Anti-Aging Benefits of Probiotics
Older age has long been associated with greater experience and wisdom. These are partly the reasons the elderly are to be treated with respect. But that’s in an ideal world. In today’s society, there appears to be increasing contempt for old age. But it may be said people are not really aversed to the thought of growing old; they worry about the health and aesthetic problems that come with such.
Probiotics are among the numerous things that have been suggested for controlling the effects of aging. These are said to help promote your overall health and wellness as well as make you look younger. What makes them relevant? In what ways are you likely to find them beneficial? Read on to find out.
Gut flora and aging
You may already know this: in your gut is a vast multitude of bacteria. And by that we do not mean thousands, millions or billions. Estimate has it that you have trillions of these microorganisms in your body, with the largest number being in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This also means this is where you have the highest number of bacteria species. Some researchers even say you have 10 bacteria cells for every human cell in your body! That sounds scary if you think of these as harmful agents.
Your gut microbiota or flora actually features both beneficial and potentially harmful microorganisms – the former is ideally greater in number. Scientists say it becomes full-fledged between the ages of one and two years. You may have upto1000 species of bacteria in your GI tract! These, however, originate from about 30-40 primary species. A balance between these intestinal microorganisms is crucial to good health. Any disruption can lead to a variety of health issues.
Aging is one of the factors that can possibly cause an imbalance in gut flora. The number of harmful microorganisms rises relative to that of beneficial ones, which are known as probiotics. This inhibits your ability to effectively digest the foods you eat and that is the beginning of a host of health concerns. The conditions also become more conducive for “bad” bacteria to proliferate faster.
Controlling aging with probiotics
The term “probiotics” is translated to “for life.” It may also mean “promoting life.” The bacteria are important for undoing or controlling the damage done by diet, lifestyle and environmental factors. This way, they can help you live a healthy life and age gracefully.
Of the numerous species of probiotics, those in the genera Lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are the most studied. These bacteria deliver the larger number of benefits you may have heard people talk about. Specific species of the “good” bacteria typically have particular benefits they provide.
Let’s consider how probiotics may help you reverse or slow aging.
Efficient digestive function
Let’s begin with how probiotics help to safeguard the health of your gut. An imbalance of microbiota impedes the ability of your body to ferment and break down carbohydrates. This can lead to diarrhea, and that is probably the least of your worries.
More worrying is the fact that you are not able to get sufficient nutrients from foods you consume. Probiotics help to break down and absorb undigested fiber, sugars and starches for energy needs. They help with vitamin and mineral absorption. These microorganisms are also relevant to your ability to effectively metabolize and get rid of waste products.
Probiotics are used for the management of issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In research published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, live-cultured yogurt, a rich source of probiotics, was shown to promote better bowel movements.
Immune system enhancement
Your immune system is responsible for protecting against foreign bodies or antigens. It keeps you from easily falling sick from infections. Given its roles, it is therefore important to ensure the system is in an optimal state always. But sadly, it is one of many areas of the body that are affected by age-related changes. This explains why older individuals are usually less resistant to infections.
Poor immune system may in fact be the result of problems in your gut. How? It may interest you to know that up to 80 percent of your immune system is in your GI tract. These are present as receptor cells. Here is where you have the cells that produce the most antibodies in your body.
You can easily see why an imbalance in your gut flora can, without doubt, give rise to a plethora of health issues. Such disparity, characterized by relatively higher harmful bacteria, is a factor in several chronic degenerative medical conditions that affect the elderly. Increased probiotics intake can, therefore, assists in guarding against such issues.
Protection against diabetes
Poor digestive function and inefficient absorption of nutrients are among the consequences of low probiotic levels. This, in a way, may contribute to occurrence of diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Problem with absorption of glucose from food by cells can lead to high blood sugar. Cells fail to respond properly to the hormone insulin; in which case you are said to be insulin resistant. This is what causes diabetes.
Research suggests increasing your probiotics may help protect against or manage this condition. Species belonging to both Lactobacillus genus and Bifidobacterium genus have been shown in clinical studies to address insulin resistance. They are beneficial in controlling sugar levels in the blood.
One of such studies examined people with Type 2 diabetes who consumed probiotic-rich yogurt for a period of six weeks. They showed massive improvement in fasting blood sugar. There was also improvement in hemoglobin A1c, which measures long-term blood glucose, as well as increased antioxidant levels.
The problem of obesity is a huge one in modern society. Western style diet is a major factor in the occurrence of this condition. A key reason for this is that such a diet lacks adequate fiber and some other complex carbohydrates. This causes a change in your gut flora and may create conditions that promote obesity. Older individuals who have maintained this kind of diet for a long time may be found to gain excessive weight over time.
Researchers have found that supplementing with probiotics can help you lose considerable amount of body weight. They improve your body mass index (BMI). The use of such supplements by women during pregnancy and after birth have also been shown to help lose weight more easily after childbirth.
