How to properly maintain the intestinal flora, to age well

The composition of the intestinal flora of older people is often very different from younger people. These differences could contribute to the decline in health that occurs with aging.

Only a few minutes after birth, our intestine is colonized by several types of bacteria which, over time, will form an extremely numerous and diversified intestinal flora. This bacterial presence is so important that it is estimated that an adult is made up of 90% bacterial cells, that is to say that it contains 10 times more bacteria than human cells, and that these bacteria which live in him contribute about 2 kg of his body weight!
The composition of this intestinal flora varies considerably from person to person and generally remains stable throughout most of adulthood. This stability is important because, in addition to their role in the fermentation of dietary fiber, one of the most important functions of intestinal bacteria is to develop and maintain our immune system. Studies show that certain variations in the type of bacteria making up the intestinal flora can disrupt the functioning of this immunity and thus participate in the development of inflammatory disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. Maintaining the stability of the intestinal flora is therefore an essential facet of good health.

The intestinal flora deteriorates as we age

An often overlooked aspect of aging is its impact on the intestinal flora. The flora of the elderly (65 years and over) is extremely variable from person to person and differs considerably from that of younger adults. A deterioration of the dentition, a more difficult digestion as well as variations in intestinal transit can all alter the composition of this flora, not to mention the changes in eating habits that often occur at a later age.
To examine the impact of these variations, researchers analyzed the microbial composition of the intestinal flora of 178 elderly people living in the south of Ireland. At the same time, the team collected information on where they lived, their eating habits and their general state of health, both physical and mental.

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They first observed that the intestinal bacteria of these people varied considerably depending on where they lived. For example, the flora of elderly people living in long-term care facilities is much less diverse than those living in their family residence. More interestingly, the researchers were able to demonstrate that these differences in the composition of the intestinal flora were closely correlated with the diet and state of health of these people, in particular their state of fragility (difficulties in daily life) and the presence of certain markers of inflammation. Overall, the detailed analysis of the results indicates that there is a close relationship between diet, the composition of the intestinal flora and the health status of people, and that the loss of diversity in the composition of this intestinal flora participates in the deterioration of health associated with aging.

Maintain your instilled flora with good nutrition and probiotics

As we age, it is normal to modify our eating habits to adapt to the physiological changes associated with aging. However, this study shows that it is absolutely necessary to take into account the impact of these changes on the intestinal flora and to consume foods that promote the good health of this flora, such as, for example, dietary fibers, plants as well as foods rich in probiotics. Whatever our age, eating well must always remain a priority to stay healthy!

Claesson MJ et al. Gut microbiota composition correlates with diet and health in the elderly. Nature (published online July 13, 2012).


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