Probiotics or “friendly bacteria” reduce the impact of winter infections in elderly people. A study (1) developed for Italian investigators highlighted that a variety of probiotics regimens can improve white blood cell counts in older people. It means that the whole immune system responds quicker and faster to any infection in the body.
Investigators recruited adults over the age of 60 for a research to see if friendly bacteria could minimise the impact of winter infections. Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive a milk drink supplemented with Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Streptococcus thermophilus and L. casei DN-144 001. The rest drank a similar beverage without the probiotics. Neither group was free of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, but those who received probiotics had significantly shorter illnesses with less fever.
Why is it important, especially for elderlies, to keep a healthy digestive system? The diversity of the gut microbiota and the secretion of digestive enzymes decline as we ageing. These factors disrupt the balance of gut microflora causing an imbalance in it and lead to a condition called dysbiosis. A poor diet based on ultra-processed food, overuse of antibiotics, alcohol or stress leads to dysbiosis too.
For those who are not familiarised with the dysbiosis term, I will simplify it. Imagine our gut as a big city with millions and millions of bacteria (people). Most of them behave as exemplary citicienzs, probably 85%, but the rest are bad influencers, around 15%. While good bacteria stays above 80% in streets of our digestive system, the city will run peacefully and smoothly. However, if bad citicienzs increased and spread widely, riots would take over the streets of gut. As a result, the immunity system would become compromised and it may not function optimally. In this scenario, the risk of infections and diseases increases exponentially. Cramps, constipation, diarrhea, heart burn, gas, bloating, inflammation, aching joints, acne, skin rashes, chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating, depression, anxiety or headaches come as symptoms and signs of the gut dysbiosis.
It is clear that, as we age, our immune system slows down and needs some extra support. If you believe in supplements, a good probiotic will help you to strength your body. If you don’t trust in supplementation, eat as many different types of fruits and vegetables, include as many colours as you can. Vegetables contain prebiotics, which are indigestible fibre that feed the good bacteria. Fermented foods also seem as a great probiotics option: kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh and yogurts. To avoid: ultra-processed food which is high in sugar, unhealthy oils and refined flavour.