Science

These are the best ways to care for your microbiome and keep it healthy as you get older

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Diet can help you maintain a healthy microbiome as you age

Christopher T Stein/Getty Images

Your gut microbiome is a vital support system for mental and physical health, supplying the body with all-important nutrients and helping tune the immune system. And we are now realising how vital this is for healthy ageing too.

As we get older, the balance of microbes in our gut changes. There are declines in beneficial types, such as the anti-inflammatory Faecalibacterium, and an increase in species that lead to more inflammation, which is implicated in multiple age-related conditions, including heart disease, cancer and cognitive decline. Many studies, with participants ranging from an isolated rural population in India to a wealthy semi-urban community in Italy, show striking similarities in the microbiome signatures of old age. One key finding is that people who have no significant health concerns in older age have an abundance of distinct beneficial microbes that are lost when there is a shift to physiological decline.

It isn’t clear whether the microbiomes of healthy older people are driving their vitality or are a result of the way they live, but an astonishing study in mice by John Cryan at University College Cork, Ireland, and his colleagues found that transplanting gut microbiota from young animals to elderly ones reversed age-associated impairments in brain function.

All this emphasises how crucial it is to look after our gut microbiome and keep it as beneficial as possible. But how exactly should we go about this?

How to keep your microbiome healthy

For a start, we need to know what a healthy …

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