What happens as your gut microbiome ages
Just like the rest of your body, your gut microbiome is ever-changing.
Similar to taxes, getting older is simply one of those unavoidable realities of life. And while wrinkles, gray hair, and changes in body shape are easy to identify as age-related changes, a variety of internal, and less noticeable, features also change. The gut microbiome is one such feature; ever-changing and yet essential for maintaining health and well-being.
Broadly, the microbiome refers to the trillions upon trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms living in and on the body. Specifically, the gut microbiome refers to those microorganisms that live in the digestive tract.
When does your gut microbiome develop?
In short, your gut microbiome is continually changing. It is in a constant state of evolution; however, it is now believed the gut microbiome begins to develop in utero and is, in large part, passed from the mother at this stage. While research is still emerging, it is becoming clear the microbiome that is present or passed down during prenatal development has the potential to impact future health and wellness.
Early in life, the gut microbiome is less diverse because the variety of exposures is fairly limited. Over time and in response to variation in your environment, foods consumed, infectious diseases acquired, and medications taken, the microbiome begins to differentiate itself. It both evolves and adapts as a person moves from infancy and childhood into adulthood.
With every new exposure, the microbiome must respond in such a way to maintain the delicate balance between the host (the person) and the microorganisms present. This balance is reflected in the fact that the gut microbiome is quite diverse from person to person.
Diversity in the gut
Differences in the gut microbiome between people may be due to a variety of factors. Aging often leads to weakened immune systems, less physical activity, altered dietary schedules, and the use of medications, among many others.
It is estimated approximately one-third of the microbiome is consistent among adults, while two-thirds are unique – representing the various exposures accumulated. After adolescence, the gut microbiome is reflective of the variety of exposures and diseases an individual is exposed to.
Many adults may be able to adequately balance the variety of changes in the gut microbiome, and therefore, notice very little change. But regardless of how healthy the individuals may be, there is evidence the gut microbiome of older individuals has significant differences from those who are much younger.
Disease and the gut microbiome
In somewhat of a “chicken and the egg” debate, it’s difficult to determine if the changes in the gut microbiome due to age are responsible for various illnesses or if various illnesses associated with aging cause these changes in the gut. Despite this debate, it is acknowledged the gut microbiome has the potential to influence disease, specifically in the case of type 2 diabetes.
Although most often thought to be a product of dietary and lifestyle risk factors, changes in the gut microbiome are also correlated with type 2 diabetes. In an ideal state, various microorganisms living in the digestive tract help the body absorb nutrients and break down things like sugar, carbohydrates, and fiber. As we get older, exposures may lead to a decrease in the number of microorganisms that can offer assistance in breaking down these substances.
Helping to restore the gut microbiome is one way to help reduce the elevated levels of blood sugar seen in individuals with diabetes. Through a proprietary blend, Pendulum Glucose Control is the first and only medical probiotic designed specifically to help maintain healthy A1C and blood glucose levels by increasing the beneficial bacteria in your gut to process carbohydrates, sugars, and fibers more effectively.
Healthy gut for life
Aging is a natural part of life, and arguably so is exposure to a variety of unanticipated things. While some of these exposures, and certainly aging itself, might be inevitable, there are things you can do to promote a healthy gut microbiome. Eating high fiber and fermented foods, increasing fruit and vegetable intake, and avoiding artificial sweeteners can help support your gut health. If you have type 2 diabetes, Pendulum Glucose Control can also help promote a healthy gut microbiome.
The totality of impact the gut microbiome has on health and well-being is only beginning to be understood. When it comes to the effects of the gut microbiome on our overall health, it is not unreasonable to think that only the tip of the iceberg has been explored. Consider that there are at least 1,000 different strains of bacteria, with over 3 million different genes among them, compared to the human with approximately 20,000 genes.
Knowing and understanding the impact of the gut microbiome may hold clues to slowing down or at least mediating the effects of aging. Given what we already know and continue to learn about aging and the gut, perhaps the key to maintaining youthfulness may in part be found in the host of microorganisms living in your gut.