What Women Over 50 Need to Know Before Taking Probiotics

Probiotics have a moment. In recent years, probiotics have become the third most popular dietary supplement. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Inclusive Health, the use of probiotics quadrupled between 2007 and 2012. For women over 50, a probiotic regimen can play a crucial role. When you are thinking of jumping on the train there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, however, you should check with your doctor before adding them to your daily routine.
According to Harvard University, taking probiotics offers several benefits. Before you click "Add to Cart", however, it is important to understand what probiotics do. Any discussion about probiotics consists of one word: microbiome. These are the trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in our bodies and especially in the intestines. The gut microbiome regulates digestion and contributes to a healthy immune system.
Sarit Aschkenazi, MD, who serves as the medical co-director of women's urogynecology for the ProHealth Hospital system in Wisconsin, recognizes the importance of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, especially for women over 50. "The average age at which women enter the Menopause is coming is 52 years. " She says. "During menopause, you don't make a lot of estrogen, and it affects different systems including the microbiome. When we have healthy gut, we have healthy bacteria that live in our gut and help us with all of our functions. They help us to digest and internalize the right ingredients and nutrients. If we don't have a healthy gut, we'll have a lot of inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and constipation. "
Conditions where probiotics might help
In her practice, Ashkenazi has seen that probiotics offer dramatic improvement to patients with a variety of health problems. If you fall into one of these categories, a probiotic might be the way to go. When it comes to probiotics, "go with your gut" is tempting, but the "go with your doctor's advice" mantra is a better approach. Aschkenazi explains: "The use of probiotics must be individualized, as very few specific generalizable guidelines are available to us."
Check out some problems or conditions where probiotics might help:
Colitis
If you've been diagnosed with colitis, you have likely had two main symptoms: abdominal pain and diarrhea. "Probiotics restore a healthy bowel and they can solve many of the problems associated with colitis," explains Aschkenazi. "We are waiting for more data, but from my own clinical experience probiotics have been beneficial."
Cystitis
According to Ashkenazi, there is also a microbiome in the bladder. "A healthy microbiome increases a woman's resistance to bladder infections," she says. "Estrogen is the number one protection against cystitis. As estrogen production decreases during menopause, cystitis can become a problem."
This is where probiotics can help. "If we can increase the presence of lactobacilli, which causes estrogen, we can help prevent cystitis," she says. "Probiotics contain different combinations of lactobacilli, and I would recommend them to people with recurrent cystitis."
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
IBS is characterized by diarrhea, constipation, gas, and abdominal pain and affects 11% of the world's population. According to the National Institutes of Health, there is "female dominance in the prevalence of IBS". Aschkenazi has seen that probiotics work wonders in IBS patients: "Probiotics stabilize and normalize bowel function in patients with IBS who experience diarrhea and constipation."
Ashkenazi advises IBS patients to follow their doctor's advice. "Probiotics can take a while to normalize, so if you don't notice a difference right away, give it a few weeks," she explains. "Most people will benefit from a probiotic once or twice a day. Try it slowly and have your doctor monitor it."
Yeast infections
Another delight in menopause is the increased susceptibility to yeast infections. As with cystitis, the loss of estrogen can lead to inflammation of the vagina, commonly known as a yeast infection. Ashkenazi says probiotics can help prevent yeast infections like bacterial vaginosis in women going through menopause. "For women with recurring vaginal yeast infections, probiotics can be tried for prevention but not for active treatment," she says. "Women with diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes) are also more prone to yeast infections."
Antibiotics
Whether it's a sore throat, bronchitis or a sinus infection, antibiotics can be the way to go. But antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD - yes, that's one thing) doesn't have to be. If your doctor prescribes a z-pack, penicillin, or erythromycin, it may be time to take a probiotic. A study by the National Institutes of Health shows that using a probiotic can help prevent AAD, and Aschkenazi agrees, "Take a probiotic every time you take an antibiotic, even if you're asymptomatic."
Probiotics and nutrition
Ashkenazi advises women over 50 to approach probiotic supplements with caution, but when it comes to prebiotic and probiotic foods, she's fully into it. "Yogurt, kefir, fermented foods like kimchi contain a lot of probiotics," she explains. "Prebiotics include fiber found in leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and extra virgin olive oil. These are non-inflammatory foods that also promote a healthy microbiome."
For general health, Ashkenazi recommends a diet that contains prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods and avoids foods that promote inflammation. "Sugar is bad; it's the poison of the 21st century," she says. "Animal proteins are flammable. If you reduce inflammation, you age better. My advice is to cut down on sugar, cut down on processed foods, and cut down on animal products."
Probiotics can go a long way in maintaining a healthy microbiome in women over 50. If you have colitis, recurrent bladder infections, yeast infections, or diabetes, or are taking an antibiotic, talk to your doctor about adding a probiotic supplement to your daily intake routine. When you focus on nutrition and add probiotic-rich foods to a regularly healthy diet, it will promote the health of your gut microbiome, which will help you stay healthy at any age.
Editor-recommended probiotic foods and supplements
While you should consult with your doctor before purchasing any of these products, here are some of our favorites:
Stonehenge Health Dynamic Biotics ($ 55)
Nature's Bounty Ultra Probiotic 10 ($ 11)
Vitamin Bounty Pro 50 probiotic with prebiotics ($ 30)
The Nue Co. Prebiotic + Probiotic ($ 75)
Visbiome High Potency Probiotics ($ 63)
Seed Daily Synbiotic ($ 50)
Chobani Non-Fat Greek Yogurt, Plain ($ 5)
Fage Total 2% Greek Yogurt ($ 5)
Mother-in-law's kimchi house Napa Cabbage ($ 17)
365 Everyday Value Organic Sauerkraut ($ 4)
Lifeway Organic Whole Milk Kefir, Plain, 32 oz ($ 4)
Next up: Here's why you should care about probiotics
This article originally appeared on The Thirty
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