How The Microbiome Changes with Age
We can try to ignore it, lie about it, or put eye cream on it, but we all age.
In humans, aging is defined as the progressive decrease in physiological functions that results in our increased vulnerability to infection and disease.1 A grim sounding stat, but compared to people aged 25–44, mortality risk among older adults is elevated by 100-fold for stroke and chronic lung disease, roughly 90-fold for heart disease, pneumonia, and influenza, and over 40-fold for cancer.1
Chronic, low-grade inflammation is believed to be one of the most prominent features of age-related diseases and has been associated with chronic ailments such as cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, obesity, osteoporosis, cancer and dementia.1 Though factors like diet, smoking, and changing sex hormones play a role in the development of chronic inflammation, one of the biggest contributors to chronic inflammation was believed to be a decrease in the immune function.1 Or rather, that after a lifetime of burden your tired immune system just doesn't function at the same capacity it once did.
Recently, however, there has been a new twist in the story of aging and chronic inflammation. One that looks to the role of the gut microbiome and the integral part it might play in age-related inflammatory changes, as well as other conditions such as frailty and dementia.1
How Your Gut Microbes Change with Age
Evidence shows that as we age, the composition of our gut microbiome does too, characterized by a loss of diversity.1
Many factors contribute to a loss of diversity in our gut bacteria. First is the use of antibiotics (without proper restoration) through the course of our lives. Smoking, alcohol consumption, stress, and years of consuming a Standard American diet (high saturated fat, high sugar) also don’t bode well for our army of beneficial microbes.
With advanced age also comes changes in nutrition and our ability to digest and absorb the nutrients we do consume due to changes in oral health, salivary function, digestion and transit time.1
It is also believed that physical changes to the intestinal epithelial barrier may also play a role in gut dysbiosis, with evidence suggesting that intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut) may increase with age thus perpetuating a state of chronic inflammation.
Aging is happens, and there isn’t much we can do about the hands of time, but before you jump ship thinking this is a story with a bleak ending there is hope for our microbes and ways we can support them, and our health, as we age.
How to Protect Your Gut
Promote Gut Diversity
Taking a high-quality, research-proven probiotic can help support the populations of beneficial microbes in your gut. Further to that, probiotics have been shown to promote antimicrobial activity, enhancement intestinal barrier function, and modify the immune response via actions of a wide variety of our immune cells.1 Bio-K+ contains three unique, patented strains that help to support an environment for good bacteria to grow, decrease the growth of bad bacteria and supports immune function. Both drinkable Bio-K+ and Bio-K+ capsules are formulated in a way to ensure the microbes survive transit and make it to the intestine where they can go to work improving your health.
Eat A Mediterranean-Style Diet
A Mediterranean diet is rooted in real, whole foods, with lots of emphasis on fresh fruits, veggies, fish, whole, unprocessed grains, legumes, healthy fats (like olive oil) with only a small focus on saturated fats and sugar. Eating this style of diet has not only been shown to help improve gut bacteria2 (thanks to a high portion of plant-based foods) it’s been associated as well with decreasing markers of inflammation within the body.3
Stay Physically Active
Exercise has many impacts on overall health and wellbeing, including weight management, stress reduction, bone density, and diversity in our gut microbiome. While there is still room for more studies on the latter topic, researchers found that professional rugby players showed more gut diversity than age-matched controls.1 In animal models, aerobic exercise has been shown to enhance epithelial membrane integrity, increase microbial diversity, and control intestinal inflammation.1
As we learn more about the role our gut bacteria plays in the process of inflammation, it is hard to negate the impact it has on chronic inflammation and the diseases associated with it. Taking care of your gut, along with proper diet and exercise should be a foundational step in promoting healthy longevity as we age. If you have any other questions about the health of your microbiota ask us in comments below. If you are looking to stock up on Bio-K+, head to our store locator. For more information on Bio-K+, probiotics and digestive health, contact us, find us on Facebook and Instagram or join our community.