics and enzymes that aid digestion.
Incorporating fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, fermented vegetables, kombucha, and sourdough bread into the diet can help support digestive health and provide an additional source of beneficial bacteria for seniors.
The Other Angle – Overuse of Probiotics
Probiotics are generally considered safe for most people when used appropriately. However, like any supplement, overuse or misuse can lead to certain side effects.
Note, however that the effects of overusing probiotics can vary from person to person, and what may cause issues for one individual might not necessarily affect another.
If you are considering using probiotics as a supplement, it is always good to consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian so you can determine the appropriate dosage and strain for your specific needs.
They can help guide you in the choice of the right probiotic and monitor its effects on your health.
Potential Effects of Overusing Probiotics
- Digestive Issues: Taking an excessive amount of probiotics can lead to digestive discomfort, such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. This is especially common when introducing probiotics to the diet too quickly or when using high-potency probiotic supplements.
- Imbalance of Gut Microbiota: While probiotics are intended to promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, overuse might disrupt the natural balance of the gut microbiota. This imbalance could potentially lead to negative health effects and undermine the overall benefits.
- Immune System Interference: In some cases, an excessive intake of probiotics may interfere with the immune system’s normal functioning. This could be a concern for individuals with compromised immune systems or certain medical conditions.
- Risk of Infection: Very rarely, people with weakened immune systems or severe underlying health issues may be at risk of developing serious infections from probiotics. However, this risk is considered extremely low in healthy individuals.
- Allergic Reactions: Although uncommon, some people may be allergic to specific probiotic strains or components used in probiotic supplements, resulting in allergic reactions.
- Vitamin Overproduction: Some probiotics have the ability to produce certain vitamins in the gut. Overusing probiotics could lead to an excessive production of these vitamins, potentially causing toxicity.
Conclusion – The Importance of the Probiotics in Senior Health
The importance of the probiotics in senior health is primarily to promote an enhanced quality of life. They are especially important for seniors due to their ability to improve digestive health, enhance nutrient absorption, boost the immune system, and potentially support cognitive function.
By incorporating probiotics into daily routine, seniors can proactively promote their overall well-being and enjoy a higher quality of life in their golden years.
Banerjee, D. et al (2018). Importance of Probiotics in Human Health. In: Rani, V., Yadav, U. (eds) Functional Food and Human Health. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-1123-9_23 https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-981-13-1123-9_23
Berkoff F & Schwarcz J -Readers Digest (2018) Foods that Harm, Foods that Heal: What to Eat to Beat Disease and Live Longer