Like wrinkles and gray hair, changing gut flora is an inevitable part of getting older. Learn how to maintain the diversity of your internal family of microorganisms with seniors-specific probiotic strains.
The Importance of Gut Flora
Our digestive tract is home to hundreds of species of bacteria that work to keep our guts humming and happy, but they also have wide-reaching benefits throughout our bodies. About 70% of our immune system is located in and around our digestive systems in a layer of cells called Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue (GALT), and our guts produce 95% of our serotonin (yes, you read correctly: most of this important brain chemical isn’t generated in our brain).
Human microflora contains both good and bad microbes, but it’s important to encourage the good flora to proliferate and keep the bad in check. A healthy gang of probiotics can also improve allergies, weight loss efforts and stress, so there are loads of reasons to pay special attention to this special squad of microorganisms in our intestines.
How our Gut Flora Changes With Age
The diversity of our gut microflora starts to decline after the age of 50, and so does immune system activity, leaving seniors increasingly susceptible to opportunistic infections.
Bifidobacteria are the most prevalent friendly bacteria in the large intestine, while Lactobacilli are the main beneficial strain in the small intestine. Together they support gastrointestinal and immune health, help maintain the permeability of the intestinal barrier, and support overall health and well-being.
Both of these strains decline as we reach the half-century mark, increasing our risk of unhealthy bacterial overgrowth, which can occur in 20% of people aged 60–80, and 40% of people over the age of 80. This can lead to inflammation, tissue damage, and immune system dysfunction, along with digestive symptoms such as gas, cramping, constipation and diarrhea.
The Many Causes of Changing Gut Flora
There are multiple factors that can influence change in the digestive tract as we age. As we get older, we may produce less saliva, stomach acid, and digestive enzymes and juices, which help break down our food into smaller particles so they can be absorbed. When food isn’t digested properly, large pieces of matter can push through the gut into the bloodstream, causing the immune system to spring into action and mount an allergic response.
Some seniors can lose their ability to chew, taste, or smell. Others experience impaired physical mobility that prevents them from being able to visit the grocery store or cook, leading to malnutrition.
The widespread use of acid blockers and other medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) can interfere with digestive function and the composition of bacteria in the gut. Long-term use of NSAIDs is associated with the corrosion of the already-weak stomach lining of seniors, leading to painful ulcers. Seniors are more likely to be prescribed antibiotics due to failing health or hospital stays. Antibiotics wipe out beneficial bacteria in the gut, leaving seniors vulnerable to illness or infections.
Targeted Probiotics for Seniors
Probiotics designed to meet the specific needs of seniors are helpful to maintain digestive and immune health.
A good probiotic formula will contain multiple strains of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, with a large active cell count to support the large and small intestine. An enteric-coated capsule will protect the probiotics from being destroyed by stomach acid, allowing them to make their way into the small and large intestines with full potency.
Natural Factors Senior’s Multi Probiotic provides eight probiotic strains that support digestive health and combat age-related reductions in immune system function. Each strain has been carefully selected for its natural resistance to gastric acid, and this formula is “antibiotic compatible”, meaning it helps restore good bacteria and reduces the risk of diarrhea.
This comprehensive formula includes L. rhamnosus, clinically proven to enhance immune system activity in the elderly, along with L. acidophilus, which can significantly decrease gastrointestinal side effects.
Senior’s Multi Probiotic has a guaranteed potency of 55 billion active cells per capsule at manufacture, and 35 billion at expiry. Do not use if you have an immune-compromised condition (e.g., AIDS, lymphoma, patients undergoing long-term corticosteroid treatments). Due to the specificity of the formula, we recommend only seniors take it.
The good news is there is a connection between the state of your health and the state of your microbiome: if your health remains intact, it’s more likely you’ll retain the stability and diversity in your intestinal flora. By combining daily use of a probiotic with other beneficial activities like exercise, drinking plenty of water, managing stress, and eating fruits, vegetables, fermented foods, and fibre, we can help protect the diversity in our gut flora for years to come.