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Good News on Bacteria

Evidence suggests that prebiotics may be even more useful in helping the elderly maintain healthy bowels than the probiotic bacteria they feed.

In a recent study, author Yun Chin Chun and several colleagues from Providence University recruited 22 people with an average age of 78.6 years.  All appeared free of gastrointestinal disease. 

For three weeks, 13 of the 22 received a daily supplement of 4 grams of xylooligosaccharides (XOS), a prebiotic found in bamboo shoots, fruit, vegetables and honey.  The other 9 received a placebo.

The XOS supplemented group had a 35% larger population of bifidobacteria (friendly bacteria), while the placebo group showed no significant increases.  The XOS group also experienced improved moisture content and lower pH in their faecal matter.  Both can contribute to better intestinal health and reduced risk of digestive disorders.

The researchers concluded that supplementing XOS prebiotic may therefore be beneficial to gastrointestinal health in the elderly.

Prebiotics stimulate the growth and/or activity of good bacteria in the digestive tract.  Good bacteria help improve digestion and strengthen the immune system. 

Probiotics contain cultures of live microorganisms (i.e., yeasts) which balance good and bad bacteria. 

Conditions like alcohol use, stress, disease, and diet can cause bacteria in your bowels to get out of balance.  When this happens, good bacteria may decrease in number and allow bad bacteria to thrive and damage your health.

As compared with other adults, people over age 60 have about 1,000-fold less friendly bacteria available to aid digestion.  A daily does of prebiotics may be just the thing to stimulate growth and help maintain a healthy digestive tract.
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