Aging is a random, destructive, and progressive occurrence that greatly leads to diminished quality of life and increasing mortality. Everyone experiences aging as a natural aspect of life. However, the choices we make throughout our lives significantly impact how we age and the quality of our later years. Genetics plays an essential role in aging, as do lifestyle choices, diet, and gut health. In recent years, probiotics have become a potential factor in fostering a healthy aging process.

Read: January Issue of Food Infotech Magazine.

The function of the microbiome cannot be overlooked, as this consortium of bacteria in the gut has been linked to both the onset and prevention of numerous illnesses. The main benefits of probiotics in elderly include preventing infections, improves bowel movement, supports immune system, modify the intestinal barrier and inflammation.

In the past, there was confusion between fermented foods and probiotics, and people often used them interchangeably. But fermented foods refer to a broader category of foods that have undergone fermentation involving various microorganisms. At the same time, probiotic foods involve specific microorganisms with scientifically tested health benefits. The concept of these two words was cleared when two UN Organizations- WHO (World Health Organization) and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) defined probiotics in 2001, saying “live microorganisms that when administered in adequate amounts confer a beneficial health effect on the host.”

Gut Microbiota:

Our intestines are the home to 100 trillion beneficial & harmful bacteria, collectively known as gut microbiome. This bacterial community determines our entire health, regulating everything from digestion to immunity to mental health. While everyone’s microbiota is quite similar, but no two people have the same bacteria in their gut. Each person’s microbiota is as unique as their fingerprint. Gut microbiota can be influenced by factors like genetics, diet and healthy lifestyle. Gut microbiota plays several roles in the human body, such as aiding digestion, producing vitamins (vitamins B and K), metabolizing nutrients and educating the immune system.

Signs of a Unhealthy Gut

1. Chronic fatigue and weakness
2. Frequent upset stomach
3. Acidity and bloating
4. Sudden weight gain or lose
5. Food Intolerance
6. Unhealthy bowel transit time
7. Irregular and painful bowel movements
8. Mood issues

Gut Microbiota: Modulator of Healthy Ageing

Dietary changes and microbial diversity during aging increase the risk of infection and disease, the presence of certain beneficial bacteria in the gut can strengthen the immune system and prevent or prolong certain age-related diseases.

Habits which are destroying your gut health. Some key factors can affect the balance of gut microbiota:

8 habits destroying gut health

1. Genetics: It influences the composition and diversity of the human gut microbiota, but it only one piece of the puzzle. The interplay of genetics, environment, dietary habits and lifestyle plays a vital role in determining the composition of the gut of an individual.

2. Improper dietary habits: Food choices decide the type and abundance of bacteria in the gut. Eating too much of processed foods, high sugary, salty, and fatty foods can lead to overgrowth of harmful bacteria and reduction of beneficial ones.

Gut to know - what can disrupt your gut

3. Medications/ Antibiotics: Antibiotic therapy is a double-edged sword, it inadvertently destroys harmful & beneficial bacteria, causes dysbiosis in the gut microbiota and promotes the growth of unwanted bacteria. Antibiotics are needed to treat bacterial infections, but they can disrupt the balance of the gut microbiota by killing both beneficial and harmful bacteria.

4. Infection/ Illness: Bacteria, viruses or parasites colonize along with the gut bacteria, resulting reduction of good bacteria.

5. Inadequate sleep: Quality sleep for 6-8 hours is crucial for overall gut health. Sleeping habits affect the circadian rhythms, which can further impact gut microbes.

6. Aging: Generally, a diverse gut microbiota is healthy, but the diversity of microbial species declines as a person get older. And this is associated with a weak immunity and more prone to infections.

7. Unhealthy lifestyle: Smoking and excessive intake of alcohol have adverse effects on gut health. Alcohol destroys the lining of gut, making it more permeable for pathogens, toxins, and other substances to enter the bloodstream. Smoking can impair mucus production and the integrity of the gut barrier. This can damage the gut environment and affects the relationship between gut microbes and the host.

8. Stress: Stress profoundly affects the number of bacteria in the gut, known as gut-brain axis. Chronic stress can have negative impact on your gut microbiota. Adopting some of the stress management techniques such as meditation can help in solving the problems associated with gut health.

Probiotics: Heroes of the Gut

Probiotics have an even more critical role as we age. Probiotics have health-promoting properties and can be used as part of an effective approach to extend life and improve health by regulating various metabolic pathways and diseases. The following points tell us how these beneficial bacteria can help us improve our overall health.

1. Restores Gut Balance:

Probiotics improve the gut microbiota by encouraging the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, while inhibiting the growth of harmful microbes. This equilibrium needs to be maintained for good digestion and overall gut health.

2. Maintains digestive health:

The digesting process slows down as we age. This might result in indigestion, bloating, and feeling stuffed. However, healthy bacteria can aid in the digestion of food, the absorption of critical nutrients and the improvement of bowel movement.

3. Boost immune system:

A healthy gut is closely related to a strong immune system. The change in gut microbiota affects the function of the immune system, thus making individuals more susceptible to infections and diseases. Probiotics can help improve the immune system by reducing inflammation, increasing antibody production, protecting against infections, and supporting intestinal barrier function. Adding probiotic-rich foods to our diet or taking a high-quality probiotic supplement can be a valuable addition to our immune support program.

4. Cognitive health:

Age-related mental health decline is a significant concern. Recent studies have shown that the gut microbiota affects the human brain through the gut-brain axis, and probiotics can help maintain and improve mental health.

5. Metabolic benefits:

Some probiotics strains have been found to help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce inflammations. Probiotic strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species improve the insulin sensitivity, reduce insulin resistance and helps in glucose metabolism.

Ways to nourish Beneficial Bacteria
Ways to nourish Beneficial Bacteria

One thing to remember is that not all probiotics are the same and their effects on the the body may vary. Different strains may have additional benefits and mechanisms of action. For example:
1. Lactobacillus acidophilus forms lactic acid and makes gut acidic, prevent growth of bacteria and it stimulate the production of cytokines and antibodies.
2. Lactobacillus reuteri produces an antimicrobial substance known as “reuterin” that inhibits the growth of pathogens. Also supports the oral health.
3. Bifidobacterium bifidum ferments dietary fibre and produce short-chain fatty acids which nourishes the colon and protect it from harbouring harmful bacteria.
4. Sachharomyces boulardii modulates the immune response and reduces the inflammation in the gut.

Therefore, when choosing a probiotic supplement, selecting a scientifically proven and effective supplement for health is crucial. A consultation with your doctor can help you decide which probiotic is right for your needs.

Conclusion:

Health is the foundation of human happiness and well-being. A healthy lifestyle requires a balanced diet, good hygiene, suitable housing and adequate sleep. Maintaining your digestive health becomes more critical as you go through the stages of life. The change in dietary habits and decline in gut microbial diversity increase the risk of infections and diseases. But the presence of certain beneficial bacteria in the gut can prevent or delay certain age-related problems by strengthening immune system and producing some metabolites which shows antioxidant properties. Therefore, harness the power of probiotics and live your golden years with strength and comfort. Their potential to support gut health, boost the immune system, enhance cognitive function, and treat age-related metabolic and chronic conditions makes them hot spot for research and intervention in the quest for maintaining well-being as individuals grow older.

About the Authors:

Authors - Komal Soni & Mrinal Samtiya

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Author

An editor by day & dreamer at night; passionately involved with both print and digital media; Pet lover; Solo traveller.

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