Probiotics for Seniors: Are They Necessary?

Although beneficial, are probiotics necessary for senior health? Here's what to know about this unique bacteria.

Juggling numerous supplements and medications as you age can seem overwhelming. However, there is one supplement you should consider adding to your regular regimen. Probiotics for seniors can have a powerful effect on the mind and body. 

Keep reading for more information on probiotics for older adults, including answers to common questions like “What is the proper probiotics dosage for seniors?” Find out what the best probiotic is for seniors and what the best probiotic is for a senior woman. 

Probiotics for Seniors: Food and/or Supplement?

Probiotics are live microorganisms (live bacteria) that can produce possible health benefits when present in adequate amounts. While the word “bacteria” may sound scary at first, it’s helpful to remember that both “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria exist in the body at all times. Probiotic bacteria are a type of “good” bacteria that can help your intestinal environment stay balanced and contribute to your overall health. 

Probiotic products are available in both food and supplement forms. Popular foods containing probiotics include:

  • Kefir 
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Miso
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh 
  • Yogurt 

If you don’t like the taste of fermented products, no need to fret! Probiotics are also available in supplement or pill form. Popular probiotic strains in supplement products include lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus rhamnosus. 

Should Seniors Take Probiotics? 

The digestive system does a lot of work, so it understandably can operate suboptimally occasionally. While there might be a learning curve to finding the right probiotic blend for you, it’s worth discussing with your dietitian or doctor. 

Potential Risks 

Probiotics can alter the gut microbiome, so there are potential side effects like any medication or supplement. The body isn’t functioning as normal in a state of illness, injury, or inflammation; so if you’re dealing with a compromised immune system or other serious health risks, it may not be the right time to introduce probiotics. 

As always, you can consult your healthcare team to determine what works for your lifestyle. Since the production of probiotic supplements is largely unregulated, harmful bacteria may be involved in the manufacture or production process of low-quality products. 

You can avoid risky products by carefully reading the label and seeking out third-party testing. This type of testing happens in a lab outside the producer’s facility, ensuring quality and safety standards are followed. 

Potential Benefits

The benefits of probiotics go beyond the gut. Since many mood-modulating hormones are produced in the intestine, probiotics can affect both body and mind. However, probiotics are best known for their ability to improve digestive discomfort. 

When it comes to protecting the intestine, probiotics are linked with the following effects: 

  • Contributing to digestive health through the creation of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) 
  • Maintaining the integrity of the intestinal barrier
  • Supporting immune health by suppressing the inflammatory response

Probiotics have the potential to balance gut bacteria, meaning they may ease a variety of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms commonly experienced with age. Some symptoms, such as constipation and diarrhea, may be helped by using probiotic foods and supplements. 

Since aging is related to significant changes in gut bacteria, dietary patterns, and cognitive function, probiotics can help support older adults and alleviate symptoms. In fact, a healthy microbiome has even been linked to longevity. Some studies even link it to favorable outcomes in conditions specific to seniors, like frailty syndrome. 

Probiotics Dosage for Seniors

While there isn’t an established dose of probiotics proven beneficial for seniors, most probiotic supplements contain around 1 to 10 billion colony-forming units (CFU). Some products can contain over 50 billion, so looking closely at the label before purchasing a product is important. High counts are commonly mistaken for better benefits, which is not yet proven.

In other words, a daily dose of 1 to 10 billion CFU should be sufficient to see potential benefits. Working with a geriatric health professional may help find the optimal dose for you personally. 

Women’s Health

A fairly new area of study in probiotics is vaginal health. A recent clinical study suggests that more research is needed, as optimal dosages aren’t yet known or standardized. 

Talking with your women’s health specialist can help you decide if a vaginal probiotic can also help keep the bacteria in other areas of your body balanced. 

The Final Word on Probiotics for Older Adults

The aging process takes its toll on the body, especially the gut. Fermented foods and high-quality probiotic supplements may promote a better balance of bacteria in the intestine. 

Some immune-compromised seniors may be at risk for side effects. However, seniors in generally good health may benefit from adding probiotics to their diet. 

Related Questions: 

What is the best probiotic for seniors?

The best probiotic is the one that is right for you personally. Consulting with a healthcare professional can help you find dosages and strains appropriate for seniors. In general, getting probiotics from food first is preferred. However, a probiotic supplement containing between 1 to 10 billion CFU can also be considered. 

What are the signs that seniors need probiotics?

Symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, and even cognitive dysfunction can signal the need for a probiotic. The gut is also linked to immunity and mood, so many conditions may be improved with probiotic use. 

What is the best probiotic for a senior woman?

Older women may benefit from adding fermented foods and other probiotics to their diet. A supplement may also be considered to balance bacteria in several conditions, including those related to vaginal health. 


Dennett C. Probiotics and Immune Health. Published October 2020.

Harvard Health Publishing. Should you take probiotics? Published February 2022. 

Hutchinson AN, Bergh C, Kruger K, Sűsserová M, Allen J, et al. The Effect of Probiotics on Health Outcomes in the Elderly: A Systematic Review of Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Studies. Microorganisms. 2021;9(6):1344.  

National Institute on Aging. Unique gut microbiome patterns linked to healthy aging, increased longevity. Published May 2021.   

National Institutes of Health. Probiotics. Published June 2022. 

Salazar N, Valdés-Varela L, González S, Gueimonde M, Reyes-Gavilán CG. Nutrition and the gut microbiome in the elderly. Gut Microbes. 2017;8(2):82-97.