ASK THE HEALTH EXPERT: Reversing Aging-Understanding Your Microbiome

I recently visited The Total Health Show in Toronto and had the great fortune to attend a lecture given by Dr. Stephen R. Gundry. He is an eminent heart surgeon as well as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the human microbiome, the gut reaction to the foods we eat and the products we use. The information in that lecture has led me to write this article, as it is essential to longevity and health.  I shall try to explain simply some of the vast knowledge Dr. Gundry shared about the effects of modern life on your system and how to reverse the common diseases of aging.

Aeons ago when the earth was young the only things that could survive in the high hydrogen sulphide levels atmosphere were bacteria and other single celled organisms. As oxygen levels began to rise, the bacteria sought protection by implanting themselves in other single celled organisms. A symbiotic relationship was set up as the bacteria supplied energy to help the cell survive and thrive in exchange for food and a stable protected home.  This in turn formed advanced cells called eukaryotes which now make up the cells of algae, fungi, plants and all animals including humans. These bacteria reside within us today as our mitochondria. Not all bacteria developed in this way, others escaped the now hostile environment by moving into the colons of animals, where they thrived.

Ninety percent of what we consider to be our cells, are not actually human, but these same bacterial cells, viruses, and fungi, are now known as our microbiome. It is our relationship with these organisms that determine our longevity and health. We are in the same symbiotic relationship, but living in an incredibly more complicated world than that of billions of years ago. We humans actually have very few genes; only 20,000 compared to 31,000 of the water flea. Then you say, why are we humans so different and complicated? As humans evolved, the bacteria changed and it is our bacterial genes that make us human, not our genome. Our fate does not lie in what DNA testing tells us about our forefathers but how we treat or mistreat the trillions of organisms living in us and on us.

We have come to believe that aging is normal.  Normal to be on prescription medication, normal to have invasive surgery, normal to have arthritis or even joint replacements and normal to develop disease as we “age” – this is simply NOT true.  When it comes to our gut we have essentially good and bad bacteria in our gut and so our aim is to keep the good and get rid of the bad.

A study published in Nature in 2018 revealed that our gut microbiome is shaped by many factors. Host genetics (that is our human genome) plays a relatively minor role in determining your health and longevity.  A study in 2017 “Gut Microbiota and Extreme Longevity – Elena Biagi, Claudio Franceschi, Simone Rampelli et al identified specific types of bacteria dominant in healthy people aged 105 to 109 years. These bacteria normally decrease with age but keeping the bacteria healthy and happy increases longevity.

variety of prebiotic foods, raw green banana, asparagus, onions, garlic, leeks, berries and green beans for gut health

Gut bacteria digest your food and manufacture and deliver vitamins, minerals, polyphenols, hormones and proteins to where they are needed.  If your gut bacteria is not correct, manufacturing and absorption do not happen and we become malnourished.  Good gut bacteria digest only the foods they have evolved to recognize not the highly processed foods, grains and animal products we eat today.  As our diet has changed and with the introduction of antibiotics our good gut flora has been hit with an onslaught of herbicides, drugs, food additives, not to mention chemicals from personal care products that follow us around in plumes comparable to vehicle exhausts. All this has served to decimate our good gut bacteria and upset the balance of good and bad gut bacteria.  The gut wall is lined with a layer of mucosal cells which are tightly locked together to form a protective barrier designed to prevent material from entering, or escaping our G.I. tract. It is one cell thick and contains 60% of all our immune cells to maintain its integrity.  If this barrier is compromised the compounds can escape into your body and your health will suffer.  This is known as “leaky gut.”

The immune system, when trying to protect you from “foreign material” crossing the gut barrier to where it should not be, triggers an inflammatory response. It is this chronic inflammation which is the ultimate cause of common diseases associated with aging.  When the barrier starts breaking down there is a constant flow of the wrong molecules into the body. Plant lectins are sticky proteins that plants have developed to protect themselves from being eaten and have the ability to pry apart the cells of the mucus lining. The mucus is designed to trap lectins, as lectins love sugar and so bind to the sugar molecules in the mucus. Unfortunately for most of us our supply of mucus is pretty scarce and the lectins can break the barrier and set off the immune alarms and trigger inflammation which is a major cause of aging and autoimmune disease. Drinking pu-erh tea can help increase the gut mucus by feeding the bacteria that stimulates the gut to produce mucus hence strengthening the barrier.

There are many factors to Dr. Gundry’s new approach, the book is extensive, but here is a quick break down of a few foods to avoid so you can keep your good gut bacteria happy.  When they are thriving they will keep their home in a desirable state of health leading to an increase in energy levels, and a reduction in symptoms of many of the most common diseases of aging. Simple sugars and starches including grains are also in fruit, which should only be eaten during the season they ripen. Artificial sugar substitutes are as bad for you as actual sugar. Conventional dairy products contain casein A1 which can trigger an immune attack.  Peanuts are full of lectins as is the oil, other oils to avoid include corn oil, cottonseed oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and partially hydrogenated vegetable or canola oil. In Dr. Gundry’s book, he gives a complete rundown of a protocol to reverse the vast majority of diseases – which the modern world considers a natural result of “aging.”

After the lecture I was so inspired and armed with scientific evidence of the mistaken beliefs of the modern approach to health and aging that I invested my time and money and bought Dr. Gundry’s book “The Longevity Paradox. How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age.” Upon returning home, I spent time reading and absorbing the incredible information and I am now quite convinced that it is entirely possible to achieve amazing results.  The Longevity Paradox Program can reverse the damage caused by our lack of understanding of the importance of our relationship with our microbiome.

Written by: Nathalie McNeill, Fountain Head Health Store, Fergus

Author: Living Spaces

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