As we age, it's hard not to compare ourselves to our younger selves. It's challenging to avoid the trap of measuring ourselves against the partial realities posted on social media. And if you're not feeling like your best self as the years go by, it's even harder not to wish for the younger version of you or fear the older version. But aging is a gift. What if we could treat it that way and truly embrace it?
Working with women in perimenopause every day, I get asked a lot about "anti-aging". The key to looking younger. To "reverse aging". And I'm not here to pretend I'm immune thinking that way. My fiancé is 10 years younger than me. I get in my head about my changing face and body. Especially because the changes seemed to come so much faster with perimenopause. I also lived a traumatic marriage for 14 years and a rough divorce recovery for years after that and I think about all the things I still want to do, see, learn and become. I want to feel like my best self for them. Sometimes those things make me focus too much on my "age". But what I'm learning is that the number, really is just a number. And it's so much more about how I feel and what I'm capable of. So if you find yourself searching of the fountain of youth as you navigate perimenopause, here's a tip. Support your gut health to help your hormone health and you'll feel better, look better and age with fewer symptoms. Feeling good is the real goal, right?
This perspective was hard earned. I started living with chronic pain at 24. That's when I first developed daily headaches at my PR job on Michigan Ave in Chicago. If I wore a ponytail to work, it had to come down by lunch because of my pounding headaches. They got progressively worse and eventually included dizzy spells. After a year of every doctor and treatment and a lot of steroid and pain killers (that destroyed my gut and started a spiral to auto-immune disease) we discovered I had a herniated disc in my neck. Since I was too young for surgery (thankfully) and none of the drugs or treatments from the past year had helped, I discovered yoga. My first baby step into holistic living.
Iyengar yoga gave me some relief. But I lived with flares and dull pain for the next 6 years. During that time, I started to gain weight. I started to get very tired and irritable and I developed anxiety. By the time my first son was born, I was living with daily panic attacks and insomnia. I was sick ALL THE TIME! By 31, after my second son was born, I had so much joint pain, there were mornings where I needed help to get out of bed. That's when we discovered I had high levels of inflammation and they put me on lupus watch. And that's what led me to discover the healing power of the microbiome and fiber forward nutrition. It set my whole life on a new trajectory and gave me hope for the first time in almost a decade that I could live a long life that didn't feel long and painful.
Turns out, the "foundation of youth" is the gut microbiome. Or at least the closest thing to it. It's the bustling community of trillions of microorganisms living in our digestive system, and they're not just there for digestion; they play a starring role in our overall well-being and longevity. When I started taking care of them, they started taking care of me!
Let's dive into the nitty-gritty of the gut microbiome and its connection to aging. Picture this: a dynamic and diverse community of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other micro wonders that influence everything from digestion to our immune system, metabolism, hormones and overall health. While the relationship is symbiotic. They need us and we need them. They kind of run the show. So if you aren't taking their needs into consideration, you're the one who suffers.
Now, the gut-longevity connection is fascinating. Chronic inflammation is like the villain in the story of aging, and guess what? The gut microbiome is like the superhero that fights against it. A balanced gut microbiota helps keep inflammation in check, possibly giving us more healthy years. It helps keep our hormones balanced (metabolizing estrogen for one) which helps ease us through the hormonal shifts of adulthood as our ovaries head into retirement when most of us experience the most rapid aging. The more balanced our hormones (with the help of a healthy gut) the smoother and more subtle this transition.
Years of poor nutrition from nutrient weak diets and inadequate digestion and absorption can rapidly age us, increasing inflammation in our joints and systemic inflammation in the body while also allowing for more rapid deterioration of our muscles and bones. A balanced gut microbiome ensures proper digestion of our food. You know the old saying, 'You are what you eat.' Well, it's more accurate to say 'You are what you absorb.' The right balance of diverse population of gut bacteria mean better nutrient absorption. This is why a lot of people feel like they're eating healthy but not seeing the expected results. They aren't absorbing the nutrients they need because of a compromised gut (and sometimes because of toxic overload, but that's another blog post.)
And let's talk about oxidative stress – the bad guys in the form of harmful bacteria that can wreak havoc by producing reactive oxygen species. A balanced microbiome helps minimize their production, potentially putting the brakes on the aging process. Which means we not only look but better, but more importantly, we feel better ... longer!
Immune System Support:
The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in training the immune system. A diverse and well-balanced gut microbiota helps maintain immune system function as we age, reducing susceptibility to infections and chronic diseases.
