How to keep a Healthy Microbiome as we Age
We’re all getting older; it’s a fact. But there is more to aging than the yearly number shift or the few extra grey hairs or fine lines we may see. Our internal body is changing as well. These changes happen to our cells, tissues, organs and yes, to our gut. In fact, research confirms that our gut ages right along with us, and more specifically the composition of our gut microbiome changes in diversity as we age.1
Many of the changes to our gut microbiome come from external influences, like diet, stress, smoking, drinking, and medications like antibiotics, while others come from the natural changes that occur within the body as we grow older. What does this mean for our gut? It means risks of an unbalanced microbiome which can set the stage for anything from digestive issues like bloating, to more serious ailments rooted in chronic inflammation.
Now while you can’t remove all the stress from your life, eat 100% organic, unprocessed foods, or fight the hands of time, you can be a bit more aware of how your gut microbiome changes as you age, and what are some of the lifestyle factors to be mindful of at each stage to mitigate any negative impacts.
This is the time where you might be living a little more indulgently. Family festivities, date nights, happy hours, and time with friends are likely to include drinking, perhaps smoking, and probably a little less attention focused on the diet. Not surprisingly, any combination of that hard living can and does, affect the bacteria in our gut. And, while you may not be binge drinking every week in your twenties, overall, an increased consumption of alcohol (multiple times a week) will almost certainly result in oxidative stress and dysbiosis, which in turn leads to gastrointestinal tract inflammation and intestinal hyperpermeability (aka leaky gut syndrome).2 One way to be proactive through this period of our lives is to consider taking a daily dose of a high-quality probiotic to help bring you back into balance. As a bonus, healthy gut bacteria also produce certain B-vitamins, which quickly become depleted when we drink alcohol.
Beyond alcohol, our diet may be less than optimal during this time of life. Shared appetizers after work, quick bites to eat between jobs or class, or just living on a budget can mean less of a focus on homecooked meals, and fresh fruits and veggies. Our body relies on these foods to naturally feed the good bacteria present in our gut. A lack of fiber, combined with higher consumption of highly processed foods (that tend to be higher in sugar and saturated fat) can lead to compromised digestion and slower transit times.
Your Thirties and Forties
Stress is a part of life at every stage, but it seems to be increasingly significant in our middle-age years. Work stress, family responsibilities, obligations, and to-do lists, all negatively affect those healthy bacteria living in your gut. How specifically? When we’re stressed, our brain goes into a ‘fight-or-flight’ response mode, pulling blood away from our digestion and altering our brain-gut interactions, weakening the gut lining and negatively impacting the diversity of our gut microbiome. A weakened and less diverse microbiome means there are less good bacteria to fight off unwanted pathogens and prevent them from entering your bloodstream.3
Recognizing this allows us to be mindful of our stress and finding healthy ways to cope with it. Firstly, we can support our gut microbiome by taking a daily probiotic. We can also support our stress response by engaging in healthy lifestyle practices like exercise. In fact, exercise is also believed to be an effective intervention to limit the impact of stress on our gut.4 While many people lose their motivation to exercise as they get older, it is a habit that will make a difference and keep you and your bacteria younger longer.
Aging is inevitable as we start creeping into our 50s, and minor annoyances with our digestive system become increasingly more common. Issues including constipation, diarrhea, gas, and bloating are the direct result of fewer digestive enzymes, hormonal changes, or years of eating a poor diet. The more unbalanced your gastrointestinal flora is, the more you’ll feel the effects of a weakened digestive and immune system.
Women, take note. Our gut is also linked to hormonal balance; so, if you’re a woman of this age, headed into menopause, you’ll want to pay even closer attention to supporting your gut. Research shows that the changes in estrogen balance in the body can alter gut microbiome balance, which can influence the onset of many metabolic and immunologic diseases.5
Your Sixties and Beyond
Over 70% of your immune system lives in your gut, acting as the protective barrier between harmful pathogens and your bloodstream. Good bacteria in our gut are what strengthen these immune cells, preventing those unwanted pathogens from being absorbed. But, as we get into older age, our immune system begins to be compromised (for many reasons), and we become increasingly susceptible to disease.6
Beyond our immune system, our diets tend to decline as we age, too. We become more sedentary, and increasingly prescribed various medications. All of these factors affect the balance of microflora in our gut. To keep our immune system strong, our bacteria thriving, and prevent nutrient deficiencies from occurring, it is important to focus the diet on lots of high fiber foods, get adequate protein, and make supplementing with a daily probiotic a priority.
Proactively Supporting Your Gut at Any Age
Aging is a part of life. And while we can’t change that fact, there are ways that we can support our health as we age. Focusing on our gut is a simple place to start. You can see that at any age there are a variety of controllable lifestyle factors that can cause gut dysbiosis. Taking care of your gut will allow your body to better protect against pathogens, keep disease and inflammation at bay, and support longevity and overall health and wellness.
Perhaps not surprisingly, dietary supplementation with probiotics appears to be the most effective intervention for both supporting and re-balancing the gut microbiome. Choosing Bio-K+ not only gives you the option to choose the flavors and formats (drinkable-dairy, drinkable-vegan or vegan capsules) that work best for you, but Bio-K+ also has the clinical trials which support the finished product. This means that you can feel confident knowing that what you get in every bottle or every capsule are the same strains that are supported by research.
If you have any other questions about the health of your gut microbiome, 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.