The title of this article may get you thinking and asking how is my gut connected to anti-aging? There are two types of aging...chronological and biological. Chronological age is how long you have been on this earth, while biological age relates to how old your body seems. I don't know about you, but when I am in my 80's and beyond (if I am lucky enough to get there) I want to be active in my mind and body. Anti-aging starts in the gut.....
What causes aging?
Age-dependent alterations in cellular metabolic processes are greatly driven by changes in mitochondrial function (Correia-Melo, C). Biological age is largely dependent on mitochondrial functioning and cellular detoxification. Mitochondria are the little engines of our cells. They produce the energy we use daily, called ATP (adenosinetriphosphate) and keep our cellular health in check by helping to regulate cellular senescence.
What is cellular senescence?
Cellular senescence is an irreversible cell arrest in which damaged cells accumulate. This is controlled by genetic and epigenetic factors and detoxification ability. Senescence plays a role in physiological processes such as aging and pathological processes such as cancer, since these cells are usually resistant to apoptosis or cell death (a very important process). Cellular senescence can compromise tissue repair and regeneration and contribute to aging, and is triggered by a variety of mechanisms such as inflammation, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, environmental toxins, and nutrient deprivation. If this process continues long term it can lead to stem cell depletion and rapid aging (Kumari, R.).
How do I support my Mitochondria?
Mitochondria need nutrients (magnesium, carnitine, iron, b vitamins, alpha lipoic acid, vitamin c, copper, CoQ10) and a strong cell membrane to effectively produce that ATP and regulate cellular senescence. Mitochondrial damage, caused by nutrient deficiency and/or cell membrane insult, contributes to accelerated aging and chronic disease i.e. you get sick and old!
How does my gut play a role in aging?
A properly functioning gut is crucial to properly functioning mitochondria. If we are not digesting and absorbing the nutrients from our food our mitochondria will suffer. Eating a standard american diet (SAD) that is deficient in nutrients needed for proper mitochondrial functioning and having a microbiome that is overgrown with bacteria or depleted of beneficial bacteria that synthesize our vitamins are a few contributors to mitochondrial dysfunction. When our mitochondria suffer our cells do not die and our biological age is accelerated!
FINALLY....What causes gut dysfunction?
I have listed a few causes of gut dysfunction below. If you have trouble with your gut (bloating, constipation, diarrhea, pain) I recommend a comprehensive stool analysis as the gold standard to getting to the root of your symptoms. A SIBO breath test may also be warranted in some cases.
Diet plays a huge role in how our gut functions. Eating a SAD diet can lead to imbalanced bacteria and pathogen overgrowth within our gut.
Certain medications like acid blockers can deplete our microbiome of beneficial bacteria and prevent nutrient absorption from foods and supplements. Other medications like blood pressure meds and cholesterol lowering meds deplete our bodies of things like CoQ10 (needed for optimal mitochondrial functioning).
SIBO - small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. This overgrowth in the small intestine (bacteria are only suppose to be present in the small intestine in limited numbers) leads to improper digestion and absorption of nutrients.
Hypochlorydia - low stomach acid. Leads to bacterial overgrowth and protein malabsorption.
Impaired motility leads to an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine. This can be caused by things like adhesions and/or previous food poisoning or autoimmune disease which can attack the nerves cells in the small intestine leading to a slowed peristalsis and SIBO.
Correia-Melo, C & Passos, J.F. (2015). Mitochondria: Are they causal players in cellular senescence? 1847, 11. pg. 1373-1379.
Kumari, R. & Jat, P. (2021). Mechanisms of Cellular Senescence: Cell Cycle Arrest and Senescence Associated Secretory Phenotype. 9, 645593. pg 1-24.