¿Cómo fortalecer el sistema inmune de nuestros Adultos Mayores?

How to strengthen the immune system of our Seniors?

In this cold time of year, we are going to focus on our Seniors. We want to highlight the main risk and, at the same time, prevention factors that influence the health and immunity of this age group. We know that there are various areas and factors that can be addressed in order to support and encourage your immune system, thus promoting optimal health and reducing the risk of getting sick at this time of year.

Why prevent the risk of getting sick?

Usually, viral or bacterial infections trigger discomfort and mild symptoms in people, such as nasal congestion, muscle pain or even moderate fever. However, there are some groups of people, such as older adults, who may develop more severe symptoms. In this risk group, those over 70 years of age and those with pre-existing health conditions such as Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), kidney disease and diabetes, are of special care and prevention is essential to avoid contagion or the severity of the infection in the case of getting sick.

Why might older people be more at risk?

As we age, the function of the immune system progressively decreases. This occurs due to different factors, such as a reduction in the production of white blood cells, damage caused by free radicals (oxidation) and an increase in chronic inflammation. All of which directly influences the immune system of older people to develop a weaker response to viruses and bacteria.

On the other hand, it is common for older people to have one or more health conditions, which can further compromise their immune system. Today's big issue in public health is the enormous prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, which simply add severity to the basic health context.

Some of the key points that influence the immune system of older adults are:

The use of multiple medications is common among the older population, especially those over 65 years of age with chronic diseases. All these medications have a curative purpose, however, in many cases the secondary effect they have on the availability of key nutrients in the development of the immune response is not considered. For example, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce iron and vitamin C levels, blood pressure medications (e.g., diuretics, beta blockers) can reduce Zinc , bronchodilators, and statins can reduce vitamin D and Antibiotics cause damage to the intestinal microbiota composition and diversity, directly altering the immune response. Therefore, commonly prescribed medications can reduce the level of nutrients necessary for a strong immune system.

Dehydration is common among older people. Some don't like the taste of water, while others opt for a cup of tea, not realizing that tea and coffee are dehydrating due to caffeine. It is even said that older people may be less likely to experience thirst by reducing their daily water consumption. The problem is that dehydration can affect blood flow and cellular activity, which could directly compromise the transport of water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C, directly affecting the immune response. Finally, inadequate hydration is also an important risk factor for contracting urinary tract infections (UTI) and can affect kidney function.

Poor digestion: As we age, stomach acid production tends to decrease by 30 to 40%, which can compromise our ability to digest and absorb nutrients from food efficiently. If we add to this the use of multiple medications, we have a risk factor that directly impacts our intestinal microbiome, especially if we talk about antibiotics or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).

Thus, inadequate digestive function, together with low dietary diversity and the use of multiple medications, puts the older population at risk of nutrient deficiencies/sufficiencies, weakening their immune system in the long term.

Some nutrients of special care include:

Zinc supports the function of white blood cells in the defense system and its deficiency directly affects the function of the immune system. Studies have linked how zinc deficiency can increase the risk of pneumonia among older people.

Vitamin A supports multiple aspects of the immune response and deficiency is associated with increased risk of infection.

Vitamin D supports bone health, immune function, and mental health, to name just a few. However, a large percentage of the population is deficient in this vitamin! Vitamin D has specifically been shown to help prevent and manage the symptoms of viral infections in older people.

Iron is vital for healthy oxygen transport throughout the body. Therefore, iron deficiency limits the supply of oxygen to cells, leading to fatigue and decreased immunity.

Essential fatty acids (Omega 3) play a fundamental role in the control of chronic inflammation, which is the beginning of many diseases. Particularly the DHA content is essential for cognitive and mood support in our older adults.

Probiotic supplements are essential to restore intestinal function and from there support digestion, secretion of neurotransmitters (such as serotonin for mood), the response of the immune system and secretion of multiple nutrients.


Minimize the risk of nutrient deficiencies/insufficiencies by consuming a varied, colorful diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and good quality protein sources, including eggs, legumes, cleanly produced meat and fish, nuts and seeds. For those with digestive issues, focus on easily digestible foods, such as soups, smoothies, stews, and bone broths.

For therapeutic support, consider supplementing with immune-supporting nutrients, such as zinc , vitamin A , C, and D. Please do not hesitate to contact our Clinical Nutrition team for advice on whether you can take such supplements, taking into account any medications you are currently taking and if so, in what dosage (nutricion@biocarechile.cl)

Support digestion with researched live microorganism probiotic supplements, especially if you have recently taken antibiotics.

Increase your water intake by filling a jug or water bottle at the beginning of the day and use it as a visual reminder to drink that volume over the course of the day. Aim for 1.5 to 2 liters per day unless otherwise directed by your healthcare provider. Drink throughout the day to facilitate adequate cellular hydration to ensure maximum benefit.

Exercise, do what you can, and if possible, do it outdoors. This can be any type of movement, from a walk or a hike, to doing yoga and simple stretches in the garden. Participate in everything you are physically capable of doing and, most importantly, enjoy yourself. It is very important to keep moving for your immunity, emotional well-being and overall health.

Nutritionist Valeria Riquelme V.

Extract translated and adapted from BioCare UK


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