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Senior Living Blog

Microbiome & Senior Health: How Microbiome Affects & Changes with Age

Posted by Jan Wieder on Sep 23, 2021 9:00:00 AM

Your microbiome has to do with the state of your gut health, which is an important part of overall health for seniors. Your microbiome goes through changes as we age, yet it’s possible to take steps to improve its balance and health level.

Science has just begun to discover the tip of the iceberg as it relates to gut health and overall health. Learning about microbiome at any age and how it contributes to overall health and ties into general care for you or your parent is an important piece to the puzzle of Senior well-being; and it’s something that we at Village Green do not overlook. At Village Green Retirement Campus, we help our residents follow proper nutrition to improve their gut health and, by extension, their overall health. Our expert staff at Village Green ensure each day for our residents that they receive the utmost care even as it comes down to the nutritional value of their food and their overall well-being.


Microbiome & Senior Health: How Microbiome Affects & Changes with Age

What Is the Microbiome?

The small intestines, large intestines and other parts of the body are filled with trillions of bacteria, parasites and other microorganisms, making up the microbiome. This idea may be weird to think about, but these microorganisms support the body’s optimal functioning.

Most of these microorganisms are helpful to us and beneficial to our health. Nonetheless, harmful microorganisms can also be found within the microbiome, and it’s possible for the balance of good and potentially bad ones to be thrown off. This imbalance increases your risk of disease. The balance can be disturbed by ongoing antibiotic use, other medications that impact bacteria, infections, and diet.

The Microbiome’s Role in Senior Health

The microbiome plays a significant role in mental, physical, and emotional health and wellness for people of all ages, including those in their senior years. It has a part in certain health problems that seniors tend to struggle with, such as trouble sleeping, fatigue, mental health concerns, memory problems, and disease.

The science and medical communities are aware of the microbiome-gut-brain axis, which is a connection that has been identified between the gut microbiome and mental health. There are also connections to brain health. Here are some relevant associations:

  An imbalance of gut bacteria and gut inflammation has been associated with increased anxiety and depression.

  The axis has been associated with sleep, as the gut microbiome is connected to sleep regulation and circadian rhythm.

●  Research shows a link between digestive system activity and memory, thinking skills, and other cognitive processes.

●  Researchers confirmed that imbalanced gut microbiota correlates with amyloid plaque development in the brain that contributes to Alzheimer’s disease.

The gut microbiome also has an impact on physical health. An unhealthy one has been linked with gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and with systemic metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Further, a healthy gut is necessary for breaking down food and using the nutrients properly. When someone has problems with their gut health, they can experience constipation, bloating, heartburn, and other digestive concerns.

How Does the Microbiome Change With Aging?

Science has found patterns between age and gut health. The gut microbiome changes during infancy up to the age of three, when it remains stable until you reach middle age. In late adulthood, the gut microbiome begins a quickened pace of change. But the change varies from person to person and could be healthy or unhealthy.

There is compelling evidence for the importance of a healthy microbiome in older age. There is a connection to gut microbiota in health and disease during this life stage. People share about 30 percent of microbe types in the microbiome, and after that, each microbiome is unique. Research has found that older adults who experienced more divergence in their gut microbiome had healthier cholesterol levels, better blood metabolites and higher vitamin D levels.

Generally, they were in better health, walked faster, had increased mobility, used fewer medications and lived longer than the ones who didn’t show as much divergence in the gut microbiome.

The study noted that more research is needed to understand the connection, but researchers so far have found that a high-fiber, healthy diet with a high-variety in plants and a habit of exercise could protect gut microbiome balance with age, while an unhealthy diet with a lot of sugar, salt and fat-filled processed foods and little to no exercise could damage it. Studies also showed that exposure to different microbiomes from plants and being outdoors to pets such as dogs or animals can have a positive impact and help to keep microbiomes healthy and varied for individuals.

Those who experience a negative change to the gut microbiome with age are at higher risk of disease. For example, this type of change has been connected to age-related chronic diseases like cardiovascular diseases and neurodegenerative diseases.

Does food digestion and bowel movements change with age? Yes, age and digestion are connected, as people tend to experience slowed digestive movement as they age, which can contribute to constipation in seniors. Also, digestive enzymes decrease with age, which can contribute to digestive dysfunction. Improving gut health in seniors can mean following a lifestyle change.

How to Improve Gut Health for Seniors

The experts at Village Green are here to help increase senior health through good diet and nutrition. Eating the right foods helps with gut health and overall health. Many foods that improve the gut are also immune-boosting foods that can help protect against flu and other illnesses.

Try following a gut health diet by aiming to include more:

●  Prebiotics (foods that support microbiota), such as raw garlic, onions, bananas and food groups with fiber like whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables

  Probiotics (foods that include live microbiota), such as yogurt with live active cultures, kefir, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables and other fermented foods

●  High-Variety of plants --- experts recommend varying your diet with high-fiber fruits, vegetables and grains each week

Another option is to take gut health supplements, although it’s best to talk to your doctor before starting them and to inquire about the best probiotics for seniors.

We help our residents’ nutrition and lifestyle in many ways at Village Green. We can help make sure you or your parent is eating enough, help prevent loss of appetite, check for dehydration and provide balanced, nutritious meals with plenty of prebiotic foods. Check one of our sample menus to get an idea of our offerings. We also host exercise classes and other activities that help keep you or your parent healthy on physical, mental, emotional and social levels.

Consider Village Green for yourself or for help taking care of your parent’s health and nutrition. Learn more about our community and reach out to set up a tour.


Clinical Care Services offered at Village Green Retirement Community


Tags: Senior Health