We all get older. Although we often focus on the outward effect ageing has on our appearance, the truth is that the ageing process begins deep within our body and recent research points to our gut as our body’s fountain of youth!
When we talk about our gut, we aren’t just referring to what we eat or the size of our waistline—although they do play a major role in overall health and ageing. The microorganisms that make up our microbiome, the ecosystem of trillions of microbes living in and on our body.
Although we play host to bacteria all over our bodies, the vast majority live in our digestive tract where they—in exchange for food and a place to live—provide a variety of life-supporting (and anti-ageing) functions for our body.
The Ageing Gut
How do we acquire all these teeming colonies of helpful bacteria? Although babies do encounter some bacteria in the placenta, it isn’t until they start making their way out of the womb that they pick up the beneficial microbes that will become the foundation of their infant microbiome. The microbiome continues to mature over the next couple of years and by about age three, a kid’s microbial mix resembles that of an adult.
As we continue to age, our microbiome remains relatively stable, with a diverse mix of organisms best suited to each stage of life. By about age 50 though, our microbiomes are meant to shift back towards the mix of our first couple of years of life, rich in anti-aging Bifidobacteria.
So, what’s the problem? After a half century of exposure to the many things that wipe out the good bacteria in our guts—like antibiotics in food and as medicine, excessive hygiene habits, antibacterial cleaners, processed foods, stress, sedentary and indoor living, and environmental toxins and chemicals—our microbiomes can become depleted, meaning that there aren’t enough of the good guys to keep us healthy and youthful.
In fact, in an ideal microbiome, 85% of the bacteria are friendly microbes (called probiotics) working hard on our behalf. Unfortunately, this percentage can decline due to various lifestyle factors as we age, and the bad guys can start to gain a foothold, allowing many aspects of the ageing process to accelerate and often leaving us feeling tired and worn out beyond our years.
The good news is that supporting and nourishing your probiotic colonies by adopting a gut-healthy lifestyle can help keep you feeling young and vibrant for all the years to come.
Anti-Aging Benefits of Friendly Flora
A balanced gut microbiome teeming with beneficial bacteria is essential for healthy aging. Here’s how the good guy microbes can help keep you feeling in your prime:
1. Support brain cell health. Research indicates that some probiotic species can encourage the growth of new brain cells, especially after antibiotic use. In one trial, mice given antibiotics that indiscriminately wiped out all of their beneficial bacteria showed reduced brain cell growth, but treatment with probiotics was able to reverse the effects.
2. Help maintain memory and cognitive function. Many people notice a decline in memory retention as they get older, but probiotics can support your memory at any age. In a research study, volunteers who took probiotics for one month scored higher on memory tests than when they took a placebo. Studies also show that subjects who consume probiotics may have an improved connection between the brainstem and the cognition-centered part of the brain.
3. Keep your immune system strong. Ageing can have a negative effect on immune function, due to the decreased microbial diversity common in the later years. You see, 80% of your immune system resides in your gut, and your beneficial bacteria help to support your immune function. Without enough good microbes, your immune system may be suppressed or overstimulated, affecting your overall health.
4. Support detoxification. As we age and are exposed to more and more toxins in the environment and in the foods and water we consume, our entire system can become increasingly sluggish, which can lead to signs of premature aging. Probiotic good guys can bind to toxins that would otherwise bog down your liver and immune system.
5. Act as antioxidants. One theory as to why we age is called the “free radical theory of ageing,” which states that ageing is the direct result of uncontrolled free radicals in the body. Fortunately, research indicates that certain probiotics have antioxidant properties that can help reduce oxidative stress.
6. Encourage vibrant energy. By supporting digestion and helping you absorb nutrients from all the healthy foods you eat, your microbial friends can help to make sure you are getting all of the important minerals, vitamins, and nutrients that give you energy to stay active and healthy. Certain probiotics can even help you digest lactose by producing enzymes that your body has a harder time making as you get older.
7. Keep your skin looking beautiful. Besides supporting your nutrient absorption—which in and of itself can keep your skin glowing—friendly flora can discourage signs of ageing by helping maintain proper pH, a strong skin barrier, and healthy management of sun exposure.
Ageing Well With Beneficial Bacteria
We now know that healthy aging begins in our digestive tract with the billions of microbes that call our gut home. So, how do we maintain a healthy microbiome as we age?
1. Take a high-quality daily probiotic supplement like Digestzen Terrazyme or PB Assist Plus (available at Flawless Aesthetic Clinic).
2. Avoid common probiotic depleters like sugary, processed foods, antibiotics in food and as medicine (unless absolutely necessary), and antibacterial cleaners. Whenever possible, opt for whole, organic foods and natural cleansers that won’t wipe out friendly microbes.
3. Focus on feeding your probiotics. Once you have replenished the good bacteria in your gut, you want to give them what they need to thrive. Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that you can’t digest, but your mighty microbes love to eat! Bananas, onions, asparagus, and Jerusalem artichokes are great prebiotic sources, and an organic prebiotic powder supplement will really give your friendly flora a hearty meal.
4. Reduce stress and stay active. Stress can wreak havoc on the good guy microbes in your gut, so do your best to maintain a sense of calm and ease. Research also shows that active people tend to have healthier, more diverse microbiomes than sedentary folks, so find a fun way to make movement a daily habit—whether it’s walking, biking, yoga, or dancing, your microbial friends will thank you!
No matter how many fancy anti-ageing supplements, creams, and serums we collect, until we focus on the health of our microscopic friends in our gut, we’ll only be scratching the surface when it comes to staying youthful both by feeling and looking our best. By adopting a gut-healthy life and supporting healthy ageing from the inside out, you can live your healthiest, most vibrant days…for all your days ahead!