The gut microbiome isn’t a static thing; it’s a constantly evolving ecosystem involving a diverse range of life. Unfortunately, this diversity tends to diminish with age, leaving older adults prone to a range of chronic health conditions.
So why exactly does the gut microbiome shift, what are the effects, and what can we do to promote a healthy gut as we age?
How the Microbiome Changes With Age
With the number of elderly people (i.e. those over the age of 65) expected to tip 1.6 billion by 2050, increasing research is being done into how we can ensure optimal health outcomes for older adults.
A key area of focus is the gut microbiome. In fact, the 21st century has been dubbed the “era of the gut microbiome” due to mounting interest in the role gut bacteria, fungi and viruses play in overall health and disease.
One of the common findings among scientists in this field is that microbiome diversity typically decreases with age. While the definite cause is not quite understood, likely explanations include physiology (i.e. actual deterioration of the bowels), diet, medications frequently taken by older people, and sedentary lifestyles. A strong correlation has been made between this lack of microbial variety and chronic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, frailty, inflammation, and the neurodegenerative disorders Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Of course, “typically” does not mean “always”. Studies of nonagenarians (those between 90 and 99 years old) and centenarians (those over 100 years old) in China, Japan, and Italy have revealed that these long-living cohorts possess more balanced and diverse biomes than even young adults.
Alongside observational studies linking gut diversity to long-life, a growing pool of experimental evidence shows that modulation of the microbiome via probiotics can help promote healthy ageing.
Does Probiotic Supplementation Impact Ageing?
In 2017, highly-regarded scientific journal Nature published one of the most compelling arguments for probiotic supplementation as a means of healthy ageing.
In the groundbreaking study, researchers proved that beneficial probiotic strain Bacillus subtilis had a significant impact on longevity when ingested by an animal subject.
“In the case of the nematode, we could observe that apart from extending life it can keep the effect of vitality (healthy lifespan). This, extrapolated to humans, would mean living more than 120 years with the vitality of a fifty-year-old person”, researcher Dr. Roberto Grau stated.
As to the mechanism by which it imparts this benefit, Dr. Grau and his colleagues point to the bacteria’s powerful immune-regulating and neuroprotective properties. “Bacillus subtilis protects people against the two most common causes of death: diseases and ageing of cells, tissue and organs”, he said.
It’s a finding that’s corroborated by human trials. One conducted in 2015 saw a decrease in the frequency of respiratory infections among participants who took a Bacillus subtilis supplement compared to those who took a placebo. It concluded: “...our study provides evidence that B. subtilis CU1 supplementation during the winter period may be a safe and effective way to stimulate immune responses in elderly subjects.”
Another published in The Lancet sought to determine the probiotic’s effect on Staphylococcus aureus (golden staph) infection - a potentially deadly condition that’s become increasingly resistant to antibiotic intervention. The double-blind study found that … “B subtilis probiotic eliminated more than 95% of the total S aureus colonising the human body without altering the microbiota. This probiotic strategy offers several key advantages over presently used decolonisation strategies for potential use in people with chronic or long-term risk of S aureus infection.“
Studies like the ones cited above are plentiful, but more are needed to form a complete picture of how the gut impacts overall wellbeing. It’s already clear, however, that probiotics like Bacillus subtilis play an important role in preventing disease and prolonging life.
For more information about the impact of probiotics, read our How Gut Health Affects Mental Health blog.
How Biotica Water Supports Healthy Aging
With over 1 billion colony forming units of Bacillus subtilis, and prebiotic in the form of chicory root, Biotica Water allows you to nourish your gut and maintain the microbiome balance needed to live a long, healthy life.
The unique ingredients found in our Bio-Az formula work synergistically (which is why we call them ‘synbiotics’) to impart maximum benefit. The good bacteria found in each bottle pass through the harsh environment of the stomach unharmed, while the soluble fibre fuels them once they reach the gut.