Healthy Gut Microbiota in Adulthood & Elderhood

May 04, 2021

Although gut microbiome in adulthood is relatively stable, the composition can still be changed as a result of several factors, such as anti-biotic treatment, long term change with diet and lifestyle, smoking, sleep deprivation, high stress level and etc. The gut microbiome of elderly losses stability and also has a lower diversity when compared to adults1. The alteration is probably due to changes in intestinal physiology as the result of aging process2.

The loss of gut microbiota balance has been found to increase the risk of diseases including gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, allergy and central nervous system-related diseases3. In order to reduce the risk of diseases throughout the life, it is not only critical to establish one’s healthy microbiota in the early infancy but also to maintain healthy gut in adulthood and elderhood.

Tips to maintain healthy gut microbiota in adulthood and elderhood:

  • Avoid taking anti-biotics unless necessary as they can destroy important commensal bacteria in the gut.
  • Tailor a healthy diet that limits the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut:
    • Eating whole fruits, vegetables and grains as they are rich in microbiota-accessible carbohydrates and polyphenols which favours the growth of beneficial gut bacteria4-5.
    • Avoid diet which is rich in a complex mixture of fats and high in simple sugars, such as western diet. The complex interaction between the unhealthy diet, host, and microbes may promote the loss of microbial community balance and development of obesity6.
    • Eat red meat in moderation as L-carnitine, a chemical component in red meat can alter gut microbiota composition and when consume in large amount, can possibly lead to narrowing or obstruction of the arteries and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases7.
  • Manage stress as high stress level can reshape the gut bacteria’s composition through stress hormones, inflammation, and autonomic nervous system8. It can also promote consumption of highly palatable foods that favours the growth of harmful gut bacteria. Yoga and meditation are two good exercises for body and mind relaxation.
  • Exercise regularly. This helps to alter the composition and functional capacity of the gut microbiota and thus conferring health benefits because of the reduction in inflammation and oxidative stress in the gut9.

  • Stop smoking as it promotes intestinal inflammation by affecting the function and interactions among integrity of gut barrier, immune system and composition of gut microbiota10.
  • Avoid alcohol misuse as it can cause leaky gut and gut immune dysfunction due to alteration of gut microbial environment that favours the growth of pathogens11.
  • Get enough sleep as sleep deprivation induces subtle effects on human microbiota12.
  • Take probiotics to restore gut health. It is quite challenging for working adults to take healthy meals everyday due to busy working schedule and hectic lifestyle. Therefore, a probiotic supplement is necessary. Probiotics also have promising beneficial effects to alleviate some age-related diseases due to their immunomodulatory effects13. So, elderly can modulate their age-related gut microflora imbalance and promote gut health by consuming probiotics.

[1] D’Argenio, V., & Salvatore, F. (2015). The role of the gut microbiome in the healthy adult status. Clinica Chimica Acta, 451, 97-102.
[2] DeJong, E. N., Surette, M. G., & Bowdish, D. M. (2020). The gut microbiota and unhealthy aging: disentangling cause from consequence. Cell Host & Microbe, 28(2), 180-189.
[3] Wang, H., Wei, C. X., Min, L., & Zhu, L. Y. (2018). Good or bad: gut bacteria in human health and diseases. Biotechnology & Biotechnological Equipment, 32(5), 1075-1080.
[4] Han, Y., & Xiao, H. (2020). Whole food–based approaches to modulating gut microbiota and associated diseases. Annual Review of Food Science and Technology, 11, 119-143.
[5] Rose, D. J. (2014). Impact of whole grains on the gut microbiota: the next frontier for oats?. British Journal of Nutrition, 112(S2), S44-S49.
[6] Martinez, K. B., Leone, V., & Chang, E. B. (2017). Western diets, gut dysbiosis, and metabolic diseases: Are they linked?. Gut Microbes, 8(2), 130-142.
[7] Koeth, R. A., Wang, Z., Levison, B. S., Buffa, J. A., Org, E., Sheehy, B. T., ... & Hazen, S. L. (2013). Intestinal microbiota metabolism of L-carnitine, a nutrient in red meat, promotes atherosclerosis. Nature Medicine, 19(5), 576-585.
[8] Madison, A., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (2019). Stress, depression, diet, and the gut microbiota: human–bacteria interactions at the core of psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 28, 105-110.
[9]Mailing, L. J., Allen, J. M., Buford, T. W., Fields, C. J., & Woods, J. A. (2019). Exercise and the gut microbiome: a review of the evidence, potential mechanisms, and implications for human health. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, 47(2), 75-85.
[10]Papoutsopoulou, S., Satsangi, J., Campbell, B. J., & Probert, C. S. (2020). impact of cigarette smoking on intestinal inflammation—direct and indirect mechanisms. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 51(12), 1268-1285.
[11] Wang, S. C., Chen, Y. C., Chen, S. J., Lee, C. H., & Cheng, C. M. (2020). Alcohol addiction, gut microbiota, and alcoholism treatment: A review. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(17), 6413.
[12] Benedict, C., Vogel, H., Jonas, W., Woting, A., Blaut, M., Schürmann, A., & Cedernaes, J. (2016). Gut microbiota and glucometabolic alterations in response to recurrent partial sleep deprivation in normal-weight young individuals. Molecular Metabolism, 5(12), 1175-1186.
[13] Landete, J. M., Gaya, P., Rodríguez, E., Langa, S., Peirotén, Á., Medina, M., & Arqués, J. L. (2017). Probiotic bacteria for healthier aging: immunomodulation and metabolism of phytoestrogens. BioMed Research International, 2017.


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