As worries about the coronavirus continue, many people are exploring ways to build their immune system. Because seniors are at higher risk for contracting the virus, it is vital for them to live as healthy as possible. One product often hyped as an immunity builder is probiotic supplements.
Probiotics are billed as a simple way to rebalance good and bad bacteria in the gut. Research seems to indicate a healthy gut lowers your risk for disease and health problems. But are they worth the expense? Are there less-expensive options that yield the same results?
Unfortunately, health care researchers disagree on their effectiveness. Some say they work, and others say the same benefits can be achieved through diet.
Consumers also seem to be split. But the industry itself is booming. Data published in the Nutrition Business Journal showed Americans spent an estimated $1.8 billion on probiotic products in 2016, up from $425 million in 2008. When asked, those using probiotics say they help with everything from lowering cholesterol to reducing inflammation.
While taking a supplement might be easier, quality probiotics often come with a high price tag. The good news is probiotics naturally occur in some foods. By working them into your diet, you and your senior loved one might be able to pump up your immune system.
Foods That Improve Gut Health
If you would like to try improving your gut health without supplements, a few foods to try include:
- Soft cheeses (i.e., Gouda, cheddar, and mozzarella)
- Green olives
- Greek yogurt
- Sourdough bread
Boosting the Immune System
In addition to COVID-19 worries, we are inching closer to the traditional flu season. It’s one more reason older adults need to take every possible measure to boost their immunity.
- Is your senior loved one up to date on recommended vaccines?
Talk with your doctor to see if you are in compliance with the vaccinations recommended by the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Two of the most pressing include:
- Influenza: Early fall is the best time to get your annual flu shot. Most experts advise seniors get vaccinated in early October to be protected against early flu outbreaks.
- Pneumonia: In most cases, you will only need to receive the pneumonia vaccine once in your lifetime. If you received it when you were under 55, however, your physician may want you to repeat the shot in later years.
In addition, talk with the doctor about shingles and Tdap vaccines.
- Does your older family member eat well and drink water?
A healthy diet rich with lean protein, fruit, and vegetables is essential. Nutritionists often encourage people to plan menus with produce in all colors of the rainbow. That helps ensure you consume necessary vitamins and nutrients.
Drinking eight glasses of water a day is another must. If a senior you care for doesn’t like water, try adding lemon or berries. You can also encourage them to eat foods with high water content, such as melon, cucumber, leafy greens, and celery.
- Is the senior getting enough quality sleep?
When you don’t sleep or aren’t getting good sleep, the body can become run down. That makes people more susceptible to illness. Unfortunately, insomnia and other sleep disorders are common among older adults.
If your senior loved one isn’t a good sleeper, their physician may need to order a sleep study. It can help identify problems and ways to correct them.
- Does your family elder exercise?
From chair yoga to walking, there are plenty of exercises for seniors to enjoy indoors. If you are self-isolating due to COVID-19, ask your doctor which types and durations of exercise are best.
Programs like Go4Life from the National Institute on Aging and SilverSneakers On-Demand make it easier to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle from the privacy of your own home. Go4Life is free for seniors, and SilverSneakers is a membership program many insurance companies help finance.
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We hope you found this blog helpful in your pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. The Senior Community Lifestyle blog is updated at least once each week. We tackle topics ranging from giving up driving to moving a loved one who has dementia. Bookmark this site and stop back often for the latest news.