You’re heard it before: Act your age! Well, the same rule applies when it comes to choosing your probiotics.
Throughout the human life cycle, the bacteria that make up the gut microbiome normally maintain a positive symbiotic relationship with their host, providing far-reaching metabolic, immunological, nutritional, and psychological benefits. However, an unbalanced microbiome—known as intestinal dysbiosis—can wreak havoc on one’s health.
In order to thrive physically and mentally, and to prevent dysbiosis, we need beneficial gut bacteria known as probiotics. When choosing a probiotic supplement, however, one size does not fit all. The most beneficial types and amounts change during different stages of life.
Among hundreds of different kinds of microbes naturally present in the gut, research shows that various strains of two types of probiotics known as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria are the most beneficial to health.
By the time a newborn baby takes its first breath, microbes of all kinds have already begun to establish themselves inside the gut. These can vary dramatically and bring unwanted illness during an infant’s first few, most vulnerable years. A daily probiotic can help to control the gut microbiome, and prevent unfriendly bacteria from overpopulating and taking over.
Factors that play a significant role in a baby’s exposure to different microbes and therefore its gut composition and their functions include:
• geographical location (what kind of bacteria live where they do)
• diet relative to the region
• state of their health
• early exposures to microbes: a natural birth vs. a c-section, breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding, use of antibiotics, and hospital environments
The specific strains that do the best job in our gut change as a baby grows into a child. For example, there are strains of probiotics found in the gut of an infant or toddler which is no longer found in the gut past the age of five. In addition, as the infant grows in size, so does the amount of probiotics that are most beneficial. More of them are required (bigger body, bigger gut). Hence the probiotic formula that best benefits a child will be different from that for the baby.
As a child transitions into adolescence and then young adulthood, the microbiome tends to stabilize itself, but because of their increased size, adults require far more probiotics than children to get the best protection against unfriendly microbes. In fact they need about three times as many.
Research shows that the lower gut microbiome in the elderly is quite different than that of young adults. Specifically, there’s a decrease of beneficial bifidobacterium, an increase of unfriendly microbes, and overall lower diversity of strains, which are linked to more health issues. These often lead to the use of antibiotics, which can exacerbate these issues because antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria, further exposing the elderly to possible pathogens. This vicious cycle is a plight for the 50+ crowd, which can be remedied or prevented with probiotic supplements. In the colon, bifidobacteria turn fiber into short chain fatty acids (SCFA) that feed the cells lining the colon strengthening the immune system and decreasing the risk of inflammation and infection in the elderly.
In addition to eating a nutritious, plant-based diet rich in prebiotic fibers which stimulate the growth of probiotics, taking human-adapted probiotic supplements is a simple and effective way to restore and maintain a balanced and beneficial gut microbiota.
By tailoring probiotic supplements to the actual needs of the various stages of life, we can help build the immune system starting from infancy, improve health during all stages of life, and even reduce health care costs by lowering the risk of diseases related to the lack of them. Yes, there really are pros to ‘acting your age’! For a full line of age- and condition-specific probiotics, visit our website (US/CA).
About the author: Udo Erasmus
Udo Erasmus is an internationally renowned author and authority on natural health issues. For the past two decades, he has dedicated his time to researching the effects of fats and oils on human health, as well as sharing his understanding of the nature of health itself. Much of his work has focused on communicating this vitally important knowledge throughout the world through lectures, interviews and written material. He has also directed the formulation and production of a high quality, natural health supplement line.