Why is my gut changing with age?

September 30, 2023

Why is my gut changing with age?

"Trusting your gut" isn’t just advice on how to make decisions, it's also about how to properly care for your digestive system. As you age, you naturally become more susceptible to various digestive problems that can have a negative impact on your overall health. Let's dive into the why and how of keeping your gut in top shape.

Why Your Gut Matters

Amazingly, approximately 70% of your immune system resides in your gut! So not only is your gut breaking down food into a form that can nourish and sustain you, it’s also acting as a protective shield against harmful organisms. But just like other parts of your body, your digestive system ages too, and various factors such as a poor diet, stress, and a low level of physical activity can hasten this aging process. Your gut's cellular blueprint and the composition of your gut’s microbiome also actually changes over time as well, and can lead to imbalances that can impact your health.

Of course, none of us can bypass aging, but by managing factors like diet and stress, you can avoid or reduce many age-related gut problems. Your body's resilience is truly awe-inspiring, so once you know what to do, you can bring your gut back into balance. This is the true meaning of “trust your gut.”

Common Gut Issues As You Age

  • Leaky Gut: As you get older, your intestinal lining can develop tiny gaps, allowing compounds to escape into your bloodstream. This can lead to various symptoms like food sensitivities and chronic inflammation.
  • Heartburn: Aging weakens the muscle that prevents stomach acid from backing up and entering your esophagus, causing painful heartburn. Unhealthy eating habits, like consuming lots of processed or very spicy foods, and for some people, even drinking cold beverages, can make this problem worse.
  • Constipation: Older individuals, especially those over 64, may face chronic constipation more frequently. This can be due to decreased stomach acid, a diet deficient in fiber, reduced muscle contractions, or a less active lifestyle.
  • Diverticulitis: This condition involves pouches that form and protrude from the colon, allowing food to get trapped inside. This can lead to painful inflammation that often requires medical treatment. A weakened colon muscle layer or a low-fiber diet increases the chances of its development.
  • Ulcers: Older adults can also be more prone to ulcers, painful sores in the stomach lining. These most commonly result from an infection by a bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori Ulcers can also occur with the overuse of some pain relievers which can erode the stomach lining.
  • Gut Dysbiosis: A diverse gut microbiome is a good thing and indicates a healthy balance. But as you age, beneficial bacteria may decrease while harmful ones can increase, leading to an imbalance.
  • Skin Conditions:

    Sometimes the signs of an unhealthy gut are obvious: stomach issues - gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn are familiar symptoms of an upset gut.

    But skin issues like acne, eczema, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis can be connected to the gut too. Food allergies or an unhealthy diet can cause inflammation that allows certain proteins to leak out into your body where they can cause skin irritation and conditions like eczema. Because your microbiome communicates with your endocrine, immune, and nervous systems, it plays a role in both preventing and treating many conditions, including those skin conditions.

    Keeping Your Gut Happy and Healthy
  • Eat Right: Fiber is absolutely essential for gut health. You should aim for 25 to 30 grams daily from vegetables, fruits, fish, poultry, nuts. Keep processed foods and sugar to an absolute minimum.
  • Apple Cider Boost: Some experts recommend drinking a mix of 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with 6 ounces of water before meals to aid digestion and combat reflux. Never drink undiluted apple cider vinegar as it can harm tooth enamel.
  • Stay Hydrated: Consuming enough water and water-rich foods such as fruit and vegetables helps with digestion and combats constipation.
  • Stay Active: Physical activities like walking stimulate digestion and reduce the risk of some gut issues. Aim for a brisk 20 to 30 minute walk several times a week.
  • Embrace Bitterness: Bitter taste receptors actually aid digestion, but besides coffee and lettuce, most Westerners get very little of this taste in our diets. Consider adding bitter herbs like berberine or dandelion root, into your diet.
  • Supplement Smartly:

    Inflammation that results from intestinal permeability can result in a host of symptoms in the gut and throughout the entire body.  Bloating, digestive problems, fatigue, food sensitivities and inflammatory skin diseases are common manifestations of a leaky gut or poor barrier function.  Marine collagen reduces the release of inflammatory cytokines (these cytokines are tiny proteins that are released and are responsible for inflammation in the body). The result is reduced inflammation which helps to restore the barrier function of the gut.

     

    Remember, taking care of your gut can really pay off in increased health and wellbeing. So, listen to your gut, both figuratively and literally!



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