Relative to younger individuals, seniors are a population that presents a set of microbiological and immunological changes that must be taken into consideration when ascertaining potential medical treatments. Research suggests that these changes are mostly due to a decrease in beneficial strains of intestinal bacteria such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria and a marked increase in the presence of harmful flora. Immunosenescence, or the systemic and progressive age-related deterioration of the immune apparatus, in conjunction with a pervasive inflammatory state, lead to an increase in the incidence of several distressing health conditions. Seniors ironically enough are vulnerable in a similar way the youngest children and babies are to bad bacteria.
With the ability of probiotic supplements to regulate and repopulate a healthy intestinal flora it is imperative that the senior population consider them as a valid means to assuage the prevalence of detrimental health complications. The elderly often suffer from debilitating gastrointestinal ailments such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, severe intestinal motility issues such as chronic constipation, diverticulosis, and hemorrhages of the lower intestinal tract. Because of this, people over the age of 50 should consider probiotic supplements that best deal with the particular circumstances of an aging body.
PROBIOTICS FOR ELDERLY WITH DIARRHEA
Because of their suppressed immune system, the elderly population is significantly more susceptible to infection than the younger generations and thus is more likely to be undergoing antibiotic treatment. Antibiotic-associated diarrhea is very common in the elderly population. Although not life threatening, antibiotic-associated diarrhea is very often debilitating and uncomfortable. Lower abdominal pain, nausea, and low-grade fevers are common symptoms of this particular type of diarrheic disease.
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- difficile is a harmful bacteria that habitually causes diarrhea in the elderly. In a randomized, double-blind study published in The Lancet, it was suggested that probiotic supplements containing lactobacilli and bifidobacteria were an effective treatment for Clostridium induced diarrheic disease. A non-pathogenic yeast called Saccharomyces boulardii has also shown an ability to provide beneficial effects to gastrointestinal health, and some studies have suggested that probiotic therapies containing Saccharomyces boulardii can help prevent Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea.
PROBIOTICS AS A RELIEF TO CONSTIPATION
Constipation is one of the most common ailments that affect the elderly population. Close to thirty percent of the population older than sixty-five years of age suffers from recurring constipation. Healthy individuals, meaning those without constipation, present vastly different gut micro-flora compared to constipated individuals; which suggests one of the underlying causes of functional constipation might be an imbalance of the intestinal microbiota.
Constipation is more than a mere annoyance, and the potential complications can be gravely serious. These complications may include fecal impaction and colonic fissures. Clinical trials have repeatedly demonstrated a significant improvement in colonic transit times in patients that have been administered probiotics supplements containing B. lactis.
Other probiotics such as Lactobacillus reuteri, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and Lactobacillus Propionibacterium have been shown to alter fecal enzyme activity and pH levels in the colon. This reduction in pH is due to an increase in the bacterial synthesis of butyric acid, propionic acid, and lactic acid. The increased presence of these short-chain fatty acids has been shown to stimulate peristalsis and improve intestinal motility. Elderly individuals that include these probiotics into their regular dietary consumption are likely to see a significant improvement in the regularity of their bowel movements.
PROBIOTICS FOR ELDERLY WITH REFLUX
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD as it is commonly referred, is a painful condition that develops over time when constant regurgitation of the acidic stomach contents severely irritates the esophagus. Esophagitis and esophageal strictures are both common complications experienced by patients suffering from GERD. The most commonly felt symptoms are debilitating heartburn, chest pains, vomiting, and difficulty breathing.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is widespread and affects millions of people every year. Although there are several risk factors at play involved in the development of GERD, the most immediate is age. The first signs of GERD usually begin to manifest when patients reach their fifties, but symptoms only worsen with age and can become quite a severe well into the seventies and beyond.
Inflammation is one of the main components of gastroesophageal reflux disease and probiotics have been a consistently effective means of treating gastrointestinal inflammatory processes. There are three distinct modes of action through which probiotics relieve GERD associated inflammation. The first mode of operation is that probiotics compete with irritating pathogens for adherence to the intestinal epithelium. Probiotics have also been consistent in their ability to regulate immune function and modulating pathogen-induced inflammation. Probiotic supplements have also repeatedly been shown to extend the lifetime of intestinal epithelial cells thus enhancing protective functions.
SIDE EFFECTS OF PROBIOTICS IN ELDERLY
Probiotic supplements have ushered a wave of new and exciting modes of therapeutic and prophylactic treatments for several inflammatory and potentially incapacitating conditions in the elderly. However, it is important to note that as with all methods of treatment there are plenty of possible side effects to taking into account. Children, patients with compromised immune systems, and the elderly population are especially at risk of suffering from potential adverse effects of probiotic therapy.
Because there are many different strains of bacteria used in probiotic supplements, it is essential to pay attention to the appearance of any unwanted side effects. Stopping consumption immediately if observed. One of the most common side effects is the appearance of a mild allergic reaction. Immunosuppressed patients may be at risk of infection when taking probiotic products. Patients with underlying health conditions should also monitor probiotic use more carefully.
For the most part, probiotic supplementation is completely safe since most organisms included in probiotic foods are found naturally in the human body, to begin with. Mild discomfort is possible especially during the first stages of treatment. Digestive stress and bloating are also quite common. Some patients report mild headaches when consuming probiotic supplements. The best approach to try and keep side effects to a minimum is to start all therapies with a low dose and gradually raise it while monitoring the body’s reaction.
Overall the benefits will far outweigh most potential side effects, and probiotic therapy can easily be recommended for most patients.
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