Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS • Nutritional Periodontist
September 13, 2016
Seniors & Their Gut Microbiome
On my recent search of PubMed, I uncovered new peer-reviewed articles demonstrating the interrelationships of the gut microbiome, the immune system, and aging. HERE. HERE. HERE. HERE. Senior individuals in their 70s and older demonstrated a disrupted and damaged microbiome resulting in a compromised immune system.
Science has only scratched the surface with this research. We don’t know what we don’t know.
I don’t know what surprises will be revealed in the future, but I continue to be amazed. Although no randomized controlled trials in humans will be done to prove what I have written below, I am going to connect the dots and make assumptions by which I intend to live. While I understand there are normal biological changes as we age, I believe the microbiome of seniors is a result of decades of not supporting and not nourishing a healthy gut microbiome. I don’t believe a damaged microbiome is a result of biological aging. I believe seniors could have an enhanced immune system if they attended to their microbiome earlier in life.
The diet of civilized societies throughout the world has contributed to chronic disease. The foods, environment, and lifestyles of a modern, sedentary, and nutritionally deficient way of life have damaged the gut microbiome and have damaged the lining of the gut. Chronic inflammation has emerged from this damage to become the central cause of practically all degenerative diseases.
As we age, the compounding affects of a damaged gut eventually manifest as a decline in the quality of life. While it may seem that these degenerative states of poor health are part of the normal aging process, I strongly believe these late-in-life manifestations originated decades earlier from the disruption of the gut microbiome. Advancing gum disease also is related to continued disruption of the gut microbiome.
When I speak to groups of lay people as well as health professionals, I start by asking the question, “If you knew a train was coming at you, would you get off the tracks?” The answer to this question will determine the future quality of your life. In essence, the question is, “Will you be proactive?”
From everything I can assemble from all the peer-reviewed research I have been able to read, the dots I have connected translate to these 10 proactive action steps:
- Eat a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet.
- Avoid processed foods.
- Eat organic if possible and only products from wild caught or pastured animals that feed naturally.
- Include organ meats and animal products that contain skin, tendons, and other collagenous parts.
- Include significant amounts of prebiotic fibers in the form of fruits and vegetables as well as probiotic microbes in the form of various fermented foods.
- Avoid exposure to chemicals and medications that could damage the human microbiome.
- Encourage getting out into Nature and into “dirt”.
- Exercise efficiently, which should include high-intensity interval training, strength training, some aerobic activities, and lots of non-aerobic movement.
- Sleep restoratively, which usually means about 8 hours a night.
- Learn and practice methods of stress reduction – chronic stress is damaging to the microbiome.
I believe these action steps will maintain a healthy gut microbiome as we age. If you could start this way of living immediately and if you could continue it for the rest of your life, you might be able to support a microbiome that will support your quality of life.
Be proactive! Implement them ASAP!