Link between Microbiome and Ageing
Emerging research on the gut microbiome shows that it is essential for wellness and healthy ageing.
Our digestive tract contains a host of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, known as the gut microbiome. A healthy gut contains 30 to 100 trillion microorganisms, with a combined weight of around 2kg. These microbes have a symbiotic relationship with our
bodies. They improve digestion and produce vitamins such as vitamin K and B vitamins. They also ferment undigested fibre to produce post-biotics, including metabolites such as short chain fatty acids and neurotransmitters, which regulate our immune system, nervous system and hormones and maintain a healthy gut barrier. In short, they are essential for good health, and the greater the diversity of bacteria in the gut, the better one’s health.
Sometimes we develop an imbalance of good and bad microbes in the gut, called dysbiosis. This can be caused by numerous factors including prolonged stress, antibiotics, a high sugar, low fibre diet and physical inactivity. We are also more likely to develop dysbiosis as we get older. With age, the amount and diversity of bacteria decrease and the production of healthy post-biotics declines. Dysbiosis of the gut microbiome impacts the intestinal barrier which becomes leaky. When this happens, it allows inflammatory mediators, bacteria, and endotoxins (toxins from bacteria) into the blood. This leads to inflammation which, when chronic, has been identified as one of the key mechanisms of ageing, known as inflammaging.
Researchers have suggested that dysbiosis is the primary cause of chronic inflammation and has a significant impact on age-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases (including dementia and Alzheimer’s).
Inflammaging is also a key mechanism accelerating ageing of the skin.
Fortunately, there are things we can do to improve our gut microbiome and reduce the effects of inflammaging on our body and skin. Dietary interventions, including prebiotics and probiotics, improve the composition and diversity of our gut microbiome, improve gut health, and decrease local and systemic inflammation, promoting healthy ageing and longevity.
Prebiotics are the non-digestible fibres, such as whole grains, garlic, and inulin, found in numerous fruits and vegetables, that promote the growth of our beneficial bacteria – food for the good guys. Probiotics are the bacteria themselves. They decrease inflammation, fight free radicals, and improve a host of age-related medical conditions including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. Probiotics also affect our skin. They reduce inflammation which improves inflammatory skin conditions, as well as slowing the process of ageing. They can improve epithelial growth and reinforce the epithelial barrier, as well as stimulating fibroblasts to produce collagen, elastin and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) such as hyaluronic acid.
However, it is essential to choose the right probiotic. It needs to be good quality, contain a large number of microorganisms (or colony forming units (CFUs) and contain bacteria that can pass through the acid environment of the stomach. It should also contain specific bacterial strains that have been scientifically shown to lead to improved health. Microbes work as a team, so diversity is key. While each strain has a specific benefit, they also create the right environment for other good bacteria to grow. As a result, taking probiotics which combine multiple synergistic strains is important.
For the most effective results, we need to take a holistic approach to improving our gut, reducing inflammation, and delaying ageing. In addition to supporting our gut microbiome with prebiotics and postbiotics, we can eat a low sugar diet, manage stress, exercise appropriately, get a good night’s sleep and only use antibiotics when necessary. We can reduce inflammation with omega fatty acids, and we can provide our skin with the nutrients, both oral and topical, that it needs for optimal health