Science Uncovers a Hidden Way to Protect Yourself From Age-Related Diseases
Evidence has continued to mount on the critical effect gut health has on overall wellness. The latest discovery reveals that chronic, uncontrolled inflammation in the elderly, thought to play a major role in many age-related diseases, is caused by an “imbalance” in the gut’s microbial composition. This imbalance means the gut has a greater amount of bad, pathogenic bacteria than beneficial gut bacteria.
Published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, the study is the first to find that gut bacteria from old mice causes age-induced chronic inflammation when transplanted into young mice. This low-grade chronic inflammation called inflammaging is associated with serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke and dementia. The findings suggest an approach to healthy aging would involve improving the composition of gut bacteria, referred to as the microbiota. This goal could be facilitated by consumption of dietary fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
“Since inflammaging is thought to contribute to many diseases associated with aging, and we now find that the gut microbiota plays a role in this process, strategies that alter the gut microbiota composition in the elderly could reduce inflammaging and promote healthy aging,” explains lead author Dr. Floris Fransen, who performed the research at the University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands. “Strategies that are known to alter gut microbiota composition include changes in diet, probiotics and prebiotics.”
Imbalanced Gut Microbiota Produces Harmful Effects
The gut microbiota interacts with the tissues that line the intestines, along with the underlying immune cells. Research in recent years shows that an imbalance in the gut microbiota can result in immunological, mental and metabolic disorders.
Studies also reveal a difference exists in the gut microbiota between the elderly and the young. Moreover, it is also known that older people have compromised immunity, which results in inflammaging. Therefore, the scientists in the new study hypothesized that a link exists between an imbalance in gut bacteria and inflammaging.
To test the theory, Fransen and his team transferred gut bacteria from old and young conventional mice into young germ-free mice. They analyzed immune responses in the lymph nodes, spleen and small intestines, as well as assessed a type of gene expression in the small intestine.
Harmful effects on immunity were noted in response to the gut bacteria transferred from the old mice, but no adverse effects were seen in response to the bacteria transferred from the young mice. These findings indicate the hypothesis that an imbalance in bacteria in the gut produces inflammaging in the elderly is likely correct.
The overgrowth of bad bacteria strains in the gut makes it more permeable, allowing more toxins to be absorbed into the blood stream. When the toxins circulate throughout the body, they produce adverse health consequences. An imbalanced microbiota can lead to inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, anxiety and autism.
“Our gut is inhabited by a huge number of bacteria,” explains Fransen. “Moreover, there are many different kinds of bacterial species, and the bacterial species that are present can vary a lot from person to person.”
Healthy Aging Dependent Upon Healthy Gut
It’s clear that healthy aging depends on the health of the gut microbiota, but it’s unclear why the elderly tend to suffer from an imbalance in gut bacteria. Fransen speculates that several factors may contribute to the problem such as reduced physical activity, the aging process and dietary changes. Since inflammaging is likely the root cause of most age-related diseases, maintaining a healthy gut is one of the secrets to better health in the golden years.
The new research comes immediately on the heels of a study that found “ridiculously healthy” seniors have the gut microbiota composition of people who are much younger. As science learns more about the profound effect of the gut on health, it just may eventually be viewed as the key to the fountain of youth — or at least the closest thing to it. Learn more about the importance of a healthy gut in our article Why Are Some Older People Ridiculously Healthy? (The Answer Will Surprise You).
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.