Posted: May 28, 2020
The gastrointestinal system, or human gut, is a fascinating and diverse world of microorganisms, also known as the microbiome. Living inside this complex system are billions of different types of bacteria that all play a role in our overall health. With so many types of bacteria, it is important to maintain a healthy balance of “good” to “bad” bacteria to prevent an overgrowth of the harmful type. This balance can lead to a better quality of life and contribute overall to healthy aging.
Research shows having a balanced gut bacterium boosts immunity, improves psychological health, helps regulate autoimmune disorders, and supports weight management. For seniors, probiotics and prebiotics may also help with undernutrition and bowel conditions like constipation and diarrhea. Older adults also tend to have less good bacteria in their intestines, which can increase the risk of infection.
Probiotic means “for life.” These naturally occurring organisms live in foods such as fermented yogurts, kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, and pickles. Prebiotics “feed” the good bacteria in your intestines, helping to keep them alive. Onions, leeks, some whole grains, and honey are good sources of prebiotics.
Probiotics and prebiotics work symbiotically to provide healthy bacteria and allow it to flourish in the gut. At Casey’s Pond, residents can choose from a variety of pre and probiotic foods including yogurts with live active cultures, fermented foods such as cabbage and pickles, and many meals are cooked with onions, leeks and garlic. Some new gut friendly menu items include chickpea and tomato salad, Greek chicken salad with artichoke, and fresh grilled asparagus.
Probiotics can be taken in the form of a dietary supplement as well. When choosing a supplement, look for a seal that says Live Active Culture, which means the product contains live cultures (probiotics). The supplement should contain many strains of bacteria, greater than five billion CFUs (colony-forming units) per dose. In addition, the supplement should have the GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) seal, a sign of third party testing for quality standards.
As we age, we are more likely to fall ill and require medications that affect gut microbiome health. These drugs can further disrupt the normal balance of the microbiome. In particular, antibiotic use can decrease the good bacteria while killing the bad bacteria, which can lead to bacterial infections, sleep disorders, depression and obesity.
Caring for the gut through proper nutrition, including probiotics and prebiotics, can lead to a healthier and more active life in our later years. The best way to promote an abundance of healthful bacteria is to consume probiotic and prebiotic foods.
Casey’s Pond is passionate about helping older adults thrive in all areas of life and we are thankful for partners like Morrison Living-Duet Dining and our Nutrition Care Manager, Kathryn Ciamaichelo, RDN, who creates healthy and satisfying dining experiences for residents, and their guts, to enjoy!
About The Author
Kat Ciamaichelo is a registered dietitian, ski and mountain bike enthusiast and travel junkie. She’s on a mission to prove that healthy eating doesn’t involve restriction or a rocket science degree. When she’s not in the office or on a mountain, you’ll find her cooking without a recipe or working on her crossword skills.