The experts recommended probiotic drinks, yogurts or capsules, because they tend to contain "friendly" bacteria such as bifidobacteria or lactobacilli, which aid digestion. Studies have shown that having a balance of friendly bacteria can hamper the ability of "unfriendly" bacteria -- such as E.coli or campylobacter -- to take hold in the body and cause disease.
Supplementation is especially important for people over 60, the experts say, because they tend to have 1,000 times fewer friendly bacteria in their stomachs than other adults. Also, supplementation can help compensate for antibiotics, which reduce the levels of all strains of bacteria in the stomach.
While the experts in London lauded the benefits of foods such as yogurts, they simultaneously cautioned UK consumers to be on the lookout for smaller brands that were ineffective. According to Glenn Gibson, professor of food microbiology at Reading University, only about half of the roughly 50 yogurt brands available in the UK -- such as Nestle, Danone (Dannon in the United States), Seven Seas and Yakult -- were effective.
According to holistic nutritionist Mike Adams, neither seniors nor anyone else need turn to dairy products -- which can, themselves, cause stagnation in the digestion system -- to get their probiotics. Non-dairy superfoods such as Emerald Balance contain these helpful probiotics, along with a host of other healthy nutrients. "Probiotic supplementation is simple, affordable and very effective at boosting gastrointestinal health and support immune function," Adams said.
"To give you an idea of how important friendly flora is to your health," he explained, "consider this: There are more non-human cells in your body than human cells. In other words, the population of bacteria in your digestive tract exceeds the total number of your own cells in your entire body. Obviously, it's a good idea to make sure those bacteria populations are friendly."