Nearly 45 million Americans — slightly more than 14 percent of our nation’s population — are 65 years or older, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging (AOA). Over the next 45 years, the AOA estimates the number of American seniors will explode, more than doubling to 98 million by 2060.
With so many heading to retirement now and in record numbers over the long term, it will become more important than ever for seniors to take steps to safeguard their gut health.
Changes in gut health among the elderly, spurred by taking many more medications (think antibiotics), eating poorly and moving a lot less frequently than before, can create more serious problems, like inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and diabetes.
A pair of recent studies — both substituting fruit flies for humans — tracked the progress of the aging gut and came up with mixed results on how to protect the gut.
In one study conducted by the Buck Institute For Research on Aging, scientists took factors like inflammation, impaired immune response, oxidative stress and the overgrowth of stem cells into account.
When a stress response gene (FOXO) is activated, this suppresses the action of a single class of molecules (PGRP-SCs) that regulate the immune response to bacteria, promoting an imbalance.
In turn, this imbalance triggers inflammation, including the production of free radicals that causes stem cells in the gut to over-proliferate in the gut, setting the stage for a possible pre-cancerous condition.
The good news: Increasing the expression of PGRP-SC limits the growth of stem cells and restores a good gut health balance.
Treating gut health with antibiotics?
In previous research conducted by UCLA scientists, fruit flies developed signs of leaky gut, a serious health condition that occurs when unintended substances seep through the vulnerable intestinal barrier and into the bloodstream, about six days before dying.
When fruit flies experience leaky gut, their immune response revs up strongly and chronically, causing health problems just like it does in humans.
In their latest research, however, UCLA scientists detected bacterial changes before leaky gut occurred, and gave some fruit flies antibiotics that prevented the age-related increases of gut bacteria and improved their gut health.
Seniors don’t need antibiotics!
While it’s not surprising antibiotics would reduce the amount of gut bacteria in fruit flies, we live in a world where we’re over-exposed to antibiotics, from the flesh foods we eat to the antibacterial soaps we use to wash our hands.
The deadly result of this over-exposure: Creating superbugs that resist all drugs, causing serious and untreatable diseases that kill a growing amount of Americans every year.
For many reasons, the best and safest way to protect your gut health, old or young, from harm is to take a probiotic, ideally a multi-strain product like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic that contains 10 strains of beneficial bacteria.