How Gut Health Impacts Aging

Although we often focus on the outward effect aging has on our appearance, the truth is that the aging process begins deep within our body and recent research points to our gut health as our body’s fountain of youth.

When we talk about our gut, we aren’t just referring to what we eat or the size of our waistline—although they do play a major role in overall health and aging. We’re actually talking about all of the microorganisms that make up our microbiome, the ecosystem of trillions of microbes living in and on our body.

Today we are speaking to Leah Linder ND. A writer, speaker, and educator on topics of natural medicine and dietary supplements and an alumnus of Bastyr University, Dr. Linder is a licensed naturopathic physician, and currently serves as Science and Education Manager for SFI Health, which manufactures professional nutritional supplements under the Klaire Labs brand. She is the owner of her own private practice specializing in microbiome ecology optimization, naturopathic gynecology, and acute and chronic pain. From Dr. Linder: “I don’t heal my patients, I teach them to heal themselves.”

An important topic for us is aging. As baby boomers are getting to the age where they are requiring more healthcare, they want to live an active lifestyle into their 70s and 80s, and it’s not always easy to do when you’re on a bunch of drugs.

Dr. Leah Linder: It’s so true. Advances in science and public health are increasing longevity, but those extra years do not necessarily add up to quality ones. A huge struggle of healthcare in America is that more than half of adults 65 and older report taking four or more prescription drugs. Not only do we have no clinical data demonstrating how polypharmacy collective influence our physiology, but often one medication is prescribed to mask the side effects of another.

Now this is not to say that medications are bad or unnecessary, because they are indeed important. But what I really feel is missing from conventional western medicine is the lack of training, accessible tools, and importantly, the time needed to address the root cause. Sometimes the key isn’t taking the drug. It’s finding the cause.

Today we’re going to talk primarily about the microbiome, and how it impacts health. In the past year we’ve seen that now there’s a whole new interest in the microbiome and the significant impact it has on immunity.

Dr. Leah Linder: Interestingly, the GI tract houses between 70 and 80% of our immune system cells in the gut associated lymphoid tissue (commonly abbreviated GALT). What’s fascinating is that our gut microbiota populations not only help our immune systems to develop, but also influence how our immune systems evolve and respond to foreign threats.  In return, the immune system has largely evolved to maintain the symbiotic relationship between our human selves these highly diverse and evolving microbes.

When operating optimally this immune system–microbiota alliance provides a protective response to pathogens and maintains tolerance to the beneficial microbiota and other innocuous antigens, such a food proteins. However, due to our indoctrination that germs are bad, we have developed an obsession with sanitization which has led to the overuse of antibiotics, over sanitization of our homes and offices, introduction of chemicals into our foods, etc. which ultimately have selected for a microbiota that lack the resilience and diversity required to establish a balanced immune response. And what’s frightening is this dramatic loss of diversity in our microbiota populations is thought to account for some of the exponential rise in autoimmune and inflammatory disorders that lead to chronic illness.

So it’s a really exciting time in human microbiome research especially with the advent of genomics and metabolomics because we can study the genes that are present and the pathways that are influenced by the microbiome, providing us with endless opportunities to gain a better understanding of how our micro-flora influences our overall health and vice versa.

And what’s phenomenal it that this technology propels us leaps and bounds beyond our historical understanding of how the microflora within us influence our health. The genetic and metabolic research that is coming out is helping shape our understanding of how our microbiomes influence a whole host of physiologic functions – from  bone health to cognitive health, to skin health, to cardiovascular function and longevity, and then really interestingly, there’s even research coming out now showing how our micro-flora influence fertility.

So, as we dive into and understand the systems and processes of how our microflora influence our physiology, we are also learning about how we can positively modulate these populations to achieve better health. I’m really excited about this. It’s a fun field to be in.

For adult’s our microbiome is pretty much created early on in life. I mean, it’s not something that you can grow a new microbiome when you’re 50 years old. Throughout our life we abuse it by some of the foods we eat and lifestyles that we have. What have you seen as far as that is concerned? As far as diet and lifestyle impacting microbiome?

