Probiotics for Seniors

senior woman holding probiotic

Are you a senior looking for ways to improve your health? If so, you may want to consider adding some germs to your diet. 

Germs? Wait, what? 

When we talk about germs, what we really mean is probiotics. 

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help keep the gut healthy and can also have many other benefits. And don’t worry – you can take them in food or as a capsule. 

Key Takeaways

  • Though not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, most clinical trials suggest that the use of probiotics can have significant benefits for gut health.
  • The many beneficial effects of probiotics on elderly patients include improving the gut microbiota to improve heart health, reduce diarrhea, alleviate skin allergies, and more. 
  • Some of the best probiotics for seniors include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus fermentum, and Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. Lactis. 

Are Probiotics Beneficial for Older Adults?

Probiotics are live microorganisms that are typically consumed in the form of yogurt or dietary supplements.  They are often called “good” bacteria because they help keep the gut healthy.

These “good” probiotic bacteria are thought to have various health benefits, including improved digestion and a strengthened immune system. Probiotics may also help to reduce the severity of certain illnesses, such as diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome. 

Here are a few more benefits of taking probiotics, particularly for older adults.

Improve Heart Function and Overall Health

Probiotics have many health benefits, including improved heart function. Studies have shown that probiotics can lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. In addition, probiotics can help reduce inflammation throughout the body and reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Probiotics are also linked to a lower risk of stroke and other cardiovascular problems.

Reduce Diarrhea

Probiotics work by restoring the balance of good bacteria in the gut, which helps to reduce diarrhea. Diarrhea is often caused by an imbalance of gut bacteria, so by taking probiotics, you can help to alleviate the symptoms. Probiotics can also help to improve IBS symptoms and symptoms of ulcerative colitis in senior populations, such as bloating and constipation. In addition, they have been shown to boost immunity and reduce the risk of infections. 

Alleviate Lactose Intolerance, Skin Allergies, and Inability to Digest Sugars

When taken orally in the form of supplements or fermented foods, probiotics can offer a variety of health benefits to older people, including aiding digestion, reducing lactose intolerance, and alleviating skin allergies. 

Probiotics work by restoring the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, which can be disrupted by factors such as poor diet, illness, and antibiotic use. In addition, they help to break down food more effectively and reduce inflammation. 

Reduce Excessive Bacteria That Cause Vaginal Inflammation

Probiotics are thought to reduce excessive bacteria that cause vaginal inflammation. The most commonly used probiotic strains for this specific purpose are Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14, which have been shown to reduce bacterial vaginosis and other types of vaginal inflammation. 

Probiotics may also help to restore the normal balance of good and bad bacteria in the vagina, which can help to prevent future episodes of vaginitis. Probiotic supplements are generally safe and well tolerated. Still, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider before taking them, as they may interact with other medications or medical conditions.

Improve Bad Breath 

The balance of bacteria in your mouth plays a large role in determining how your breath smells. When the bacterial balance is off, bad breath can result. 

Probiotics can help to fight off harmful bacteria and restore balance, resulting in fresher breath. Additionally, probiotics can also help to improve gum health, which can also contribute to bad breath. 

By taking probiotics regularly, you can help to keep your breath smelling fresh and free of bad bacteria.

How to Determine if Probiotics Are Right for You

Probiotics are live organisms that can provide health benefits when consumed. They are most commonly found in yogurt and other fermented foods but can also be taken as supplements. 

Probiotics are thought to help regulate the digestive system and boost the immune system, but their exact mechanism of action is still not fully understood. 

If you are considering taking probiotics, it is important to first consult with your healthcare provider. Probiotics may not be right for everyone, and they can interact with certain medications.

In addition, probiotics can cause digestive side effects such as gas and bloating, so it is important to start with a small dose and increase gradually as needed. If you do decide to take probiotics, be sure to choose a high-quality product from a reputable manufacturer.

Who Should Avoid Probiotics

While probiotics offer many health benefits, there are some people who should avoid them. Immune-compromised individuals, such as those with HIV/AIDS or cancer, should not take probiotics because the live bacteria could cause potentially fatal infections. 

Additionally, people who have had recent surgery should avoid probiotics as they can increase the risk of postoperative infections. 

In general, probiotics are safe for most people, but it is always best to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.

What Are Some of the Best Probiotics for Seniors

Lactobacillus acidophilus 

Lactobacillus acidophilus is a type of probiotic that is often used to treat or prevent various gastrointestinal conditions. It is thought to work by restoring the balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut. Acidophilus is found naturally in many fermented food products, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi. It is also available in supplement form. 

L. acidophilus has been shown to help with a variety of gastrointestinal issues, such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease. Additionally, L. acidophilus has been shown to improve lactose intolerance and help reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Furthermore, this probiotic may also help boost the immune system and prevent vaginal infections.

Lactobacillus fermentum 

Lactobacillus fermentum is a type of probiotic that has been shown to be particularly effective for seniors. This probiotic helps to reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and boost immunity. It can also help to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. Lactis 

Bifidobacterium animalis ssp. Lactis is a probiotic that has been shown to be effective in supporting gut health. In one study, seniors who took B. animalis ssp. Lactis experienced a decrease in inflammation and an increase in the production of short-chain fatty acids, which are essential for gut health. 

Additionally, B. animalis ssp. Lactis has been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

Lactobacillus casei/paracasei 

Lactobacillus casei is a rod-shaped, Gram-positive bacterium in the Lactobacillaceae family. It is a lactic acid bacterium, which means that it produces lactic acid as a byproduct of fermentation. 

L. casei is found in a variety of fermented foods, including cheese, yogurt, and pickled vegetables. It is also used as a probiotic supplement, as it is thought to offer a range of health benefits. 

For example, L. casei has been shown to boost the immune system, improve gut health, and reduce inflammation. In addition, L. casei has been shown to have antimicrobial activity against a number of pathogenic bacteria. As such, it may be an effective treatment for certain types of infections.

Lactobacillus plantarum 

This probiotic can be found in supplement form or in fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut. Lactobacillus plantarum is thought to work by restoring the balance of bacteria in the gut and helping to break down food more efficiently.  

The Bottom Line

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer major health benefits. 

Probiotic supplements may help to reduce the risk of these and other gastrointestinal issues by restoring the balance of gut bacteria. In addition, probiotics have been shown to boost immunity, improve cognitive function, and reduce inflammation. 

Given the many potential benefits of probiotics, it is not surprising that they are becoming increasingly popular among older adults. If you’re thinking about trying probiotics, be sure to talk to your doctor about whether they might be right for you. 

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