Ageing Well – the role of your gut microbiome


Ageing Well - Gut Microbiome

In our Bright Care Ageing Well series, we look at all aspects of ageing well. We explore what we can do to positively impact our own health in later years. Looking after our gut and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome can play a vital role in how we age, influencing everything from digestion and immunity to inflammation and mental health.

 

What is the gut microbiome?

Gut microbiome refers to the collection of trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, that live in and on our bodies, primarily in our digestive system. This community of microorganisms plays a significant role in digestion, immune function, and even mental health.

Many microbiome scientists refer to the gut microbiome as an organ as it is both inherited and essential to both short and long term health.

“It’s a vital organ in your body and you need to look after it. If you do that, it will look after you,” says Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London, author and founder of Zoe a programme which offers to understand how food uniquely affects your body.

 

Tips for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome

You can improve your gut microbiome with lifestyle and food choices. The following suggestions can help you improve your gut health naturally:

  1. Eat a balanced diet: A diverse range of good bacteria is key to creating a healthy gut microbiome. Consuming a variety of fibre rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, can promote a diverse and healthy gut microbiome. Fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi are also beneficial as they contain probiotics, which are live bacteria that support gut health.
  2. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water is essential for overall health and helps maintain a healthy digestive system.
  3. Exercise regularly: Physical activity has been shown to positively affect the gut microbiome. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
  4. Limit antibiotic use: While antibiotics are necessary for treating bacterial infections, overuse can disrupt the balance of the gut and microbiome. Use them only when prescribed by a healthcare professional.
  5. Manage stress: Chronic stress can negatively impact the gut microbiome. Practices such as yoga, meditation, and deep-breathing exercises can help reduce stress levels.
  6. Get enough sleep: Quality sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
  7. Avoid excessive alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol can harm the gut microbiome. Moderation is key.

 

How does the gut microbiome change with age?

As we get older, the composition of our gut and microbiome changes. Factors like diet, medications, lifestyle, and the natural ageing process itself can alter the balance of these microorganisms. This shift can impact our overall health in several ways:

  • Digestive Health: A diverse and balanced gut microbiome helps with efficient digestion and nutrient absorption. Changes in the microbiome can lead to digestive issues, such as constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which are common in older adults.
  • Immune System: The gut microbiome plays a critical role in regulating the immune system. An imbalanced microbiome can lead to a weakened immune response, making older adults more susceptible to infections and diseases.
  • Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is linked to many age-related diseases, including arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. A healthy gut microbiome helps control inflammation, potentially reducing the risk of these conditions.
  • Mental Health: Emerging research suggests a strong connection between the gut and the brain, often referred to as the “gut-brain axis.” A healthy gut microbiome can positively influence mood and cognitive function, which is crucial for maintaining mental health as we age.

 

Ageing Well resources

At Bright Care, we are committed to helping our clients live their later years with joy and purpose and have produced several helpful articles on staying healthy in later years including:

Ageing Well - Gut Microbiome
Ageing Well - Gut Microbiome

About Bright Care

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