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Monday, June 27, 2022

Are Probiotics Worth the Money for Older Adults?

Seniors can benefit from a healthier gut microbiome, but it remains to be seen if probiotic pills beat out yogurt with a side of sauerkraut. 

Bacteria can have a wide range of health benefits for adults over 60. That’s right, bacteria. After all, some bacteria produce vitamins, assist with food digestion and attack cells that cause disease. Studies show that these “good” bacteria, or probiotics, are often significantly reduced in elderly people. It may be helpful to take probiotics to help reverse this trend.

The use of probiotics by adult Americans increased four-fold between 2007 and 2012. Most of these were taken in the form of over-the-counter pills, powders, and liquids. However, since many of these are sold as dietary supplements, they do not need FDA approval before they are sold. In addition, the label can contain claims about how the product affects the structure or function of the body without getting FDA approval. If you choose to take probiotics by pill, research the company offering them.

Common Issues of Over 60s Helped by Probiotics

No one knows why older adults have a reduced diversity and balance of microbiota compared to younger people and other adults. It may be a result of increased medication use, malnutrition, or a general decline in health. However, studies have shown that probiotics can shorten the length of cold and flu and may result in fewer instances of such illness. In addition, they can reduce the frequency and duration of both antibiotic-induced diarrhea and constipation. 

Probiotics May Relieve Stress, Anxiety

Stress upsets the balance of intestinal microbiota. Recent studies demonstrate that the right probiotics can alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression in adults when compared to placebos. Which probiotics do the trick? Special microorganisms known as psychobiotics confer mental health benefits via interactions with gut bacteria. In particular, Bifidobacterium (B.) and Lactobacillus (L.) have proven effective. However, the way they work to affect the gut-brain axis is still being studied. 

But there are many more conditions that are helped by the ingestion of probiotics. Research shows, for example, that certain probiotics improve the immune system. Bloating and flatulance may also be due to an imbalance in the gut bacteria of seniors. There is even evidence that dementia may be related to poor gut health that leads to neuroinflammation.

Specific Strains Remedy Different Problems

Although the science of which strain and how much of it can help remedy what issue is still obscure, researchers agree that various strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are the most helpful. For a complete list of strains and what they are used for, go to Web MD.

For example, you will find that L. plantarum stimulates vitamin production and your digestive system. If you have a weakened immune system or upper respiratory infections, then you’ll want to stock up on L. fermentum. Need a boost for your digestive and immune systems? Some B. bifidum may be in order. 

Food Containing Probiotics

Plenty of foods contain beneficial probiotics. The list is long, but some of the most common are: 
  • Yogurt, as long as it contains active (live) cultures.
  • Kefir, a dairy drink.
  • Sauerkraut.
  • Pickles that don’t contain vinegar.
  • Kombucha, a fermented black or green tea.

Plain Greek yogurt is a good choice for Bifidobacteria. It can be a good choice for people with lactose intolerance, because the bacteria it contains convert some of the lactose into lactic acid. It also doesn’t contain sugar, which is often the case with flavored yogurts.

Interestingly, a host of non-fermented foods also provide probiotics. Try dried beans, garlic, asparagus, onions, leeks, green bananas, and wheat for a boost to your immune system.

Who Should Avoid Probiotics?

Everyone considering taking a supplement should consult their physician. People with severe acute pancreatitis should avoid probiotics, according to Dr. Will Bulsiewicz, a gastroenterologist and gut health expert. He also recommends that some people with severe brain fog, gas, and bloating are not good candidates. However, he is more concerned about the blow to pocketbooks.

"This may sound scary but consider the millions of people taking a probiotic on a daily basis for decades now, and that these possibilities are at the most extremely rare. To me, the main question with probiotics is not their safety,” Dr. Bulsiewicz says. “The main question is whether the benefit of the probiotic is worth the cost, which frequently runs $40 to $60 per month.”
He adds: "The bottom line is that you want and should expect results from your probiotic. Unfortunately, many do not get results and are left confused and frustrated that they spent so much money. To increase the odds of success with a probiotic, you should opt for the strain and quantity that has been proven in study to work for whatever medical condition you are trying to address.”