Now, onto hormonal harmony. Gut health is like the conductor in the symphony of aging, influencing hormone regulation and helping us navigate through menopause and andropause with a bit more ease. If you're struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, it's almost a guarantee that your gut needs some attention.
But who are the real MVPs in this microbial squad? You might know them as probiotics. We haven't even discovered all the species taking up residence inside us. But we know some of the current start players. Let me introduce you to a few:
Akkermansia muciniphila: This little hero is associated with improved metabolic health, reduced inflammation, and a healthier gut lining – all crucial for better aging outcomes.
Bifidobacterium longum: The anti-inflammatory champion that supports gut barrier function, potentially reducing inflammation and improving nutrient absorption in older folks.
Lactobacillus acidophilus: Known for maintaining gut health and promoting vitamin production, it's like the friendly neighbor that keeps everything in balance.
Faecalibacterium prausnitzii: Low levels are linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and aging-related inflammation. Boosting its growth might just be the key to reducing inflammation and supporting gut health.
Now that we're on a first-name basis with these microbes, let's talk anti-aging strategies. Or as I prefer to call it, "pro-aging" strategies because I'm not against aging. Think of it as a care package for your gut:
Prebiotics and Probiotics: Throw in some fiber-rich foods and fermented goodies (hello, cocoyo yogurt!) to keep your microbial friends happy and diverse. Aim for 30 unique plants in a week. Track them on your grocery list. I also love this morning Hydration/Detox supplement. I add it to my water and drink it first thing every morning before heading on my walk. The pre and probiotics support good gut health, but it's also one of the only products I've come across that's clean, includes glutathione (the powerhouse antioxidant we all need for longevity) and magnesium, potassium and sodium for true hydration.
Diet: Load up on whole foods – fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Skip the processed and sugary stuff; it messes with your microbial crew. But don't focus there. Focus on getting your 30 unique plants each week. Eating seasonal is a big help here! And setting a goal to get 2 unique fruits and veggies each week. If you're doing this, you'll naturally crowd out some of the processed stuff without having to set a bunch of rules for yourself.
Polyphenol-Rich Foods: Berries, green tea, and dark chocolate aren't just treats; they're gut-loving superfoods with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers. Check out my favorite Strong Velvety Dark Chocolate here! And my favorite matcha green tea!
Regular Exercise: Get moving! Physical activity supports gut microbial diversity and keeps your gut health in check. If you can commit to walk 30 minutes a day you are off to an amazing start. For most women struggling with gut health and hormonal imbalances, less is actually more when it comes to how strenuous your workouts are. Try yoga, pilates and walking to start with. If you love to lift or do intense workouts...then cycle syncing is going to be for you so you can work with your body's natural monthly rhythms. I teach this in my Hormone Garage Online Workshop.
Stress Management: Take a breather with meditation, yoga, or mindfulness. Your gut microbes will thank you for the zen vibes. Try this video from my free mini course, Lifestyle Shifts for Perimenopause Success.
Adequate Hydration: Drink up! Proper hydration is a must for a happy gut and overall well-being.
Limit Antibiotics: Use them wisely; they can disrupt your microbial party, including those specific superstar strains.
Sleep Quality: Beauty sleep isn't just for your skin; it's for your gut too. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. I find this supplement incredibly helpful for those who struggle to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. Always consult with your doctor first before starting any new supplements.
Environmental Toxins: Minimize exposure to nasties that can mess with your gut microbiome and its VIP strains. I work with my clients to check ratings for our most used beauty and home care products on the YUKA APP or EWG website. I also provide a list of approved brands in the Hormone Garage Online Workshop.
And here's a pro tip: consider a personalized approach. Get to know your gut better through microbiome testing, and tailor your diet and lifestyle to your unique microbial composition. This is the microbiome test I use with my clients.
So, there you have it, friend! The gut microbiome isn't just along for the ride in our quest for positive aging; it's the key player. By making mindful choices, we can unlock the secrets to a longer, healthier life that starts from within – where trillions of microorganisms are working together, including those superstar strains, to help us age with joy ✨ Ready to learn more? Book a discovery call and let's chat about supporting your gut for a longer, healthier life! 🌱
The gut microbiome is not merely a bystander in the quest for longevity and pro-aging; it's a vital player with specific strains holding keys to a longer, healthier life.
Want more tips like this, check out my free mini course Lifestyle Shifts for Perimenopause Success.