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The Importance of Gut Health

Thinking about all of the little creatures living in our gut can feel quite strange. But, the little life forms, also known as microorganisms, co-exist with us in our gut and help us in many ways! In return, we must know how to feed our bodies the right things to not only nourish them but to achieve health longevity for ourselves.

Understanding the importance of the relationship between our gut microorganisms and our overall health is an important step in achieving health longevity. Below is some background information on how gut health relates to aging, and how seniors can improve their gut with better food and lifestyle choices.

What is Our Gut Microbiome? 

Since we were born, our gut microbiome, the home for our gut microorganisms, has been growing and is continually shaped as we age. Each person has their own unique microbiome! Composed of trillions of microorganisms, our gut microbiome helps us:

  • digest food and release energy 
  • absorb nutrients 
  • break down toxins
  • help our immune system by showing it how to recognize the difference between bad bacteria and beneficial bacteria – yes, the good bacteria help us survive!

Our gut microorganisms, made up of mainly bacteria, populate the small and large intestines because the bacteria do not like the harsher, more acidic environment in the stomach. As a matter of fact, the further down the digestive tract that you travel, the more microorganisms will be found. 

But, an unbalanced gut microbiome can lead to obesity, inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, and overall immune system problems. A healthy gut has a great impact on how the body functions! 

Gut Health and Healthy Aging

As we age, we can experience changes to our gut bacteria because of diet changes, functioning of our digestive system, medication, and a decline in our immune system. These factors can contribute to an increase in infection and just general fragility of the body. Scientists have seen less diversity in our gut microbiome as we grow older but that does not necessarily mean a decline in our overall health. 

Some studies have shown that healthier, more active adults have a more complex gut microbiome than less healthy adults. In fact, adults with more varied bacteria took less medication and had better overall mobility than adults with less complex guts. A more diverse gut biome helps us fight off disease and improve overall health. 

Tips for a Better Gut

Knowing how to keep our gut microbiome healthy and happy is the first step in improving our gut health. Luckily for us, we can alter our gut microbiomes and make them a better environment for those good bacterias. Here are some other ways that we can keep that gut happy!

  • Change up our diet. Diet plays a large role in the health of our gut and simple changes can help improve its functions. Switching out highly processed foods such as chips, sugary drinks, and fast food for food with more fiber and resistant starch will help feed those bacteria living in our intestines. 
    • Eat fresh vegetables and fruits
    • Introduce some pulses into your diet, such as beans, lentils, or chickpeas – hummus is a really great option
    • Eating small amounts of food throughout the day 
    • Drink plenty of water throughout the day and decrease caffeine intake

TIP: Always check with your doctor before making any major food changes if necessary!

  • Improve lifestyle. Exercising regularly improves the function of your gut. Exercising also helps reduce stress which can have a negative impact on our gut health. Sleep is a very important part of maintaining good overall health. Lack of sleep can increase the likelihood of having negative digestive symptoms. Ways to help with sleep and exercise:
    • Go for walks around the neighborhood 
    • Include friends and family members in more active activities to help with motivation
    • Yoga helps relax and improve bowel movements and relieves stress 
    • Get adequate sleep by sticking to a schedule. Most people need 8 hours of sleep to help keep bodies in good shape
    • Mediate or set aside time to ease worries before bed with journaling or getting organized for the next day

TIP: Strenuous exercise isn’t necessary! Do what’s comfortable for you and make alterations as needed to your routine.

It’s Time to Make Great Gut Choices

Any step that we can take to help our gut and body function better is the best foot forward in creating a better life outlook. Helping maintain or create a happy environment for our microorganisms in our digestive tract will not only make them energized, but it will help us in the long run, too!  

If there are any questions about your gut health, you can always reach out to a nutritionist or medical professional to help create plans and next steps. Let’s begin making our gut microbes happy!

Additional Resources

Walking Exercises

Nutrition For Older Adults

Keeping your Gut in Check

Healthy Hive

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