This is a common condition in the elderly which comes from the inability to secrete sufficient stomach acid to kill bacteria. Ingested bacteria can thus survive and reside in the stomach and the upper part of the small bowel. This problem affects approximately 20% of people between 60 and 69 years of age, and 40% of people over 80.
, which are not killed by the normal stomach acid, interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12
. Putting these patients on antibiotics to reduce the number of bacteria returns their B12
levels to normal. The deficiency of vitamin B12 may not be severe enough to show up in the blood, but it can be associated with psychiatric dementias. These deficiencies may be disguised as Alzheimer's disease
or senile dementia
is characterized by atrophy of the stomach wall with reduced or absent gastric acid secretion. It may also lead to reduced levels of intrinsic factor.
Treatment and Prevention
A significant number of elderly people have atrophic gastritis
with hypo- or achlorhydria
, predisposing them to bacterial
overgrowth. A study showed that elderly atrophic gastritis
subjects are more easily populated with specific lactobacilli than normal subjects. This study also showed that organisms found in yogurt have no impact on the flora of healthy elderly subjects and a relatively small impact on elderly atrophic gastritis subjects.Lactobacillus
gasseri was the only one among several organisms administered that was successfully implanted in healthy and atrophic gastritis individuals.