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Gut Microbiome: Healthy Aging and a Healthy Heart

Gut Microbiome: Healthy Aging and a Healthy Heart

You’ve likely heard of the gut microbiome – this vast, intricate community of bacteria and other microorganisms that live in our digestive tract.

The Gut Microbiome and which strains of gut bacteria lead to healthy aging and a healthy heart is more than just a digestive aid.

It’s an active participant in nearly every aspect of our well-being even influencing things like mood and sleep quality.

Understanding the Gut Microbiome and which strains of gut bacteria lead to healthy aging and a healthy heart isn’t just for researchers anymore, it’s essential knowledge for everyone. In fact, the microbes in our gut outnumber our own human cells.

A Peek Inside: What’s Happening in the Gut?

Imagine this teeming ecosystem within us, bustling with trillions of microorganisms including bacteria, viruses, archaea, and fungi. These “bugs” make up the gut microbiota, with different species dwelling in different sections of the gi tract.

While we inherit our first batch of microbes at birth, their composition is constantly shaped by the world around us, influenced by our environment, the food we eat, medications we take (especially antibiotics), stress levels, and more.

A flourishing and balanced gut microbiome composition impacts how we absorb nutrients, and helps maintain the lining of our gut to keep those potentially harmful bacteria out of our bloodstream.

It also plays a role in regulating our immune system (70% of it resides in your gut), and even communicates with our brain via the gut-brain axis.

Getting a healthy start to the day. Shot of a happy senior couple enjoying a leisurely breakfast together at home.

Shifting Sands: How Age Affects the Gut

Scientists have found that, in general, the richness and diversity of our gut microbiome starts declining with age.

This decline isn’t universal… some centenarians actually have more diverse guts than their younger counterparts. But generally speaking, with age comes a decrease in certain beneficial bacteria.

The changes in our physiology as we age—how well we produce digestive juices, the quality of our diets, and medications that we’re prescribed—all play a part in these gut microbiome changes.

A study in the journal Nature Microbiology looked at over 9,000 people from various age groups and concluded that there are certain characteristics common to gut microbiomes across the human population.

What’s intriguing is those who aged the healthiest seem to break free from these commonalities –  their gut microbiomes become much more individual.

Specifically, those aged 80 and over who were healthy and medication free, showed a marked reduction in a specific type of bacteria called Bacteroides. This genus of bacteria often dominates our guts in our younger years.

This discovery leads us to one crucial question – does this decline help to pave the way for better aging or not?

Gut and Heart: A Dynamic Duo for Aging Gracefully

Turns out some bacterial byproducts (metabolites) have a huge impact on our heart health. TMAO (Trimethylamine N-oxide), one of these bacterial byproducts, has gotten lots of attention recently. 

High levels of TMAO in our bloodstream can put our hearts at a higher risk for cardiovascular issues.

It appears our friendly gut bacteria generate TMAO when they feast on certain nutrients – specifically choline, lecithin, and L-carnitine – often found in foods like red meat, eggs, and dairy. But before you swear off burgers forever, let me explain. 

This doesn’t mean these foods are inherently bad for our hearts. We each have a personalized “TMAO threshold,” heavily influenced by how many of these TMAO-generating microbes reside in our guts.

There’s growing evidence that suggests a link between the gut microbiome and inflammatory processes. Since inflammation plays a significant role in various diseases of aging, including cardiovascular diseases, the impact becomes clearer.

Researchers in China analyzed the human guts of 10,207 people and found an interesting connection. They found five distinct “metabolic clusters” which are like blueprints based on different metabolic health measurements. 

Some were linked with parameters we’d consider “healthy,” like balanced cholesterol levels.

Others showed indicators we know aren’t so healthy – think hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), insulin resistance, and obesity. Their findings were published in Nature Medicine.

They learned that people with an “unhealthy” metabolic cluster faced a greater chance of developing cardiovascular diseases down the road.

This suggests that understanding those individual Gut Microbiome and which strains of gut bacteria lead to healthy aging and a healthy heart blueprint may give doctors another valuable tool in predicting who is more susceptible to certain age-related conditions.

Microscopic probiotic bacteria for digestive health and treatment in biology and medicine

Which Bacterial Stars Are on the ‘Good Gut’ Team for Aging?

There’s so much more research needed to conclusively say “THIS is THE strain that guarantees a healthy heart in your golden years”. But with ongoing scientific exploration, several strains are emerging as “potential” all-stars.

  • Faecalibacterium prausnitzii (F. prausnitzii): This is a common gut resident, actually present in most people. F. prausnitzii helps with boosting gut health and producing that potent short-chain fatty acid, butyrate, known to fuel the cells that line our colon and has been linked to lowering inflammation in the gut.
  • Akkermansia muciniphila (A. muciniphila): Known to reside in the mucous layer that protects our gut lining, this little powerhouse appears to benefit glucose metabolism and is linked with enhanced gut barrier function. There’s even preliminary research suggesting it may help combat metabolic syndrome and even obesity.
  • Bifidobacterium spp: This genus has numerous beneficial strains associated with healthy aging and are even found naturally in fermented foods like yogurt. These microbes seem particularly effective at helping digest the tough, complex carbohydrates our gut otherwise wouldn’t be able to break down.  In this way, they not only support gut health but can even indirectly influence how efficiently we use energy and regulate our blood sugar, both crucial elements for heart health.  And because bifidobacteria increases lactic acid production, they help to maintain the acidic environment of the gut which makes it a less favorable place for those pathogenic bacteria.

