How gut health affects longevity
There’s no doubt that a healthy gut is important for a number of reasons. From better digestion to immunity, our gut health affects many aspects of our lives. But did you know that gut health also plays a role in longevity? It’s true! In this blog post, we’ll explore how gut health affects longevity and what you can do to promote a healthy gut. From the microbes that live in our guts to the foods we eat, read on to learn more about how gut health affects our lifespan.
The connection between gut health and longevity
The gut is home to trillions of bacteria, both good and bad. These bacteria help to break down food, absorb nutrients, and protect the body from harmful microbes. The balance of good to bad bacteria is important for gut health.
An unhealthy gut can lead to inflammation, which has been linked to a variety of chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. On the other hand, a healthy gut can help to reduce inflammation and promote a strong immune system.
The connection between gut health and longevity is unraveling. In his book The Blue Zones Challenge, Dann Buettner already linked diet habits that affect the gut to longevity and living a longer, healthier life. Now research has shown that the gut microbiome could help restore ageing-related problems with immunity and cognitive impairment.
A transplantation experiment of fecal bacteria in mice learned for instance that a transplant from young mice to old ones decreased cognitive impairments in the latter group and have some reverse effect on the ageing of brain cells. Obviously, these findings need to be confirmed in humans as well, but it is clear that caring for your gut microbiome is important.
The gut microbiome changes as you age
During adult life, our gut microbiome remains fairly stage. However, that changes at the age of 60 to 65: at that age the diversity in our gut microbiome starts to decrease, and a shift in bacteria is noticed.
Bacteria that were previously non-dominant, e.g. potentially inflammatory bacteria, start to increase while a drop in other beneficial strains is noticed. Studies in centenarians have shown that the gut of these people are highly enriched in strains that are associated with health, such as Akkermansia, Bifidobacterium and Christensenellaceae (Biagi et al., 2016).
In 2022, the microbiome was added to the list of hallmarks of ageing, acknowledging that microbial health and healthy ageing go hand in hand.
How to improve gut health
So how do you keep your gut healthy? The good news is that we can influence our gut health through our lifestyle. Eating a diet rich in fiber is a good place to start. Fiber helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut and keeps things moving along smoothly. Fiber can also help to bulk up stools, which can be helpful in preventing constipation. Additionally, fiber-rich foods are often also high in vitamins and minerals that are essential for gut health. If you're looking to improve your gut health and perhaps even add some years to your life, start by incorporating more fiber-rich foods into your diet. Beans, unripe bananas, whole grains, brown rice, nuts and berries are all examples of fiber-rich foods.
Probiotics are another helpful way to promote gut health. These "good" bacteria can help to restore balance in the gut and relieve symptoms of digestive issues like constipation, diarrhea, and bloating. They can be found in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso paste and tofu as well as in supplements.
If you're not getting enough probiotics from your diet, you may want to consider taking a supplement. Probiotics are also thought to help with several other conditions, such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis. Probiotics may also help prevent diarrhea associated with certain infections and antibiotic use.
It is also important to make sure that you're getting enough water. Water helps to keep everything moving along smoothly in your digestive system and prevents constipation. It's also necessary for proper absorption of nutrients from food. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water per day, and make sure to drink even more if you're exercising or sweating heavily.
Taking care of your oral health is often overlooked. The health of your mouth can have a profound impact on your gut health. Brush and floss your teeth regularly.
Finally, pay attention to your stress levels. Too much stress can lead to digestive issues and an unhealthy gut. Try to find healthy ways to manage stressors in your life.
Gut health is a hot topic these days, and for good reason. The gut is responsible for many important functions in the body, and research is increasingly showing that gut health plays a role in longevity. Keep your gut healthy by eating plenty of fiber-rich foods, probiotics, and fermented foods, and avoid processed foods as much as possible. Your gut (and your health) will thank you!