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Intestinal Health in Our Senior Loved Ones – To Use or Not to Use Probiotics

Intestinal Health in Our Senior Loved Ones – To Use or Not to Use Probiotics

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Does your senior suffer from irregularity?

Does your senior have bloating, cramping or rumbling in their tummy?

It’s hard to avoid television, magazine, and grocery store ads telling us the importance of gut health.

Not only that, but also how their products can help us feel regular and like ourselves again.

Active cultures from a variety of food sources are the latest health craze, not just for women but all of us.

What exactly are these products and why should we take them?

Seniors’ Bowel Health

Many seniors are unaffected by problems with their tummy.

They experience no untoward effects while others have irregularity, constipation, gas, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, or irritable bowel syndrome.

There can be medical conditions or prescription drugs that interfere with a regular bowel pattern and those need to be checked by your senior’s physician.

There is no one right time for passing stools or the frequency of bowel movements that is ‘normal’.

We are all a bit different depending on a number of factors including diet, exercise, health and medical conditions for example.

Knowing When There’s a Problem

Having a bowel movement everyday should not be your senior’s goal and they are not automatically constipated if they don’t move their bowels daily.

When their stools change in frequency, size, contain blood or require straining to pass, it is time to talk to the doctor.

Many seniors who are having a stool pattern that is different from the norm for them is reason to begin to search for a way to get back to their normal pattern.

When seniors (all of us, really) feel their usual habits need a helping hand, they often turn to these products advertised on TV to seek relief.

Foods containing active cultures or probiotics that can repopulate the bacterial flora in our seniors GI tract (or gut) may help them feel better and become more regular.

Understanding Probiotics

Food products that contain probiotics have been advertised to relieve tummy troubles and make seniors regular again.

Probiotics are microorganisms that are added to the intestines to produce a beneficial effect.

Probiotics are live active cultures and yeasts that can keep our gut healthier.

Our bodies contain both good and bad bacteria. Bad bacteria can make us sick as in food poisoning, but good bacteria such as in the gut can keep us well.

Probiotics should not be confused with prebiotics which aren’t the microorganism but are indigestible compounds that stimulate the existing gut bacteria causing it to grow.

Two of the most common types of good bacteria that help our intestines include:

  • lactic acid bacteria (lactobacillus casei, lactobacillus acidophilus)
  • bifidobacteria (bifidobacteria bifidus)

These active live cultures are appearing in more and more brands of yogurt, soy products, and supplements to help our intestinal health and are considered “friendly bacteria.”

Reading labels will tell you if a particular product contains probiotics.

Look for “live active cultures” or lactobacillus in foods such as buttermilk, yogurt, acidophilus milk, kefir, tempeh fermented soy, brewer’s yeast or miso.

Benefits of Probiotics

There are some instances that using a probiotic can be beneficial.

  1. Probiotics are often used to improve your own gut bacteria after using antibiotics, which can destroy your friendly bacteria.
  2. Some people with lactose intolerance find that using probiotic products help them feel better.
  3. Probiotics have been found helpful in preventing/treating urinary tract infections and yeast infections.
  4. Those suffering from clostridium difficile have gotten some relief using probiotics in the length of their illness.
  5. People who have irritable bowel syndrome may also benefit from the use of probiotics.

Some seniors may be taking probiotics in pill form, prescribed by their doctors, related to a medical condition or illness. These supplements contain these same strains of good bacteria and act in the same way as foods you may be adding to your diet.

Don’t stop taking the medication prescribed by your doctor thinking that a yogurt a day will be the same because the strain of culture or amount may not be equivalent and your senior’s health could be negatively impacted.

Things to Keep in Mind

If you decide to include probiotic products in your diet, be aware that you might experience some intestinal symptoms such as gas or bloating and even loose stools as your body adjusts to a new balance in friendly bacteria.

As a side note, continued research into the effects and benefits of food products containing live cultures so that accurate package claims can be made is ongoing.

If your senior has a normal, healthy intestinal system, he probably doesn’t need to go out of his way to eat these products. However, if your senior feels she could use more help to be regular, adding a few of these foods with active cultures might help her bowel health.

Either way, don’t forget yogurt is a good source of nutrients including protein and calcium, whether you are looking for intestinal health improvements or not!

Not to mention that yogurt tastes good, too!

5 Responses to Intestinal Health in Our Senior Loved Ones – To Use or Not to Use Probiotics

  1. This is a great summary of probiotics, before trying any new diet or taking any supplements talking to a doctor beforehand and if he or she recommends them, take them!

    • Thank you Jamie–it is always the best plan to discuss any changes in your health routine with your physician to be sure it is safe and right for you! We urge everyone to do that!

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