If you are over 60 you should take either probiotic drinks, yoghurts or capsules as they will protect you from developing such bowel conditions as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), says researchers from Reading University, UK.

The researchers stressed that there are good and ineffective probiotic products on the market and that people should choose their supplements carefully. Half of all the brands available in the UK are not as effective as they claim to be, they said. The product needs to have the correct strain of live bacteria, i.e. bifidobacteria or lactobacilli. They must also be able to prove that each product carries 10 million bacteria or more. New European Union legislation is forcing manufacturers to make this information available.

Elderly people have a much lower number of friendly bacteria in their intestines than younger adults, say the researchers. Elderly people also have more harmful bacteria in their intestines than younger adults. Some studies have shown that friendly bacteria levels in the gut of a typical over 60-year-old is one thousandth of that of a younger adult. The elderly are much more prone to gastrointestinal infections and bowel conditions.

We all have friendly bacteria in our gut which help us digest our food as well as protecting us from some diseases. We need a good balance of friendly and harmful bacteria for good health.

As elderly people have fewer friendly bacteria, probiotic supplements help maintain a good balance. Probiotics have live strains of bacteria which are added into powders, yoghurts, some fruit juices and other products.

Head researcher, Glenn Gibson, Reading University, UK, said that probiotics protect elderly people from the complication caused by bacteria which cause food poisoning, such as E.coli. He cited 80 human studies with positive results against bowel conditions, such as traveller’s diarrhoea, IBS and antibiotic-associated diarrhoea.

As antibiotics reduce the levels of all strains of bacteria in the intestines, anyone taking antibiotics, regardless of age, would benefit from taking probiotic supplements, say the scientists.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today