Emerging research conducted in human studies shows a strong correlation between healthy aging and a healthy gut microbiome.
In a study conducted at the China-Canada Institute, researchers compared the gut microbiomes between a sample of healthy elderly individuals (up to 100 years old) with no known health issues or diseases to a sample group of 30 year olds. The study found a similar overall microbiota composition between the two groups. Their research further supports the recommendation of maintaining a highly diverse population of bacteria in the gut, and also correlates a healthy microbiome as a biomarker of healthy aging.
As aging occurs, gut microbiota undergo changes that alter microbial composition and density. These changes can ultimately lead to inflammation and impaired immunity. Factors including poor dietary patterns, slowed transit time, decreased GI muscle function, and the use of medications and antibiotics contribute to an inflamed gut. Chronic, low-grade inflammation of the gut has been linked in research studies to cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and diabetes, frailty, disability, and cancer.
Currently, research continues to support dietary patterns as having the largest influence on gut health and microbiota composition. Here’s how you can improve the health of your gut microbiome.
These friendly bacteria are found in fermented foods including yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha tea. Look on the ingredient list for live active cultures including lactobacillus strains. With flavored yogurts, look for varieties with a sugar content of 15g or less. Ideally, to lower sugar intake, chose unflavored yogurt and add fresh fruit for sweetness.
These foods help nourish the healthy bacteria in your gut. The fibers help promote the growth of the good bacteria. Prebiotic fibers are found in onion, garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus, bananas, berries, oats, legumes, beans, and peas.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Mono- and Polyunsaturated Fats
Concentrate on consuming fat from plant based sources including nuts, seeds, vegetable oils (olive, canola, safflower, etc.), avocado, and olives. Furthermore, the use of Omega-3s found in cold water fish and fish oil supplements provide anti-inflammatory properties.
Increase your consumption of fiber from the plant kingdom to further improve your gut function and microbiota health. Add in fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains for a fiber boost to all meals and snacks. Furthermore, richly-colored foods provide high antioxidant content, which is known to reduce inflammation.
Saturated and Trans Fat
Lowering your intake of animal sources of fat (i.e. red meat, whole milk, cream, egg yolks, pork products) and processed/packaged foods will help decrease inflammation. Research studies have shown saturated fat intake promotes translocation of gut microbes to the bloodstream, thus stimulating an inflammatory response.
While the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are normal end products of metabolism, excessive AGE is produced as the result of high sugar intake. This creates oxidative stress and inflammation to human cells causing damage to cell structure and interferes with normal cell function.
To optimize your gut microbiome, schedule an appointment with a PRO Registered Dietitian. Services include general nutrition education, weight loss or gain, sport training, managing health conditions, and support in meal preparation and planning.
Written by By Sarah Lawson, RD, CD
20/20 Registered Dietitian