Can Your Gut Microbes Help You Live Longer?

Your magnificent gut microbiome (that houses all the combined bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and viruses that live within your intestinal tract) has a direct impact on many health aspects, including athletic performance, weight, and digestion. In addition, did you know that these abundant, beneficial bacteria may actually play a role in determining how long you live?  

As you age, the gut bacteria in your microbiome - the beneficial bacteria that lives in your digestive system and helps you digest and absorb the nutrients in food - fundamentally changes and begins to lose diversity. The diversity of gut bacteria is what allows you to maintain a robust digestive system as well as a healthy immune system. With the loss of diversity of gut bacteria, this means that you are more susceptible to diseases and illness as you age.  

Why is your immunity tied to your gut health? Most bacteria and viruses make their way into your body by being inhaled, eaten in foods, or entering through your eyes or nose. If these bacteria, pathogens, or viruses are harmful, they can stress and weaken your body, but your microbiome will fight back against these invaders. That’s why the goal is to eat healthfully to maintain a strong gut microbiome. 

The nature of your gut bacteria also influences your brain health, which can impact mood and memory. The quality of your digestive microbes and gut bacteria help determine how efficiently you are able to break down and absorb nutrients. As such, their role has a profound influence. 

However, new insights into gut microbes suggests that the composition of gut bacteria could even help determine your life expectancy. Since research suggests that gut bacteria influences the aging process, then altering the gut microbiome with superior beneficial bacteria could prevent the onset of age-related diseases.  

Previous research has shown that the quality of gut bacteria changes as we age, but is it possible to “upgrade” your bacteria population? Fascinating, new studies have shown that transplanting gut bacteria from a young killifish (a type of small fish) into an older killifish extended the lifespan of the older fish dramatically. It is unknown if this benefit might be possible in humans. 

We now know that your gut bacteria can be influenced by the type and quality of food you eat as well as the nutrient content that is in that food. This new research suggests that by keeping your gut microbiome happy, you can help yourself age well. A smart course of action is to “upgrade” your gut microbiome by eating a diverse range of organic foods, including fermented foods with naturally occurring prebiotics and postbiotics. Avoid drinking hard alcohol, which can degrade healthy bacteria, while organic wine can be a healthy microbiome choice. Also, please adopt a consistent fitness routine. By making the right choices that can keep your gut bacteria thriving, it may be possible for your microbiome to help you live a longer, healthier life.  

Resources

  1. “Gut Microbes Influence Life Expectancy.” ELife, ELife Sciences Publications Limited, 22 Aug. 2017, elifesciences.org/for-the-press/779a3695/gut-microbes-influence-life-expectancy. 
  2. Nagpal, Ravinder, et al. “Gut Microbiome and Aging: Physiological and Mechanistic Insights.” Nutrition and Healthy Aging, IOS Press, 15 June 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6004897/