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Not only is it safe for older people to take probiotics, but I would go as far as to say that it is advisable for them to do so! You can find out more in this article or jump to the sections that are most of interest to you:
Older people have naturally lower levels of good bacteria in the intestine, particularly those from the Bifidobacteria genus, which have been found to plummet by as much as 1,000-fold in individuals from 55 to 60 years old onwards1. This imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut is thought to significantly contribute to older people's greater sensitivity to infections of the stomach and intestines.
You can read more about probiotics here.
At an older age, we can be more susceptible to health conditions including IBD, IBS, bloating, diarrhoea and indigestion; all of which originate in the gut. Additionally, the natural deterioration of the immune system due to ageing, can cause negative changes in the gut microbiota of elderly people2.
Supporting the body's balance of good bacteria can help maintain healthy digestion, a strong immune system, and overall vitality for all age groups - but perhaps, especially in the elderly7.
Recently, there has been emerging evidence for the use of probiotics in reducing fraility in old adults through supporting the gut microbiome with probiotics. By altering bacteria in the gut, it seems that both the brain and muscles can see positive impacts9.
A gold standard study was conducted in 68 adults aged 58-67 years old to assess the immune boosting effects of the Bacillus coagulans Unique IS-2 strain. It was found that the individuals that were taking a milk drink that contained Bacillus coagulans Unique IS-2 experienced an over 200% improvement in Natural Killer(NK) cell activity. This is promising for immune response.3
Bacillus coagulans Unique IS-2 is part of a group of bacteria known as soil-based organisms which are commonly used in food, beverage and gummy supplement production due to the robust nature of this bacteria.
It is also important to ensure that we are getting a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals daily as they contribute to our body functioning properly. Some important ones, especially, when we age include: Calcium4 – helps with bone health which is important as we know bone density starts to decrease at around 50 years of age; Zinc5– maintains immune function and helps with wound healing; Vitamin D36 – helps with immune function, and absorption of calcium in our diets.
Another strain of probiotics that has shown promising results for older adults is Bifidobacterium longum BB68S. Researchers found that daily supplementation of this particular strain improved measures of cognitive function, including memory and attention, in older people11.
As we get older we can find it more difficult to swallow capsules for a variety of reasons, including having a dry mouth, which can influence our decision making when it comes to taking supplements. There are many different formats of probiotics available:
Supporting the body's balance of good bacteria with a probiotic supplement can help maintain healthy digestion, good immune health, and overall vitality in all age groups - but perhaps, especially in the elderly. It is always worth remembering some basic principles when taking probiotics:
For more related articles, see here: Large study supports Bifidobacteria for elderly
Note: Probiotics are not recommended for those with serious medical conditions eg. those who are severely immunosuppressed, have pancreatitis, are in the ICU, have melaena, have a central venous catheter, infants with short bowel syndrome, or to patients with open wounds following major surgery; unless under a doctor's care. Furthermore, pregnant or breastfeeding women should consult their doctor before taking certain probiotic supplements.
Healthcare practitioners can read: Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07® strain supports immune function in elderly.