Dr. Leah Linder:           I think that there’s a couple of things. Regarding diet, a 100 years ago the average American consumed between 60 and 80 grams of fiber per day, one of the main nutrients that are digested by beneficial bacteria. Today, the average American eats between five and 10 grams of fiber per day, which means that we lose a dramatic amount of the nutrients that are essential for maintaining healthy diverse ecology within our GI tract. And without that healthy diversity, collectively we are prone to a more inflammatory phenotype, which contributes to the exponential rise of chronic disease that we have seen in our society.

Secondly, over the course of the 20th century there have been remarkable advancements in public health, and I don’t want to diminish the importance of those advances in terms of providing solutions to a lot of these childhood, and even adult diseases. The rates of everything from measles to tuberculosis, and other infective agents caused by single organisms declined precipitously over the 20th century due to advancements in technology and medicine, such as antibiotics. But at the same time, we saw this explosion in chronic disease, including things like MS, Crohn’s Disease, and Asthma. And what amazes me is that today, we know from both epidemiological data, and now with the advent of DNA sequencing of the microbiome, that all four of those diseases, and dozens of others, are linked to the microbiome.

So imagine taking away 80% of the nutrient source of your healthy microflora and then we add on processed foods, the widespread use of antibiotics and disinfectants, and then add on other social factors like caesarean birth and high-stress lifestyles and you have a perfect formula for microbiome disruption and subsequent disease.

There’s huge increases in all of the diseases that have an inflammatory component and understanding that the microflora are largely responsible for modulating inflammation within the GI tract, and then subsequently the rest of the body, its essential that we look to the health of our microflora when managing these diseases as practitioners.

How do you convince practitioners who will ask why do you need probiotics? Many think they can tell patients to add yogurt to their diet, and they have no idea that they’re going home and they’re eating a little capsule of sugar not really a yogurt, because most of the types of yogurt they are eating.

Dr. Leah Linder:           I think people want to be healthy, and I think that they want to make active good choices about their diet, but what they’re not realizing is that most yogurt out there is indeed a sugar bombs containing 25-30g of sugar per serving.  Pathogenic bacteria can ferment those simple sugars readily, which encourages low diversity, dysbiosis, and ultimately inflammation and immune system activation.

It’s important to also recognize that by definition probiotics need to be delivered at adequate amounts to convey a health benefit, and the amount of “active culture” in yogurt doesn’t meet this criterion. Now, I’m not here to say that probiotic-containing foods and fermented foods shouldn’t be incorporated into a healthy balanced diet, because indeed they should, but to  truly make a significant impact on physiology within the body, a probiotic supplement with significant CFUs that has demonstrated health benefits is essential.

Additionally, we know probiotic species have different influences on physiology, and targeted probiotic supplements can address specific disease states – from IBS to cognitive health. It’s a great sign if the company is using probiotic species and strains that have been shown to positively modulate symptoms and systems in human clinical trials at the same CFU count that was used in the study. This is one of the only ways to guarantee a probiotic’s clinical effectiveness.

Can talk a little bit about that from the probiotics that Klaire has created.

Dr. Leah Linder:   Probiotics are mainstream enough that both practitioners and consumers understand their benefits at a high level. But when it comes to choosing the right probiotic to suit your individual needs and health goals, having tailored options becomes very important. That’s why here at Klaire Labs we have spent decades researching the types of probiotics that make targeted positive influence on a variety of systems and demographics – because not only do our microbiomes shift throughout our lives, but situations also arise that call for a more tailored approach, such as dysbiosis within the genitourinary tract.  Additionally, under the legacy of Claire Farr, the founder of Klaire Labs, we create formulas that are suitable for even the most sensitive of individuals, which is why we created the first non-dairy based probiotics in the market.

Additionally, we take quality control very seriously when it comes to our formulations. Not only do we have stringent quality assurance measures around our manufacturing and shipping processes to ensure you are getting the highest quality probiotic formulation – we take it a step further with our proprietary acid-stable InTactic® technology to ensure maximum viability throughout the intestinal tract. Basically, we have a lot of systems in place to ensure that our probiotics arrive alive – from the bottle to the large intestine.

I think this is a good place to wrap up, what else would you like to add about Klaire?

Dr. Leah Linder:           Beyond quality, I think that Klaire Labs is known for its transparency and going above and beyond when it comes to clean formulations – without the addition of unnecessary fillers and excipients. We create products that can be utilized by everybody you know, and I think that a good product coupled with really good education can go a really long way in supporting patient’s health.

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