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There’s increasingly more evidence that your gut is behind just about every facet of your health. It plays a role in your immune health, hunger cues and appetite, weight loss and nearly every other facet of your well-being. Now, research is suggesting that taking charge of your gut health just might be key to how you age too.
A healthy gut could help you age in a healthier way – and potentially lead to a longer lifespan. Here’s what the science has to say about the influence your gut bacteria wields over your health as you grow older.
Your gut changes as you age – if you’re healthy, that is
Everyone’s gut is unique. Yours is filled with a mix of different kinds of bacteria, some beneficial, some determined by your genes and some that can be altered or added through food. And now, according to a research study published in Immunity & Ageing, scientists have found that your gut actually gives off its own distinct signature.
Over the course of their research, the study’s authors analyzed gut microbiomes as well as phenotypic and clinical data collected from more than 9,000 individuals from ages 18 to 101 years old. All of that data suggested that as individuals get older, their gut microbiomes become even more distinct. While your microbiome is pretty specific to you throughout your life, the study’s researchers saw even more divergence that started around middle age and progressed into late adulthood.
Researchers found that as individuals’ gut microbiomes became increasingly unique, they also saw a steady decline in the number of core bacteria (or bacteroides) present in the microbiomes. Essentially, while the bacteria diversity increased, the number of shared or common bacteria present shrunk.
But there was one catch. The study’s participants only saw their gut microbiomes become more unique and personalized if they were healthy. Individuals who weren’t so healthy didn’t have the same gut trajectory. Their guts remained pretty much the same as they grew older, maintaining the very same balance of common core bacteria as they reached middle age and beyond.
Researchers suggest that this may show there’s a link between a diverse microbiome and healthy aging. Since the diversity in participants’ microbiomes began to appear between the ages of 40 and 50, continuing to become increasingly more diverse as these individuals aged, having plenty of less common bacteria present in your gut can give you an advantage. And it may even play a role in better longevity.
A more diverse gut microbiome just might lead to a longer, healthier life
During the course of their research, the study’s authors were able to identify some key bacteria in healthy individuals’ diverse microbiomes that could play a big and beneficial role in aging. Participants with highly unique gut signatures had microbially-derived metabolites (small molecules produced by the bacteria in your gut) that are connected to a longer lifespan and better health.
For example, participants with highly unique gut signatures all had tryptophan-derived indole, a metabolite that’s been connected to increased lifespan in mice. They also had strong blood levels of phenylacetylglutamine, a metabolite that’s been found to be highly elevated in people who’ve lived to be 110 years old – or even older.
So, if your diverse microbiome is able to continue evolving and producing these particular metabolites, you just might potentially see yourself living longer. As research scientist and study lead author Dr. Tomasz Wilmanski noted to Science Daily, a more unique gut signature could even help predict how long you live.
Additionally, if you’re relatively healthy and your gut continues to evolve as you get older, the increased bacterial diversity of your microbiome could potentially help keep you in good health. Indoles like tryptophan-derived indole have been found to lower inflammation, a key factor in many health concerns and diseases.
How to keep your gut healthy and full of diverse bacteria
If you want to potentially become a centenarian yourself, you’ll want to act now. Just because you have a healthy, diverse microbiome now doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll remain that way. The goal is to continue with healthy habits so your gut bacteria keeps evolving for decades to come.
So, what’s the best way to start working towards those lifespan-increasing indoles and other good-for-you metabolites? Put gut-healthy practices into action in your everyday life. And we’ve got plenty of easy ways to do exactly that.
Gut-healthy meals and ingredients are a simple way to work better bacteria into every meal of the day. You can try our gut-healthy recipes, like an apple and cinnamon granola or our take on a classic Caesar salad that’s made with gut-boosting ingredients. Even gut-healing beverages can help, like Pu’ur or kefir. To really get your gut bacteria and health in shape, you can also try our gut-friendly meal plans that are all about meals that feed your gut what it needs most.
You can also overhaul your gut health with our exclusive online course, The Gut-Health Fix, which will teach you how to achieve balance in your microbiome with the right nutrition.