The composition of our gut microbiome isn’t something that stays static our whole lives. It is continually evolving according to our diet, lifestyle, medication we might take and age. As we get to 50 and beyond, the makeup of our gut microbiota becomes less diverse and dynamic and these changes can have a negative impact on bowel health, function and regularity. This is why as your body changes, so should your probiotic support.
How does the gut microbiome change after 50?
With age, many of the body’s functions begin to change and slow down and your risks for certain health issues increase. The gut microbiome is not immune to the effects of aging. Age changes the balance of the bacteria in our guts, creating an environment with higher problematic bacteria and lower beneficial bacteria strains.1 It causes a decrease in the all-important Bifidobacterium.1
Bifidobacteria play a key role in gut balance and health and the decline in bifidobacteria associated with aging can have health implications. Bifidobacteria are especially important for bowel health and regularity. Given the prevalence of constipation increases with age, especially among older women,2,3 supplementing with Bifidobacterium may help bring the gut microbiome into equilibrium and improve the smooth running of the bowel in mature adults. In a randomised controlled trial, taking a daily dose of Bifidobacterium lactis (HN019) over 14 days was found to decrease the time it takes for food to travel through the gut, as well as significantly reduce the frequency of digestive symptoms including irregular bowel movements and excess gas.4
What is the role of vitamin D in the aging adult?
Similarly to the bifidobacteria levels in our gut, vitamin D levels tend to decline after the age of 50. Aging affects the formation and production of the active form of vitamin D , known as calcitriol, by 50%,5 and the daily amount of vitamin D recommended for people over 50 doubles. Vitamin D is vital for maintaining a healthy immune system. Vitamin D is also closely linked with the gut microbiome and can affect its composition and function.6 According to the most recent National Health Measures Survey, 1 in 4, or 4 million Australian adults are vitamin D deficient.7 Taking a supplement with a combination of Bifidobacterium and vitamin D might be appropriate for improving bowel regularity and smooth function, assisting immunity and supporting healthy aging in people over 50.
- Rinninella E et al, 2019, ‘What is the Healthy Gut Microbiota Composition? A Changing Ecosystem across Age, Environment, Diet, and Diseases’, Microorganisms, vol 7, no 1, p14
- Chiarelli, P et al, 2000, ‘Constipation in Australian Women: Prevalence and Associated Factors’, Int urogynecol J, vol 11, pp 71-8
- Better Health, 2014, Constipation, viewed 24 April 2023, < https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/constipation>
- Waller PA et al, 2011, ‘Dose-response effect of Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 on whole gut transit time and functional gastrointestinal symptoms in adults’, Scand J Gastroenterol, vol 46, no 9, p1057-64
- Gallagher JC, 2013, ‘Vitamin D and aging’. Endocrinol Metab Clin North vol 42, no 2, pp319-32
- Akimbekov NS et al, 2020, ‘Vitamin D and the Host-Gut Microbiome: A Brief Overview’, Acta Histochem Cytochem, vol 53, no 3, pp33-42
- Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011, Australian Health Survey: Biomedical Results for Nutrients, ABS, viewed 24 April 2023, <https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/health-conditions-and-risks/australian-health-survey-biomedical-results-nutrients/latest-release>