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Safeguard your youth: How maintaining healthy intestinal flora can keep you invigorated well beyond 50
Not many people realise that our intestinal flora can influence how quickly or slowly we age, and that our lifestyle and diet choices play a major role in this. This is the result of research by the biotechnology company BIOMES. Depending on its composition, the intestinal microbiome (i.e. the makeup of bacteria, fungi, and viruses in our digestive system), supports physical and mental performance right the way through to old age. If our intestinal microbiome is unhealthy, this can contribute to frailty and poor health later in life. So, when it comes to health as we age, the crucial question is ‘what are the secrets of a healthy gut?’ BIOMES experts have compiled their top tips for strengthening the microbiome, preventing diseases and counteracting premature ageing.
Research has found that composition of the gut changes with age. A healthy young person has about 40 to 100 trillion bacteria in their gut while people over 50 not only have fewer intestinal bacteria overall, but the diversity of the different bacterial strains is also lower. According to scientists, this lack of diversity can increase frailty in old age, such as a decrease in bone mass. In addition, if harmful and beneficial bacteria are not in balance – known as microbial dysbiosis – inflammation can increase. A permeable intestinal wall can be the result. This in turn promotes diseases and typical ageing processes such as the weakening of the immune system and the deterioration of muscles and cognitive abilities.
BIOMES has examined the intestinal bacteria of 2,000 over 50s and compared their microbiome health against their diets and lifestyles. To remain invigorated and fit as the result of maintaining a strong intestinal flora, follow these top tips:
Tip 1: There’s no substitute for a good diet
Scientists know that ‘the Mediterranean diet’ helps people to age healthily. This diet relies on plenty of fruit and vegetables as well as fresh herbs, high-quality oils and regular portions of fish and moderate meat consumption. BIOMES‘ own research also showed that people over 50 who eat a largely plant-based diet have a significantly higher diversity of bacteria in their intestines than people who frequently eat processed foods such as protein shakes or white flour products. Therefore, the no1 rule is to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Nuts and fermented foods such as sauerkraut or kefir are also good for the intestines and overall health.
Tip 2: Maintain an active and conscious lifestyle
BIOMES analyses clearly show that people over 50 who smoke have a lower intestinal diversity than non-smokers. Other scientific studies have also shown that people who smoke and do not exercise age particularly quickly. So, we recommend cutting out the cigarettes and going on at least one long walk a day. It is equally important to get enough sleep – between seven to eight hours per day.
Tip 3: Get out there and socialise
Having a good giggle with your friends every now and then is a great way to trigger feelings of happiness within us. Scientific studies have even been able to prove the positive effects of an interactive, healthy social environment on not developing serious illnesses and ageing healthily. In terms of the microbiome, research has shown that the greatest bacterial diversity exists in couples who stated in surveys that they have a close relationship. These results indicate that human interactions, especially long-term relationships positively influence the gut microbiota. It is therefore even more crucial to maintain contact with loved ones even during the ongoing pandemic even if it is mainly via Zoom for the moment.
Dr. Paul Hammer, Systems Biologist and Founder of BIOMES, comments: “The gut microbiome can help us to grow older healthily. Our lifestyle, diet, exercise regime and the composition of the gut all influence each other. All factors are therefore equally important for staying fit in old age. If we implement all this in our daily lives along with a healthy portion of ‘joie de vivre’ and making time to socialise with peers, then our body will also forgive us the odd small sin here and there…”