Eating a healthy, nourishing diet is one of the best ways to support overall health and to get all the necessary vitamins and other micronutrients you need. Research shows that the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) are more likely to be interested in foods and supplements that help with healthy aging, strong bones, and good digestive and immune systems. There are many reasons that people can’t get all the necessary nutrients from their food, including allergies, disliking certain foods, and lack of availability. Whatever the reason, doctors will often recommend that boomers buy a good multivitamin that includes probiotics.
Before we talk about which supplements to buy, let’s talk about the similarities and differences between vitamins and probiotics. Vitamins are micronutrients that are essential for the body’s proper functioning, but they can’t be made by the body. Food and supplements are the only way to get vitamins.
Probiotics are similar to vitamins in that they are necessary for the body to function. However, probiotics are actually living bacteria. We’re used to thinking of bacteria as bad, but that’s an oversimplification. The body requires a balance of bacteria, particularly in the intestines. The official term for this is the gut microbiota. These good bacteria are essential for fighting off disease and for digesting food.
The short answer is: probably. Most people can benefit from supplementing probiotics and vitamins. Older people in particular can use a boost. As the body ages, many systems start to slow down. Seniors are more likely to suffer from more digestive issues and have less robust immune systems than younger people. If you’ve been on a course of antibiotics, supplementing probiotics can help replenish your good gut bacteria.
However, it’s always best to check in with your doctor to make sure that you’re not on medication that doesn’t mix well with a supplement. Some immunocompromised people should not take probiotics.
If you’ve decided that a supplement is right for you, you might wonder if probiotics and vitamins should be taken together. In many cases, certain vitamins and probiotics can work together to boost digestive health and your immunity. For instance, if you need immune system help, look for a formula with probiotics, vitamin C, and zinc.
Probiotics can be especially great for women. Vaginal yeast infections and frequent urinary tract infections, for example, can be reduced by taking a daily probiotic. Look for a supplement that includes vitamin D3, D-mannose, and cranberry extract.
Keep in mind that the word probiotics actually refers to multiple different types of these good little bacteria. When you go shopping for your multivitamin and probiotic combination, be sure to read the labels carefully so you are getting the right type of probiotics to help with your specific symptoms. In addition to those mentioned above, you can find brands that will help reduce acid reflux, the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bloating, and gas.
As researchers study probiotics in more depth, they are discovering that a strong gut microbiota can actually help decrease depression symptoms. You can find several brands that include strains associated with elevated mood.
Not only are there lots of different strains of probiotics, but you can also get many different dosages, anywhere from 1 billion cfu (colony forming units) to 100 billion cfu. When you first start taking a probiotic, it’s a good idea to start with a lower dose. High doses can cause bloating for some people. Give your probiotics a week or two to work and see if your symptoms improve. If they don’t, try going to a higher dose.
To learn more about the strains of probiotics, check out this WebMD article that goes into detail about which strains help different symptoms.
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