Can You Really ‘Hack’ Your Gut for a Longer, Healthier Life?

Gut Microbiome and which strains of gut bacteria lead to healthy aging and a healthy heart are heavily influenced by our own lifestyle choices.

What we eat, how we move, and the quality of sleep we get can truly shape our guts and hearts for the better.

Here are three lifestyle changes to add into your daily routine:

High Fiber Foods

1. Embrace the Power of Fiber

Our gut bacteria love fiber. It’s crucial for good digestion and helps maintain our blood sugar balance and cholesterol levels.

A staggering 84% of men and 71% of women aren’t getting even the minimum amount of daily fiber. 

Foods Packed with Friendly Fiber:

  • Fruit: Think raspberries, apples (with the peel on), blueberries, pears, and oranges.
  • Vegetables: Aim for at least 5 servings daily. Load up on broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, zucchini, bell peppers of any color, and avocado.
  • Legumes: Lentils, beans (kidney, black, pinto—try ’em all), chickpeas, and split peas.
  • Nuts and seeds: A sprinkle of chia, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds.
  • Whole Grains: A small amount of brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, barley.

Along with more fiber, you’ll want to shun sugar, which leads to dysbiosis (altered gut microbiome) and high blood sugar.

2. Move Your Body

When we’re inactive our blood circulates slowly which can create all sorts of challenges not only for the heart but also for that thriving microbiome within.

You don’t have to run a marathon. Just aim for moving for at least 30 minutes a day. 

According to research from Harvard Medical School, exercise promotes those beneficial gut microbes. The most important takeaway though is consistency over time.

3. Prioritize Quality Sleep

In a constantly plugged-in world, quality sleep seems to become more and more elusive. Sleep is essential for all the processes important for graceful aging, but poor sleep can mess with our guts too.

While research is ongoing, we already see a distinct connection. Those who sleep soundly and consistently tend to have healthier gut diversity than those with sleep issues.

But, that imbalanced microbiome can even MAKE it harder to sleep soundly. 

Build a daily routine of mindful rest and relaxation – turn off the tech 60 to 90 minutes before you’re ready to hit the hay – and dim the lights too.

Try a bedtime yoga practice, and avoid alcohol within a few hours of bedtime.

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FAQs About Gut Microbiome and Which Strains of Gut Bacteria Lead to Healthy Aging and a Healthy Heart

How Does the Gut Microbiome Affect the Heart?

The microbes within the gut produce various metabolites during digestion – one that’s gained significant attention is TMAO, a compound linked with increased cardiovascular risks when found in high concentrations in the bloodstream.

As research continues to deepen in this area, the complex interplay between Gut Microbiome and which strains of gut bacteria lead to healthy aging and a healthy heart is steadily coming to light.

What Does a Healthy Gut Microbiome Lead To?

A well balanced, diverse gut microbiome promotes digestion, improves nutrient absorption, adjusts the level of bile acids, and assists the immune system’s effectiveness.

It regulates metabolic functions, which contribute to healthy weight, blood sugar control, cholesterol levels, and improved insulin sensitivity. 

Remarkably, emerging research strongly suggests a vital link between a thriving gut and cognitive well-being and mood!

What Are the Good and Bad Gut Microbiome?

A ‘good gut’ microbiome boasts a vast diversity of microbes, where various beneficial bacteria contribute to digestion, immune function, metabolic balance, heart health, and more.

Conversely, an unhealthy or “bad gut” is characterized by a limited number of bacterial species, often with a higher number of potentially inflammatory ones.

A less diverse gut can result from factors like poor diet, chronic stress, medication use (antibiotics, for example), and environmental toxins.

How Are Aging and Gut Bacteria Related?

Generally, our gut microbiota tends to lose some of its diversity as we grow older.

This often goes hand-in-hand with lifestyle changes—the foods we find difficult to eat, medication regimens, and slower digestive functions can impact those once-flourishing microbes.

Interestingly though, those who seem to age most gracefully—and we see this even in some centenarians—don’t always follow this pattern. Some continue to have incredibly rich gut microbiomes.

Understanding which strains in Gut Microbiome and which strains of gut bacteria lead to healthy aging and a healthy heart —is proving to be one of the most fascinating branches of longevity research right now.

Gut health horizontal poster. Editable vector illustration

Conclusion

The Gut Microbiome and which strains of gut bacteria lead to healthy aging and a healthy heart – is proving to be one of the most crucial and influential players for a fulfilling, vibrant, and longer lifespan.

Every discovery strengthens the reality that what we eat, how active we are, and the sleep we get—has a direct impact not only on the microbes thriving in our guts but also on our overall health as we age!

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Gut Microbiome: Healthy Aging and a Healthy Heart

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