How Poor Gut Health Makes You Age Faster: Part I 

Aging: Inside and Out  

The process of aging is more than skin deep!  

Anti-aging is not just about how you are aging on the outside. We also age on the inside, and how you’re aging on the inside—more specifically how well your gut is functioning—can also influence the appearance of aging on the outside. Remember, not all signs of aging can be seen and erased by the latest cream, serum, or procedure! 

How Does Gut Health Influence Skin Health? 

The microbiota in your gut contribute to many functions in the body. Here are 5 bodily functions that are affected by the health of your microbiome: 

  • Vitamin and nutrient synthesis 
  • Immune programming
  • Inflammation
  • Energy levels
  • Even your risk for developing a neurodegenerative disease 

As our body ages, so does our ability to absorb and assimilate nutrients, which can lead to deficiencies and imbalances. Poor gut health can increase issues with malabsorption of vital nutrients and fluids, potentially causing: 

  • Painful joints
  • Immune system dysregulation
  • Low energy
  • Deficits in brain function 

Dietary needs shift as we age, and without the right supply of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals, the body will age even faster and repair slower. 

Gut Health and Inflammation 

Imbalance of the gut microbiome may be the cause of what has been termed “inflammaging”— inflammation in the elderly. Inflammaging is low-grade, chronic inflammation and an unregulated inflammatory response throughout the body that occurs as we get older. Inflammaging is exacerbated by: 

  • Blood sugar imbalances 
  • Inflammatory diet (sugar and refined carbohydrates)  
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Chronic stress  
  • Toxins 
  • Leaky gut syndrome 

Inflammation is the leading cause of disease—both acute and chronic. Inflammaging both causes and accelerates disease, and it often correlates with the development of life-limiting conditions such as stroke, dementia, and cardiovascular disease.  

Gut Health and the Skin 

Gut health is intricately linked with physical appearance and plays a big role in the detoxification process—particularly with the skin. Gut imbalance can lead to outward issues such as: 

  • Acne  
  • Psoriasis  
  • Dermatitis  
  • Wrinkling  
  • And other visible signs of aging 

Individuals with poor gut health are more likely to have skin disorders and show signs of aging—like collagen breakdown and redness and sensitivity—compared to people with a healthy, balanced microbiome. Bringing your gut back into balance by ridding it of inflammation-causing microbes and replacing them with inflammation-fighting microbes can slow the appearance of aging on the skin, and help to prevent skin disorders.  

Gut Health and Energy 

Slowing down is a sign of aging, but it doesn’t have to be as significant if you care for your gut. Energy levels correlate with how the gut is functioning, and a poor functioning gut can lead to low energy levels because the microbiome is essential for energy production.  

The microbiome is also impacted by circadian rhythms. Changes such as time of feeding, and metabolic activity (think late night snacks or waking up at night) can impact your metabolic and immune function. If your sleep cycle gets out of whack, you throw your microbiome out of balance by disrupting homeostasis and inflammatory pathways. Since the microbiome is in charge of producing energy for our bodies, energy levels are impacted doubly—both by sleep disruption and an unbalanced microbiome.  

The Gut and Mental Health 

As we age, mental health and clarity also diminish. Did you know that the strength of your gut-brain connection (Gut-Brain Axis) impacts how well you age? Your mental health is directly related to the species that inhabit your gut microbiome. There are specific species in the gut that contribute to inflammation, but there are others that actually combat inflammation. So, it makes sense that a healthy, balanced microbiome can do wonders for supporting mental health.

Here is how the gut-brain connection works:  

Signals in your gut are sent to your brain via the Enteric Nervous System (ENS), which communicates with our brain via the vagus nerve and spans from your esophagus to your rectum.  

And here is why it matters:  

Evidence suggests that disruption in the digestive system is responsible for mood changes and individuals suffering from functional bowel and digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are at a higher risk for developing mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Evidence of a gut-brain connection and the affect the gut has on mental health is seen when antidepressants have been used for disorders such as IBS with some success. It is thought that the antidepressants work on the nerves in the ENS. 

Keeping your gut-brain connection functioning properly is top priority while aging. Studies note that older men are the most at risk of any group for committing suicide. And, alarmingly, 20% of individuals 55 and older suffer from a mental health concerns including anxiety, depression, and severe cognitive impairment.  

How Can We Slow Down the Aging Process? 

Overall, a decreased diversity of commensal (good) microbes in the gut can have detrimental consequences on healthy aging and longevity. When there is less diversity of good bacteria, the gut is susceptible to an increase in pro-inflammatory organisms, which then negatively impacts everything in the body from the skin to a person’s mental health. 

The key to proper care of your microbiome is by feeding it more of the bacteria it needs for optimal health! This is of paramount importance in maintaining mental, physical, and immune resilience while aging. There are many foods that one can include in their diet to encourage microbial balance in the gut, AND taking high-quality probiotics will also help to support the microbiome and diminish the signs of aging both from within and without!  

We can’t stop our bodies from aging, but we can at least make the side effects less severe by maintaining a healthy gut!  

Dr. Robin Rose, DO

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

Dr. Rose has been practicing gastroenterology for over 12 years in Fairfield County Connecticut with an emphasis on functional medicine. She is currently an attending physician at Stamford Hospital and double board certified in Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine. Dr. Rose received her bachelor's degree from Lehigh University. She then went onto obtain her master's in Neuropsychology from New York University. She received her medical degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating with honors and being inducted into the Psi Sigma Alpha Osteopathic National Honors Society. She did her post graduate training in both Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology & Hepatology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City and has received board certification in both disciplines. She’s listed as a functional medicine provider with the Institute of Functional Medicine. Dr. Rose is the author of several peer-reviewed articles published in an array of disciplines including gastroenterology, hematology, internal medicine and neuroscience. Some of her most noteworthy research was that done with Dr. Burton Korelitz on Inflammatory Bowel Disease with publications in the American Journal of Gastroenterology and Gastroenterology. Dr. Rose lives in Connecticut with her husband Michael and three children Maddi, Alex, and Bennett.

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