Probiotics can promote the health of your liver. It is known that anything that passes through the intestinal epithelium and mucosal barrier in your gut can get to this organ. This makes it very important to maintain a healthy balance of beneficial and harmful bacteria.
Dysbiosis, an imbalance in your gut flora, has been observed to be somehow connected to issues such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cirrhosis. You need this organ to function effectively to enjoy good health and lovely aging. It plays a crucial role in blood sugar homeostasis in the body. The use of probiotics can therefore help keep your liver in a good state.
Healthy, complete set of teeth
It is not uncommon to see an elderly person with one or two teeth missing. While there are more than one or two factors that may be responsible, poor oral hygiene and substance use are the main culprits. Probiotics can help protect against the effects of these.
Research shows that these bacteria, especially the species Lactobacillus reuteri, can assist in killing off the microorganisms that cause your teeth to decay. They also help to control effects of gingivitis. This means you may be able to preserve your full mouth of teeth for longer with probiotics.
Your physical appearance, especially the look of your skin, tells a lot about how young or old you are. Probiotics are being promoted as a good way of achieving a younger appearance. They are said to keep skin wrinkles, eczema, acne and other skin imperfections at bay. This is with special regard to how they help in getting rid of toxins and other harmful materials. Growing research evidence also supports this view.
Sharma and colleagues noted in a 2016 review of clinical studies published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology that probiotics restore acidic pH of the skin. They help against both extrinsic and intrinsic aging. Use of the bacteria improves the skin barrier, reduces photoaging, and assists in controlling oxidative stress.
Researchers found in another study that the use of probiotic supplements by mothers who have eczema considerably reduced the risk of their babies having the same issue. The women got the beneficial bacteria two months prior to delivery and for the first two months of breastfeeding.
It is also believed that probiotics can give your skin a healthy, youthful glow. This has to do with how it assists in absorbing antioxidants, vitamins and minerals from food.
Regulation of blood pressure
Probiotics may offer protection against awful cardiovascular issues of the elderly. Examples of such problems include heart attack and stroke. These can result from elevated blood pressure, or hypertension. This condition is characterized by long-term force of blood against artery walls.
High blood cholesterol is a risk factor for high blood pressure. This is because they make the passage for blood – arteries – narrower. This hinders flow and causes pressure to build within the blood vessels. Probiotics can help address these problems.
The use of Lactobacillus reuteri in a trial was found to lower levels of “bad” cholesterol. Subjects who took the probiotic strain saw almost 12 percent reduction in their low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels, compared to those in the control group. There was a 9 percent reduction in total cholesterol levels.
You can get help in keeping the dreaded condition cancer at bay with probiotics. But as we already noted, there are both good and bad bacteria in the GI tract. This explains why some of the microorganisms are said to contribute to the development of cancer while another group fight against it.
Bacteria in certain genera, including Bacteroides and Clostridium, are believed to promote cancer due to how they accelerate tumor growth. On the other hand, some other genera such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus interferes with tumor growth. This again raises the importance of optimal balance of gut flora.
Research indicates that probiotics reduce DNA damage, a major factor in the development of cancer cells. These bacteria boost your antioxidant levels and also detoxifies your body system. This keeps certain substances, including those in your food, which can promote cancer growth from being activated. The immune system boost probiotics provide help to better fight against cancer cells.
Improved psychological function.
Mental or cognitive decline is a common characteristic of the elderly. Risks of very troubling mental disorders, such as depression and Alzheimer’s, rise with age. Clinical studies have found that bacteria strains in the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium genera are the most beneficial for guarding against these concerns.
Probiotics are able to help due to how they promote gut health. You have another “brain” in your stomach. This is called the enteric nervous system. It connects via the vagus nerve to the central nervous system, comprising the brain and spinal cord.
This shows that you can enjoy better mental and emotional health by first protecting that of your gut. Probiotics put your GI tract in good shape and this, of course, extends to your psychological function. Another astonishing fact is that your gut generates more serotonin, the mood-regulating neurotransmitter, than your brain.
There are still some other ways probiotics may help address problems of aging. These include giving you an energy boost and promoting hair growth through increased availability of nutrients to hair follicles.
Sources of probiotics
Fermented and sour foods are great sources of probiotics. You can also get them from beverages that are enriched with the beneficial bacteria. Examples of food to consider including in your diet to increase their number are live-cultured yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, and coconut kefir. Manufacturer of some expensive dark chocolates also add them.
There are probiotic supplements as well, in case you prefer such. But note that these are typically less effective as bacteria from food sources. They are less likely to survive acids in the stomach. Also, supplements can lose some level of their strength while on the shelf.
Probiotics can be seen to offer significant help for promoting your health and averting or curbing age-related issues. But this doesn’t mean your focus should be entirely on them. You need to maintain a great diet, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly and get quality sleep as well.