The anti-aging intervention that starts in your gut

You might look in the mirror and notice a few new lines appearing on your face.

You might also notice you have a little less energy and that some tasks are more difficult to do.

We’d rather not experience these things, but they are the inevitable signs of aging…

And let’s face it; we’d love to slow down both the interior and exterior aging process. Well, it seems you can…

Researchers have determined that your gut bugs — also known as gut microbiota, gut microbiome or gut bacteria — determine your rate of aging.

Yes, it’s crazy to think that a bunch of bacterial microbes could dictate your rate of aging and how long you live. But, for one moment, think about aging a little deeper…

Our lifespan really relies on our healthspan. The longer our body can function optimally, the longer we’re likely to live a quality life, one full of energy and free of disease. And, the better our health, the slower we age or acquire age-related diseases.

That’s where gut bugs come into play…

There’s a whole community of bacterial microbes living inside you — some 10 trillion of them hosted in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract!

On first thoughts you might say – “Okay, they’re there to help me digest food” — and clearly that is true. They are there to assist with digestion. But even more fascinating is those busy little gut bugs play a key role in modulating our overall gene expression.

This basically means they’re in control of what happens to our body… more than we could imagine.

Thankfully, there’s a lot you can do to influence your gut bugs to improve your healthspan and increase our lifespan…

Introducing the good guys and the bad guys

Since there are 10 trillion gut bugs inside us, you can only imagine how many species there are. When it comes to our gut bugs, some species are beneficial (the good guys), while some like to wreak havoc on our health (the bad guys).

When you’ve eaten yogurt, you’ve no doubt heard names like Bifidobacterium or Lactobacillus, these are just two types of good guys.

The good guys help:

  • Control metabolism
  • Resist infection
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Prevent cell mutations (cancer)
  • Strengthen the intestinal barrier
  • Protect the GI tract
  • Improve nutrient absorption
  • Regulate hormones, neurotransmitters and the nervous system
  • Support the immune system
  • And, provide solid foundations for your healthspan and lifespan

The bad guys… well, just reverse the above list into negatives…

You’re meant to have a good diversity of gut bugs with a balance between good guys and bad guys, swayed toward more good guys in play. But if the bad guys step up and take over, that’s when things can start to go awry.

What causes these gut changes?

Bad nutrition. Since your gut bugs are involved in supporting your body’s functions on so many levels, they need quality food to help them do so.

If you’re eating a diet high in sugar, processed foods and junk — you encourage more of the bad guys to grow. The bad guys love feeding on this stuff and they are always hungry for more…

Thankfully, you have a great deal of control over what goes into our mouth, so this is one area you can improve your gut bacteria.

Lifestyle. Various lifestyle factors influence gut bacteria — antibiotics, infections, surgery, lack of sleep, stress, chemical exposure and environmental pollutants.

While you can influence some of these areas, unfortunately you don’t always have control over others.

Inflammation. Both nutrition and lifestyle factors result in what scientists call inflammaging…

This is when your body is in a state of low-grade chronic inflammation — inflammation you can’t see that’s occurring throughout the cells in your body. Researchers have identified that this is the key factor that causes a rapid decline in aging and the development of disease.

The good news is, you can reduce this inflammation by encouraging more of your ‘good guy’ bacteria…

What can you do to encourage healthy gut bacteria?

Probiotics. Studies show direct anti-aging effects occur by consuming probiotics, which are live ‘good guy’ microorganisms.

The most common and effective strains of probiotics are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Escherichia, Enterococcus, Bacillus and Saccharomyces, which most people take in supplement form.

Probiotics are also found in fermented food sources such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and tempeh (fermented soybeans).

Prebiotics. Prebiotics are undigested fiber compounds that pass through the upper digestive tract to the large intestine, where they stimulate growth of even more diverse and beneficial bacteria.

Prebiotic foods include Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, green peas, leeks, onions, shallots and spring onions, dandelion greens, fennel bulb, beets, cashews, garlic and pistachio nuts.

Fiber. Our ‘good guy’ gut bugs love fiber-rich foods and majority of us just aren’t getting adequate fiber in our diets.

The best way to eat more fiber is to consume small amounts of beans and legumes, along with an abundance of fresh vegetables. Aim for at least 25 g of fiber a day

Here are a few examples of the amount of fiber found in half a cup of certain items:

  • Baked winter squash – 5 g
  • Lima and fava beans – 4.6 g
  • Peas – 4.4 g
  • Sweet potato – 4.2 g
  • Edamame – 4.1 g
  • Artichokes – 3.8 g
  • Collards – 3.7 g
  • Sundried tomato – 3.3 g
  • Brussels sprouts – 3.2 g
  • Broccoli – 2.75 g

Good quality nutrition. Overall, your gut bugs need healthy food to support their job – which is to keep you healthy, vibrant and at your best.

Focus on good quality nutrition every day because the better you eat overall, the healthier your digestive tract, the more ‘good guy’ bacteria you’ll encourage, and the slower your rate of aging and disease will be!

Sources:
  1. Vaiserman AM, et al. Gut microbiota: A player in aging and a target for anti-aging intervention. Ageing Res Rev. 2017;35:36-45.
  2. Keenan MJ, et al. Improving healthspan via changes in gut microbiota and fermentation. Age. 2015;37(5):98.
  3. Peterson CT, et al. Immune homeostasis, dysbiosis and therapeutic modulation of the gut microbiota. Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 2015;179(3):363-377.
  4. Biagi E, et al. Ageing of the human metaorganism: the microbial counterpart. Age. 2012;34(1):247-267.

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Jedha Dening

By Jedha Dening

Jedha Dening is a qualified nutritionist (MNutr), researcher, author, freelance writer, and founder of type 2 diabetic nutrition site Diabetes Meal Plans. Her masters thesis on nutrition and inflammation was published and then presented at a national scientific conference. She has millions of words published in the health industry across various print and online publications. Having been in the field for over 15 years, she’s incredibly passionate about delving into the latest research to share the myths and truths surrounding nutrition and health. She believes when armed with the right knowledge, we’re empowered to make informed choices that can truly make a difference.