Most will agree that consuming a healthy, well-balanced diet is essential for good health, especially as we get older. This includes adding more probiotic-rich foods to our diet. For those who are not familiar with probiotics, they are live bacteria and yeast that can maintain and also improve digestive health. These good-for-you bacteria and yeast are in a variety of fermented foods, including pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and cottage cheese. Along with promoting good digestive health, some studies have suggested that eating more of these foods can help combat depression, improve skin health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. That being said, it stands to reason that eating more of these foods can go a long way toward keeping you looking and feeling good not only while you’re young but also as you move into your golden years as well.
Why Probiotics Are a Dietary Must as You Age
One undeniable maxim when it comes to the human experience is that getting older is unavoidable. However, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have a say in how we age. To that point, consuming a healthy, well-balanced diet, especially one that includes probiotics, will enable you to enjoy life with minimal health problems as you get older. To substantiate this claim, we need only take a look at a study published by the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest biomedical research agency. The study noted that some of the chief benefits of probiotics, particularly among the elderly, include the following:
- Improved gastrointestinal motility
- Prevention of colon cancer
- Prevention of diarrheal diseases
- Protection against pathogens
- Reduced risk of developing inflammatory intestinal disorders
Of course, these health benefits are in addition to the ones noted in the preface of this article. While we are on the topic, the risk of developing health problems continues to increase the older we get. In fact, several studies have found that older adults are more likely to suffer from a suppressed immune system, often as a result of taking large quantities of antibiotics. While these medications do an excellent job in terms of fighting off infection, they also increase the risk of colon cancer, diarrheal disease and much more. Adding more probiotic-rich foods to your diet is a great way to head off most of these problems. Plus, they taste pretty good and are not too expensive. What’s more, there are many fermented, probiotic-rich foods to choose from and available at most major supermarkets.
Why the Human Body Needs Good Bacteria
Contrary to popular belief, the human body needs a certain amount of bacteria to function optimally. Over time, especially as we get older, the body’s ability to produce bacteria naturally declines. This is where eating more probiotic-rich foods can come into the picture. As with many other bodily functions, our ability to produce healthy bacteria starts to diminish as we age, according to an article published in Medical News Today. However, a decline of good gut bacteria, even among young adults, can stem from any of the following:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Not eating enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
- Not getting enough sleep
Not surprisingly, the impact on gut health is far more severe among older adults for which these poor lifestyle habits apply. As such, many nutritionists, dieticians and even physicians often encourage older adult patients to consume more probiotics and to make positive lifestyle changes so they can add more years to their life.
Are Probiotics Safe?
If you have reservations about eating foods marketed as containing live bacteria, you should know that probiotics are generally safe for most people. However, there are a few caveats worth noting. According to an article published by Cleveland Clinic, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction in response to a sudden increase in their consumption of probiotic-rich foods. Some of the more notable allergic reactions include:
- Mild stomach upset
The same article also noted that individuals who meet any of the following criteria, especially older adults, should speak with a registered nutritionist, dietician or licensed physician before upping their intake of probiotic-rich foods to avoid potential complications:
- Have recently undergone surgery
- Diagnosed with a critical illness
- A weak or otherwise compromised immune system
In summary, probiotics are a dietary must at any age; however, they are especially critical for older adults as consuming them can help combat a myriad of digestive and other health problems, which often become more common as we age.