There’s one form of bacteria that can actually benefit your health for a change — especially if you are a senior. What I’m talking about here is probiotics, the so-called ‘friendly’ bacteria that is found in your stomach and helps counterbalance other unhealthy and dangerous bacteria.
Currently, there’s been a call by some medical professionals for further awareness about probiotics, especially among seniors, as people over the age of 60 tend to have a thousand-fold less of the bacteria in their gut. This is a fact that opens you up for a lot of health problems.
Why are probiotics so important to maintaining good health as we age? Simply put, probiotics could help you ward off a whole slew of gastrointestinal infections and bowel conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, poor nutrition absorbency, constipation, and a declined ability of your immune system to fight off and resist infection.
In a recent review of scientific literature aimed at probiotics, published in Postgraduate Medical Journal, Professor Jeremy Hamilton-Miller wrote the following about the benefits of probiotics for seniors:
“Review of the literature suggests that three problems common in the elderly, namely, undernutrition, constipation, and the decline in efficiency of the immune system leading to reduced capacity to resist infection, may all be beneficially affected by appropriate probiotic organisms.”
So how do probiotics work? In your digestive tract, your body maintains a healthy balance between good and potentially bad microorganisms. The healthy bacteria, or “microflora” found in your digestive tract play an important protective role in your body.
Unfortunately, as you grow older, you lose the amount of healthy microflora in your body due to such factors as corticosteroids, antibiotics, travel, eating meat, and digestive disorders — this means less of the bacteria are present in your system, leaving you susceptible to the various health concerns mentioned above.
On top of the protective ability of microflora, they also help to synthesize crucial vitamins, enzymes, and nutrients; for example, the lactase that’s needed to digest the lactose found in milk and dairy products.
Probiotics are basically the supplemental form of these microflora and they’ve been used for many years to help increase the amount of the protective bacteria in the gut. The most common two forms of probiotics that you are probably familiar with is yogurt, cheese, and other fermented foods, which include two specific helpers — lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
By eating foods that contain these two forms of probiotics on a daily basis, you can expect to see such benefits as relief from constipation; an improvement in digestion absorption of dietary nutrients and minerals; lowered blood cholesterol levels; better protection from tumor development; and, in some cases, even allergy protection.
Along with all these benefits, probiotics can also take on antibiotic abilities, killing off unhealthy bacteria in the gut. Plus, bifidobacterium has been shown to help boost your immune system’s functioning by enhancing the production of the cells that are known to have protective abilities against viral infections.
In any event, if you are over 60, you may want to consider supplementing with probiotics or adding foods rich in healthy lactobacilli and bifidobacteria to help treat and prevent the conditions noted in this article. Speak to your doctor to see what amount of probiotics would be best suited for your needs.