Longevity

Inflammageing and the Microbiome

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Human cells have a natural lifespan, but certain factors can age them faster. As our cells age and decay, they often release biochemicals that attract immune cells and lead to damage from free radicals. When our bodies enter a chronic state of low-grade immune responses, we can be at a greater risk for many diseases. This state, associated with aging, is known as “inflammageing”—used as both a verb and noun. Although scientists are not yet sure exactly how the gut microbiome plays a role, they know its contribution is significant.

 

Here are some insights into what we do know about the connection between inflammageing and the gut flora, plus tips on how to bolster your own defenses to help extend your lifespan and healthspan. 


A healthy gut microbiome changes with age

The gut microbiome remains a mystery. However, scientists know that it changes across the lifespan. For healthier aging adults, its composition alters more, becoming increasingly unique, with age. A 2016 study showed that a greater diversity of species in the gut microbiome correlates with less frailty in older adults.1

 

More recently, a 2021 study of 9,000-plus people revealed that elderly subjects with more unique or distinct microbiomes had numerous markers of good health. These included lower levels of LDL cholesterol, higher levels of Vitamin D, and more healthful blood metabolites (including one, tryptophan-derived-indole, associated with a longer lifespan in mice). In addition, this subset had better mobility, took fewer medications, and were much less likely to die during the study period. 


Different types of gut flora

Researchers have even learned that certain types of gut flora are associated with healthy aging. Certain species (such as Akkermansia) become more abundant, while others (like Faecalibacterium, Bacteroidaceae, and Lachnospiraceae) decrease.2 In fact, according to a 2021 article in Nature Metabolism 3, “retaining a high Bacteroides dominance into older age, or having a low gut microbiome uniqueness measure, predicts decreased survival in a four-year follow-up.” Similarly, a 2020 study demonstrated that fit adults 65 or older had more Bifidobacteriales and Clostridiales species in their gut microbiome than less fit adults the same age.4


 

How to decrease your risk of inflammageing

Researchers know that many lifestyle factors, such as diet, regular movement, and even sleep, impact the gut microbiome. Here are some ways to help out your flora.


Eating a healthy, whole foods diet

High-fat, high-sugar, fried, and processed foods can negatively impact the gut microbiome and, by extension, the immune system. Instead, try to include more foods high in fiber, like fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans. Many of these high-fiber foods (like onions, leeks, garlic, and bananas) are rich in prebiotics, indigestible carbohydrates that “feed” the health-promoting bacteria in the gut microbiome. Plus, fruits and vegetables supply the body with antioxidants. These healthful compounds could help reduce aging-related declines in cardiovascular health and harmful immune system responses.5 Increasing your consumption of antioxidant-rich foods can improve certain immune responses promoting optimal health.


Restricting calories

Taking in fewer calories could have a positive impact on signaling pathways that affect aging and the immune system.5 Numerous studies have linked calorie restriction or fasting with a longer lifespan.


De-stressing

Start a meditation or breath practice. Or take time to decompress in ways that nourish you, like spending time with close friends or going for walks in nature. And do everything you can to anticipate and mitigate stressful situations in your life. Challenges are inevitable. However, preparing for them is within your control and will make all the difference.


Getting aerobic exercise

A 2020 research article presented evidence that lifelong aerobic exercise could have a beneficial effect on the immune system.6 As another plus, exercising improves mental health, reducing stress.


Sleeping enough

Our sleep hygiene can have a profound impact on our immune system. Varius studies have shown that sleep deprivation has been closely associated with inflammation. Sleep inconsistency can reduce natural mechanisms that help lower blood pressure, triggering cells in blood vessel walls that activate inflammation.7 Some studies have even shown women may be more at risk.


 

Resources:

 

1 Jackson, M. et al. (2016). [Information on aging and the gut microbiome]. Genome Medicine, PubMed.gov.

2 Badal, D. V. et al. (2020). [Review of gut microbiome and longevity]. Nutrients, PubMed.gov.

3 Wilmanski, T. et al. (2021). [Healthy aging and gut microbiome profiles]. Nature Metabolism, PubMed.gov.

4 Josué L Castro-Mejía et al.(2020). [Older adult physical fitness, diet, and gut microbiome health]. Aging Cell, PubMed.gov.

5 Shijin Xia et al. (2016). [Information on inflamm-aging, prevention and treatment]. Journal of  Immunology Research, PubMed.gov.

6 Lavin, M. Kaleen et al. (2020). [Research on aging and lifelong exercise, exercise-induced inflammation]. Journal of Applied Physiology, PubMed.gov.

7 Dzierzewski, J. M., et al. (2020). [Sleep and inflammation]. Frontiers in neurology, PubMed Central.

[Healthy aging and unique gut microbiome patterns]. (2021). National Institute on Aging, National Institute on Health, nia.nih.gov

Engen, P.A. et al. (2015). [Effects of alcohol on intestinal microbiota]. Alcohol Research, PubMed.gov.

Jara, S. (2022). [Informational guide on inflamm-aging]. healthline.com.