The elderly are at an increased risk of a weakened immune system, probiotics may help improve their immunity by supporting a healthy gut flora.
By Dawn Flemming
The benefits of probiotics are well-known, especially in the last few years. Beneficial bacteria are critical for a properly functioning immune system. Probiotics help fight diseases and bad bacteria in your digestive tract which may end up causing autoimmune disorders and other kinds of health problems. Probiotics can help with mental health, lose weight (by digesting better, especially sugar) as well as keeping your heart healthy.
The intestine is the human body’s most important immune organ. About 60% of the body’s immune cells are found in the gut. A proper balance of gut flora is critical for intestinal and immune health.
Elderly people are more in need of probiotics as their immune system weakens over time. They are also more likely to have a reduced amount of beneficial bacteria in their gut because of the various anti-biotics they take (anti-biotic intake generally increases with age).
Among seniors, a structural change occurs in their intestinal system which causes a change in the bacterial flora, often not for the best. We don’t know why this happens, but some suggest that anti-biotic use may be the culprit where the balance of good and bad bacteria changes.
Ingesting probiotics is a way of combatting this negative change. Probiotics can be consumed in various ways. The easiest way is to take them in capsule format, but those come with a drawback. Most of the live cultures in the capsules tend to get destroyed in the stomach. The second option is store bought yogurt. Although yogurt protects the bacteria from destruction in the stomach, store bought yogurt is usually not fermented enough and does not contain enough probiotics. The third option is to make homemade yogurt that is fermented for 24 hours. 1 cup of 24hr fermented yogurt contains up to ¼ to ½ trillion bacteria. Regular intake of homemade yogurt can be a healthy and effective choice for rebalancing the gut bacteria in seniors and help better their immune system.
Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.