The Pros of Probiotics

Slice of pomegranate

For the most part, antibiotics are wonderful blessings of modern medicine, destroying microorganisms, such as bacteria, that often cause health problems. Among senior citizens, who may be a bit more prone to illness and infection, antibiotics could have a regular spot in the medicine cabinet.
One frequent drawback of antibiotics, however, is that these drugs are known to inhibit the growth of bacteria across the board, which means they may kill the good bacteria along with the bad.

“Antibiotics kill the good bacteria that our intestines need along with the bacteria that caused us to be sick,” said registered dietitian Julie Dyson. “When we lose the good bacteria in our intestines, it may lead to diarrhea, yeast infections, urinary tract infections and other such conditions.”

Fortunately, there is a fairly simple way to begin replacing the good bacteria in one’s system — by consuming what are called probiotics. Seniors who are on antibiotics may choose to take this route in order to help prevent diarrhea or infection caused by the loss of good bacteria.

“Probiotics are live bacteria that help keep our intestines healthy,” Dyson said. “There are certain foods that naturally contain probiotics, such as yogurt.”
In the not so distant past, purposely consuming food filled with bacteria probably seemed like a very bad idea. Today, however, plenty of people have heard of probiotics, as the health benefits of live bacteria have been touted in tons of TV commercials.

According to Dyson, probiotics are most often consumed to help alleviate the diarrhea that is so often a byproduct of being on antibiotics. Older adults may choose to eat probiotic packed foods for their other reported health perks as well, such as overall digestive support even when one is not on antibiotics.
“There are some studies that show probiotics may be helpful in treating irritable bowel syndrome and colitis,” Dyson said. “Scientists are also testing probiotics to see if they can help prevent the recurrence of colon and bladder cancer.”

Currently, most foods that contain probiotics will be found in the dairy case and proudly labeled. Certain dietary supplements also contain various doses of these helpful live organisms.

“Some probiotics are dosed by the number of live organisms they contain,” Dyson said. “In general, at least a dose of one billion colony forming units, or CFUs, is needed to have a positive effect on the intestines.”