Still not sure you should be supporting your gut? Or the value of diversity in your diet? Well if you want to be “ridiculously healthy” at age 90, a new study may change your mind.
Just published in the journal MSphere, a combined Canadian-Chinese study looked at the gut microbiota for a 1000 Chinese people from age 3 to a 100. What they found is that a “ridiculously healthy” 90-year old person will have the same types and quality of microbes as a 30-year old.
Does this mean the fountain of youth has been residing in our intestines all this time?
The key was the diversity of the microbes. This is not new – it is just giving us all a more compelling reason to gain good gut health and keep it.
It’s complicated. We all have a different set of bugs in our gut right now based on what has happened to us over the years, the food we eat, the lifestyles we lead and the conditions we may have.
Many things can be done for those with health conditions. And it is not easy. But for those who are “healthy”, here’s what your gut wants you to do:
Reduce stress: Our gut microbes do not like stress anymore than we do. Sometimes this cannot be helped. And some stress that motivates us to be more productive is not bad. But unrelenting stress that affects our ability to think, makes us unhappy or leaves us feeling trapped with no control, is very bad for us and our microbes.
Developing strategies for relaxing like deep breathing, mindfulness or meditation would be typical suggestions. But how about watching your favourite show, laughing yourself silly with friends or just taking time to appreciate the good things in your life – even the small things.
Joy in life is the greatest stress-reducer of all.
Moderate exercise is important. Get off the couch and go for a walk – daily. Add some yoga or pilates. Golfing in the summer is helpful, swimming, dancing for fun – these are all good for your gut. Not just because they provide physical exercise but because the are enjoyable – reduces stress!
Get enough sleep. Your microbe diversity depends on it and you need good quality microbes to sleep well. Quid pro quo.
Eat a wide variety of whole natural foods. This is the difficult to do. The average person eats only 15 different foods per week. Researchers are suggesting our indigenous ancestors in Africa consumed 400-600 foods per year. That seems a bit extreme and not sure how they could calculate this.
The good news is this new study focused on people here and now. The Chinese diet is more diverse than the North American diet. We can learn a lot from how they eat. And we can start to increase the quality and diversity of our diet right now.
Don’t think of this as a chore. Think of it as an adventure. It just means trying new foods.
- Pick a new food each week. Get out of your comfort zone. You don’t have to eat it again if you don’t like it.
- Change up the vegetables in your meals and add new fruits to your favourite smoothie. Adding different fruits and vegetables, and even different varieties of your favourites, all adds to the diversity of your microbes.
- Use different spices and herbs – they count, too.
- Try a new recipe with several ingredients you do not use typically.
- Go to different types of ethnic restaurants to try new foods.
- Or try different menu items at your favourite restaurants – with the added bonus of not having to do the cooking.
- If you do not eat whole grains – do so.
- If you do not eat legumes and lentils – do so
- Even change up the amount and types of animal foods as well
- And don’t forget good quality nuts and seeds
Think outside the box. Ask yourself: Why do you eat the same foods so often? Convenience? Comfort? Too tired? Answering these questions may help you decide how to add diversity into your diet.
Your gut responds to diet changes in just a few days but you need to keep working at it. Build a repertoire of foods for a diverse diet. And create the “anti-aging” formula that works for you.
Thank you, Kelly Scott for sending me this link:
The Gut Microbiota of Healthy Aged Chinese Is Similar to That of the Healthy Young
Gaorui Bian et al, DOI: 10.1128/mSphere.00327-17
A healthy gastrointestinal microbiome is dependent on dietary diversity
Mark L. Heiman wt al, Mol Metab. 2016 May; 5(5): 317–320
The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health
Michael A. Conlon et al, Nutrients. 2015 Jan; 7(1): 17–44.